The E.A.S.Y Method For Improving Sleep!
Every family, couple, and individual has some sort of predictable routine that happens during their day. For example you wake up in the morning, you eat lunch around noon and supper in the evening and then you go to bed in the late evening. These daily similarities or routines help our bodies create structure in our day. It allows us to feel safe and in control when we have some predictability in our lives.
Infants and children also like having this predictability. It allows their body to create structure that encourages healthy well-being. Having routine allows an individual to thrive when they are able to anticipate how and when their needs are going to be met. These routines also help their bodies create different patterns such as calorie intake timing and sleep/wake cycles.
At birth it often seems like there is no way we can implement any type of “routine” as our little ones seem to just sleep and eat all the time. One routine that I like to implement right from birth with my own babies is the eat/play/sleep routine. This is a way that can give structure for not only your baby's day but also your own. The eat/play/sleep routine can also be referred to as the E.A.S.Y routine.
E – Eat
A – Activity
S – Sleep
Y – You Time!!
E.A.S.Y is an acronym that represents an eat/play/sleep routine. This daily routine is one that repeats itself throughout the day. When your baby wakes up in the morning and after naps you begin with E which is the beginning of the routine. "E" refers to milk and so this is when your baby will nurse or have their bottle/cup. After they are done their food they will have “A" which is the activity step. Activity includes all the playtime, interaction and solids that they receive during that awake period. Solids are part of activity as we keep these at normal snack and meal times. Following the activity period we go to "S" and "Y". These go together because when your baby is sleeping then you get YOU TIME!!
** There is always milk in the bedtime routine as well**
This routine can help take the guess work out of “what does my baby need right now!?” For example, if your baby wakes up, has a good feed, and is playing and then they get fussy, you will be able to predict that they are most likely ready for a sleep period. When your baby goes to sleep and wakes up you can assume they are ready for some milk!
The biggest reason I love this routine is that it eliminates clock watching and set intervals for milk intake. Unless it is for a medical reason having set feeds (every 3 hours) can be annoying! Instead the feeds are determined by your baby's sleep rhythm and body clock. For example, your baby wakes up in the morning, feeds, falls asleep in an hour and then has a 2 hour nap. If you feed your baby when they wake from that nap then there would have been 3 hours in between feeds. If your baby then stays awake for an hour and then has a 1 hour nap where you feed them when they wake up there will only be 2 hours between those feeds. The length of time they are awake and the length of the nap determines how long they go between feeds. It is normal for there to be some longer sleep periods and some shorter sleep periods which means there will be no set times of feeds but instead it will all even out. I personally never stress out if feeds seem close together due to a bad nap day because you never know when that long nap will happen and each day can be so different. Following a routine like this sets up predictability for your baby and also sets up structure in your day! By 5 months if naps are consistently short then you can work on sleep foundations to help improve naps which will have that eat/play/sleep routine happening at longer intervals.
One worry many parents have is that if there are longer naps that there will be long spacings in between feeds but your baby will wake up if they are hungry. Their body knows how to regulate itself which is why they take in calories at all different intervals. As your baby gets older there will be longer spaces between milk because the length of time they stay awake in between naps increases as well. This all matches up with development though and how milk spacings would also be naturally increasing even if you didn't follow an eat/play/sleep routine. Around that 6 month mark many families introduce solids as well which is adding to that calorie intake in combination with milk!
Another reason I use this routine is because it may allow for better feeds! Many families state that after following this routine the amount of milk their baby consumed increased. Larger bottles and longer nursing sessions. This can be due to the fact that all individuals do things better when we are rested versus when we are tired. We just don't have the stamina or energy to complete tasks when we are tired! Babies are the same! In many cases if we are feeding a baby to sleep they are drifting off before the feed is done because they are tired from all the activity they were doing. When they wake up however they are well rested and this can lead to a good feed!
Now, let's be real!! Every day is not perfect and the eat/play/sleep routine will not always be 100% consistent. I have nursed and gave my babies a bottle for sleep many times..... today I nursed my 2 month old to sleep for her second nap! The key with this routine is that it is not the only way your baby will fall asleep and if you can make falling asleep with milk as minimal as possible we can prevent that milk from becoming a sleep prop! Milk to sleep is one of the hardest sleep associations to break and can causes frequent night wakings in infants.
It is always important to remember that if you are nursing your baby that nursing sessions are not always for calorie intake. Emotional components of comfort nursing are great for that mother/baby bond and comfort nursing as well as cluster nursing can help maintain and increase your supply when needed! Always trust your instinct when it comes to nursing your baby. Like I said above, it is totally fine to nurse your baby to sleep once in a while but if you do for every sleep period as a sleep cue then this can cause some disruptions later. You always know what is best for your baby.
Applying this routine is not always “easy.” It does take consistency and practice to get into the flow. You want to be watching your babie’s cues and putting them down for sleep when they are ready to prevent them from becoming overtired. Overtired babies fight sleep way more and this is when we sometimes resort to the feeding to sleep. Once you get the hang of the routine it will become second nature to just feed them when they wake up and then carry on with your day and put them down for their next sleep period when they are ready! You are setting the series of events in your daily routine but your baby will be setting the timing of events based on their natural body rhythm.
As your infant gets older then you will begin to see that the E.A.S.Y routines begins to happen on a more set timing schedule. This is because morning wake-ups will generally happen around the same time, naps will begin to take shape and become more consistent and so will bedtime. This will allow for the periods of E.A.S.Y to happen close to the same times each day. I find that once your baby is on a 2 nap schedule the consistency of sleep times really takes shape.
This sequence of events can often help improve short naps and frequent night wakings. Many times infants will wake in the night because they will want milk to put them back to sleep as this is what put them to sleep in the first place. It is not bad it is just a natural body response to have our sleep cues. When a baby falls asleep with a specific action then their body will naturally need this to go back to sleep. Using E.A.S.Y moves the milk feed to wake up times versus going to sleep times and so may help to eliminate wakings for food unless they are hungry! If your baby is falling asleep right now with milk then you may want to gently shift the milk earlier into the routine. Maybe start with 10 minutes before sleep times and then use other methods to help your baby fall asleep such as rocking, humming or maybe even falling asleep on their own. Each day move the milk a little earlier until it is happening at those wake up times. If your baby is under 3 months and still falls asleep quite easily with different things then I would just start with an eat/play/sleep routine right when they wake up one day and do the best you can to follow it!
E.A.S.Y is a DAYTIME routine. This routine should not be implemented at night. I think it is safe to conclude that no mommas out there want to have an activity time in between the feeding and back to sleep at 3 a.m.!! If you baby wakes in the night you feed them like you do and put them back down to sleep. With the help of optimal sleep foundations your little one should drift back into dreamland in no time!
So, why would you consider using this routine?? Well, it is a healthy way to get you and your child through your day! All of the letters are interrelated so changes in one can affect the others. Your baby will be developing very quickly as time goes but the sequence of E.A.S.Y stays the same allowing for that constant predictability for you and your baby!
The biggest thing to remember with all sleep information is that you have to do what works best for your family! The eat/play/sleep routine is just one way you can work on healthy sleep habits but if you enjoy feeding your baby to sleep and it is working for your family then continue doing it!! There is no right or wrong way to do things for our babies. parents always know their babies best!