What to Do When Babywise Doesn't Work

Find what's working and how to fix what's not.

Some babies are “by the book” when it comes to Babywise. The parents implement the schedule and Baby falls into line, getting enough to eat, sleeping through the night, napping well, and making Mom and Dad feel like rock stars.

Others, not so much.

There are various reasons why the Babywise method may work easier for some more than others. If you find yourself struggling and wondering how to make it work for you, don’t despair; we’re here to help.

Since it’s easy to only focus on the struggle and think that it’s not working, let’s start with the key elements to help you define Babywise success. And then we'll look at how to troubleshoot possible issues.

What to Do When Babywise Doesn’t Work: Signs of Success and Troubleshooting Tips

Sign of Success #1:

Baby is getting a full feeding each time and enough milk during the day to sustain longer periods of sleep at night. Generally that means 10-15 minutes on each breast or 20-30 minutes for formula-fed babies.

Troubleshooting Tip:

The most common deterrent to a full feeding is a sleepy baby. Massage baby’s feet, stroke her face or change her diaper – anything to keep her awake and eating.

Sign of Success #2:

Parents have implemented an appropriate eat/wake/sleep cycle which helps regulate the temptation to feed too often (such as every hour) or too little (such as every 4-5 hours). Initially, Baby is being fed approximately every 2 ½ - 3 hours, of course paying attention to Baby’s cues.

Troubleshooting Tip:

Though it may go against every instinct to wake a sleeping baby, as Babywise mom and blogger Erin Artfitch says in her article, Why Babywise isn’t Working, "If you're not consistent with an [eat/wake/sleep] routine... then your baby can't adapt (physically) to a feeding schedule."

Check out our Schedule Articles for more information. 

Sign of Success #3

Baby falls asleep on her own without sleep props such as rocking, holding, or feeding to sleep.

Troubleshoot Tip:

Establish a consistent sleep routine to clue your baby into the fact that it’s time to sleep and then put her down drowsy, but awake. As long as all other needs have been met, some crying may be a part of this at first. The trick is understanding your child’s cry and responding appropriately.

More resources about what to do when your your baby cries:

-On Becoming Babywise has a whole chapter devoted to this concern.

-Help My Baby’s Crying

Sign of Success # 4:

Generally around 7-10 weeks, Baby sleeps 8 hours at night.

Troubleshooting Tip:

Understand how to merge nighttime feedings and adjust the daytime feedings. Between 3-6 weeks, the 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. feeding will merge to a 3:00 a.m. feeding. Then between 7-10 weeks, when the middle of the night feeding is dropped and the day needs to be adjusted to fit in 7 feedings.

Read more about these two merges:

Sample Baby Sleep Schedule: Weeks 3 - 6

Sample Baby Sleep Schedule: Weeks 7 - 10 

Sign of Success #5:

Baby takes naps at consistent times during the day.

Troubleshooting Tip:

As Baby grows, napping needs will change. For the first few months, babies are taking 4-6 naps per day. By around five months, the average baby should be taking two 1½ - 2-hour naps as well as a late afternoon cat nap.

There are numerous reasons for naps to be a struggle, from over-stimulation to waking up early from naps. Pinpointing the nap issues may take careful observation, evaluation and some trial and error.

Check out the following articles for some ideas:

Read more

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As you find what’s working and what’s not, maintain realistic expectations and understand that any number of disruptions and changes can happen. You want to bring security and order to Baby’s world by creating the right structure, while being flexible enough to respond to any need at any time.


Annie Wiesman

Annie Wiesman

Annie Wiesman is the co-author of “Education Begins at Birth: A Parent’s Guide to Preparing Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers for Kindergarten.” She is a former kindergarten teacher turned stay-at-home mom who enjoys traveling, hiking in the mountains, and creating memories together with her husband and little girl.

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