The Sleep Schedule That Saved My Sanity

I learned a very specific piece of advice when my son was an infant, and it changed my life:

nap schedule

In the first two months, babies can only stay awake for around two hours at a time before needing a nap — and OH HOW THIS CHANGED MY LIFE. My baby wasn’t just fussy and cranky in the early evening, he was tired. Really, really tired. And as soon as I anticipated his sleepiness by taking him into a quiet room, nursing him, rocking him in my baby carrier (etc.), I was able to prevent his overtiredness — and overtired was something to be avoided. The more overtired he was, the less sleep we all got. (Hence why “overtired” became the Word Of The Year in our house.)

So I spent those early weeks watching for eye rubs and counting in twos. But the success of this strategy made me realize how important it is for babies to get enough sleep. It also led me to research just how much my baby should be sleeping, and when, and why, and how. I wasn’t so good at the Sleep Training (at all), but I was a non-negotiable stickler on a consistent sleep schedule — and I think it made all the difference. I didn’t care how he got to sleep — whether it was via nursing, rocking, or even the car seat — but I wanted him to get that sleep. It just made for a happier baby and a happier me. (And for the record, my now-3-year-old son is fully capable of putting himself to sleep.)

So for all of you mamas looking for a sleep schedule reference, here’s what I used (adapted from The Sleepeasy Solution):

4 – 6 months

        • 14 to 16 hours of total sleep in a 24-hour period.
        • Typically young infants will take 3 to 4 naps a day, totaling 3 to 4 hours of sleep.
Sample schedule:
      • BED: 7 p.m.
      • WAKE: 6 a.m.
      • FIRST NAP: 8 a.m.
      • SECOND NAP: 11:30 a.m.
      • THIRD NAP: 3 p.m.
6 – 9 months
        • 13 to 15.5 hours of total sleep in a 24-hour period.
        • When adjusting from 3 naps to 2 naps (typically in this age group), adjust your baby’s daytime wake window by 30 minutes each day. (So if he was up for 2 hours before his first nap, stretch it to 2.5 hours.)
        • When Baby first drops nap #3, temporarily put your baby down to bed 30 minutes to an hour earlier than usual, but don’t adjust the wake time.
Sample schedule for three naps:
      • BED: 7 p.m.
      • WAKE: 6 a.m.
      • FIRST NAP: 8 – 10 a.m.
      • SECOND NAP: 12:30 – 1:30 p.m.
      • THIRD NAP: 4 – 4:15 p.m.
Sample schedule for eventual two naps:
      • BED: 7:30 p.m.
      • WAKE: 6:30 a.m.
      • FIRST NAP: 9 – 10 a.m.
      • SECOND NAP: 1 – 2:30 p.m.
9 – 12 months
        • 13 to 15 hours of total sleep in a 24-hour period.
        • Most babies do best with two naps in this age group. If Baby is starting to resist the second nap, try moving both naps later by 30 minutes.
Sample schedule:
      • BED: 7:30 p.m.
      • WAKE: 6:30 a.m.
      • FIRST NAP: 9:30 – 11 a.m.
      • SECOND NAP: 2 – 3 p.m.
12 – 24 months
        • 12.5 to 14 hours of total sleep in a 24-hour period.
        • Whether your baby is taking one or two naps, typical nap time averages a total of 1.5 to 3 hours of sleep.
        • You may need to put your baby to sleep a little earlier when it’s time to transition to one nap.
Sample schedule for two naps:
      • BED: 8 a.m.
      • WAKE: 7 a.m.
      • FIRST NAP: 10:30 – 11:30
      • SECOND NAP: 3:30 – 4:30
Sample schedule for one nap:
      • BED: 8 a.m.
      • WAKE 7 a.m.
      • NAP: 12 p.m.

Keep in mind that not all babies are made the same. If your baby is happy with 10.5 hours of sleep at night, then he probably only needs 10.5 hours of sleep.

Also: Pretty much every expert says that babies under 4 months should sleep on demand, so don’t worry about any kind of scheduling until then.

See more sleep-planning tools at Sleepy Planet.

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