First, if you hate the word 'schedule' used with kids or babies, don't get yourself too worked up. I've never refused to feed my child because she woke "too" early from a nap or woke her up to eat because it was 5 minutes past her "wake time". Instead, I use the schedule as a type of routine to help me know what I need to get done when so I can meet my obligations and give her the care she needs.
So, here's what an idyllic day looks like in AJ's World:
7:40a Wake her up to start the day and have her first feeding, whether she's awake or not
8:00 Change diaper and head off to get Big Brother Mogi out of bed and dressed.
8:15 Hang out in kitchen while others eat breakfast
8:50 Swaddle and lay her in crib to (hopefully) lull herself asleep for a nap. If I don't pay attention to her and how long she's been up I potentially wait too long and she's strung out and needs a lot of calming to be able to sleep. being able to lay her down and essentially " walk away" is much easier on all of us.
11a & 2p Routine starts over
(Basically I follow the E.A.S.Y. routine from the Baby Whisperer and adjust how soon she goes down for her nap based on her behavior; red eyes, glazed stare, jerky movements, yawning...)
5p Feed and change diaper
5:30 hang out in kitchen while family has dinner
6:15 Swaddle and down for rest/nap time whether she falls asleep or not.
7:00 Feed AGAIN
7:30 Bath, diaper and dress.
8:15 Swaddle and lay in crib to fall asleep on own.
8:45 usually asleep by this time
9:45 "Dream Feed" This is another Baby Whisperer method: without waking her I gently take her from crib, still swaddled, and feed her until she stops eating. If she's too sound asleep to eat, that means I waited too long to feed her. Disturbing her sleep will only mess up her night sleep and cause her to wake at night when I don't want her to.
-Hopefully she'll sleep until morning, but she could also need a feeding at 5am or so.
A few caveats: if I have to be somewhere I'll wake AJ early and feed her so we can get there, or feed her extra before her nap so if she does wake while we're out she's not starving and mad. Also, since its a 3 hour routine, I never let her sleep longer than a 3 hour stretch during the day. This isn't likely to happen, but if she was disturbed previously and only got a brief nap and went down early after eating, it could happen. A lot of people say "don't wake a sleeping baby" but I disagree and think at some point you should wake them. That way they won't get their day and nights confused and/or wake up at night to eat because they didn't eat enough in the daytime.
Sleep is a huge priority in our house and I make it my responsibility as a mom to see that my kiddos get all the sleep they need to be healthy. As a former middle school teacher, I saw what lack of proper sleep did to kids 'attitudes and performance. As a result, its been my goal to make sure our children develop healthy sleep habits and its paid off. I can count on one hand the times Mogi has woken at night in the last year and he sleeps a solid 11-12 hours every night. He's not a perfect child, but I truely believe it allows him to feel his best and have the chance for his brain to rest and grow that it needs.