How Does EWS Work as Baby Gets Older?
Updated: Jan 7
I've recently had many clients who were following the EWS model, which stands for Eat, Wake, Sleep, made popular by On Becoming Babywise. In short, the EWS model seeks to put the baby's awake time in between eating and sleeping. This helps to break a feed-to-sleep prop and is a great foundation to teach a baby independent sleep skills. You feed the baby shortly after waking in the morning or after a nap, then you have the baby's wake/play time, then he sleeps, and the cycle repeats.
As its designed, EWS works best when a baby is taking 3 or more naps. But once a baby goes down to 2 naps, parents find it hard to continue EWS. This is because most babies are able to handle about 3 hours awake when they're ready to transition down to 2 naps. If you continue to follow EWS with 2 naps, you'd only be feeding the baby three times a day, which isn't enough. So, how does EWS work as a baby gets older?
In short, it doesn't...not just as EWS. When I have a client that has been really adamant at following EWS, I tell them to turn it into EWEWS when baby goes down to 2 naps. It's important to remember the main purpose of EWS, which is to keep the feeding separate from sleep. But any amount of fully awake time after a feeding still accomplishes that. Furthermore, by this age, if you've been following EWS, then you've succeeded in separating feeding from sleeping and that is now a habit for your baby. So it's not a matter of continuing and reinforcing independent sleep skills.
Therefore, I usually tell people to do a full "meal" feed after the baby wakes up, as normal. Then, I have them do a "snack" feed about 30-45 minutes before the nap. A snack feed is just a couple of ounces for a bottle-fed baby and just a few minutes for a breastfed baby. Then, you have a bit more of fully awake time (rocking in a dimly lit room doesn't count). Even just 15-20 minutes is enough. THEN, you put baby down for sleep. So, it becomes Eat, Wake, Eat, Wake, Sleep!
Most babies are also starting solids around this same time, or maybe already have. A baby who eats a lot of solids may not need a snack feed before each nap. Whereas a baby who isn't yet consuming much solids likely will. Here's an example EWEWS schedule for a baby on 2 naps:
7:00am - Wake up for the day
7:15am - Full feed (bottle or nursing)
8:00am - Solids/breakfast
9:30am - Snack feed (bottle or nursing)
10:00-11:30am - Nap 1
11:45am - Full feed (bottle or nursing)
12:30pm - Solids/lunch
2:00pm - Snack feed (bottle or nursing)
2:30-4:00pm - Nap 2
4:15pm - Full feed (bottle or nursing)
5:00-6:00pm - Solids/dinner
7:00pm - Final feed (bottle or nursing)
7:30pm - Bedtime
Doing this type of schedule will keep all feeding apart from sleep while still making sure baby gets all needed calories during the day (so he can sleep all night)! As a baby gets closer to one-year-old and is eating more and more solids, you can start to phase out those snack feeds first and just allow your baby to eat solids throughout that awake period.
EWS is a helpful model for newborns and young babies to set the foundation that sleep isn't related to feeding and avoid sleep dependencies around eating. However, it does need some adjustment as baby gets older. The important thing is to have some awake time after any feeding, even just 10-15 minutes will do the trick!
~Ashley Bell, pediatric sleep consultant