Eat Play Sleep is a popular baby management plan that shows up in a number of best-selling books (Baby Whisperer, BabyWise, etc.). I’ve steered clear of the Eat Play Sleep conundrum because I don’t like to poke at other baby sleep people. Mostly because I don’t want them to poke back at me. But today I’m going to put in MY big girl panties, because I think we need to talk about the E.A.S.Y. sleep plan. Because E.A.S.Y. is often not easy at all.
Eat Play sleep or E.A.S.Y. stands for Eat Activity Sleep Your time. In theory the Eat Play Sleep plan ensures your baby will take 2 hour naps so “Your Time” will enable you to prepare fancy Pinterest recipes or finally watch that Pilates video you bought but still haven’t taken the wrapper off yet (don’t lie to me, I know you have one).
Note: If Eat Play Sleep is working gangbusters for you – GREAT! I’m delighted to hear it. Stop reading here. Go read something fun instead. Like my favorite post ever (and sadly I didn’t even WRITE it). If however, you’re having a hard time of it, read on.
There are two key elements to the E.A.S.Y. or Eat Play Sleep method (these are effectively the same thing, so for simplicity I’m going to use E.A.S.Y.):
- Nursing to sleep is taken off the table. Sure you still need to get your baby to fall asleep (using sushpat, pick up put down, etc.) But you are not going to have any nurse = sleep association problems because nursing to sleep is not allowed.
- It solves(ish) the “what does my baby need?” conundrum because you are now following a scheduled plan. So there is a lot less noodling on things like, “Baby is crying. Is he hungry? Is he tired? Does he have gas? How should I handle this?” If he’s crying and it’s EAT time, you feed him. If he’s crying and it’s SLEEP time you put him to sleep.
But between you and me I hate the whole EASY thing. I totally get the appeal. Lots of people really thrive on schedules and loathe the chaos that newborns bring to the picture. They want to be able to plan their day and have some degree of predictability. They also like to feel like they’re driving the bus vs. just desperately running on the baby hamster wheel. And at a certain point introducing a consistent rhythm is really helpful for everybody. Also new parents are often EXHAUSTED which means their brain is functioning on the same level as a squirrel. So trying to deduce hunger cues, sleepy cues, etc. is a struggle especially when more challenging babies don’t give good (or any) cues. And to be fair there are good elements to this approach, such as the emphasis on putting baby down awake and not keeping baby awake too long. But I see a lot of people getting stuck on the eat play sleep plan and the problem isn’t their implementation or their baby. It’s the plan.
Everybody has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.
Hopefully the problems with the E.A.S.Y. sleep plan are jumping out at you at this point but if not I’ll clarify.
- You’re going to put your baby to sleep SOMEHOW. Taking “nurse to sleep” off the table doesn’t guarantee that you’ll successfully get baby to sleep some other way. Nursing/feeding a newborn to sleep is so very popular because it’s so very EFFECTIVE. Removing that from your naptime arsenal can make the first few months with a newborn REALLY STRESSFUL.
- Sometimes babies have needs that don’t line up elegantly with the plan! Growth spurts, illness, the fact that it’s a Tuesday – these things can all throw you OFF the plan. If you’re confident working within a plan and maintaining a level of flexibility that’s not a problem. But I see many parents who are rigidly adhering to the plan and/or feeling like a failure because they can’t.
- Trying to schedule and space out your baby’s feedings during the day can have the unintended consequence of having them shift their feedings into the night. Sure some babies can tank up on a big feed and thus successfully nurse every 3-4 hours during the day. Some will just make up for the lost daytime meals by filling in with extra nighttime meals. Which is related to…
- By definition, the Eat Play Sleep sleep plan means that when you put your baby down for a nap, they haven’t eaten in a while. If your E.A.S.Y. napping baby takes short naps all day long, hunger may very well be a culprit. Even if you don’t want to nurse your baby TO sleep you can still feed your baby NEAR sleep to avoid this problem. Unless you’re militantly following the E.A.S.Y. plan in which case I hope you enjoy those 25 minute naps.
Does Eat Play Sleep work for lots of babies? Sure it does. The truth is that most babies are pretty flexible and you could pick any best-selling baby sleep book (hopefully this one) and if you’re consistent, it’s going to work for you. But if you’ve got a challenging baby, if things are not going so smoothly, if you’re using Eat Play Sleep and you’re struggling with short naps, struggling to get baby to take a nap at all, or have a baby who eats CONSTANTLY all night, I would suggest that Eat Play Sleep may not be as E.A.S.Y. as you hoped. And I’m not alone in this, check out with Dr. Karp has to say about it.
If you had luck (good or bad) with Eat Play Sleep please share your story! Also is anybody else impressed that I managed to work a Mike Tyson quote into a baby sleep blog? I feel like I just won some writing prompt competition with that one. Like instead of quoting Plato or Mr. Rogers I’m going to find the most child-inappropriate people and shoehorn their words of wisdom in to posts from now on. Hmmm…I may actually do that.
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