How to Simplify Baby Sleep

This seems overly complicated to me and I prefer referencing Dr. Weissbluth and 12 Hours by 12 Weeks but some people swear by the BabyCenter Sleep Forum. See what you think!

I really think if you are trying to:

  1. sleep baby in own room (they can smell that breast milk a long way off!)
  2. not make sleep associations (nurse to sleep, etc.) and
  3. encourage baby so self soothe (no pacifier under 3 weeks when they find fingers)
  4. think vaguely in terms of moving baby toward 7pm to 7am with a 9-11 and   1-3 nap.
  5. remember that, after a year, morning nap will go later until it replaces afternoon.

That’s really it for me. I think if you do these things with your own mommy intuition and knowledge of you and your baby, you’ll be fine. But look at all of this complication!!

 

WU – wake up
BT – bed time
WT – wake time
OT – over tired
TWT – total wake time
EWU – early wake up
Sample Sleep Schedules & FAQ

The advice and sample schedules below are based on the experiences of mom’s from the BabyCenter sleep forum. After hanging around on the forum for a while, you can start to see trends of what works and doesn’t work and the below is a sort-of summary of frequently asked questions on the forum. The below is for educational purposes only and as always, you should use your common sense and consult your Ped for medical advice, when it’s ok to drop nightfeeds, when something doesn’t seem right etc.

*Do not fix what isn’t broken* — If your baby’s schedule seems to be working for you, even if it’s not aligning to what here, there is no need to try to fix it. If you want to co-sleep, nurse to sleep, rock to sleep, hold to sleep, etc and it is working for your family, there is no need to change anything for now. If your baby’s sleep habits are deteriorating and it’s taking hours to get them to sleep and/or your work is suffering, your marriage is suffering, and/or YOU are suffering, then that’s where sleep training comes in.

*“The theory”* — On the forum we talk about age-appropriate sleep schedules. If you are keeping your baby up for too long between naps and/or he/she has too late of a bedtime, they become overtired (“OT”) and then become more dependent on sleep dependencies (rocking/nursing/paci, etc.) to get them to sleep. By keeping to an age-appropriate schedule and putting down (“PD”) at an appropriate awake time (“WT”), you minimize OT. As a results, they have an easier time falling asleep on their own and require less of your “help” so you avoid developing sleep dependencies (them expecting to be nursed/fed, rocked, paci, etc. to sleep and back to sleep in the middle of the night (“MOTN”).

*Perfect sleep schedule/WTs won’t fix sleep dependencies* — An age-appropriate sleep schedule will help reduce some NWs and help out naps and you can use the suggested sleep schedules while still nursing to sleep, co-sleeping, etc. But, at some point, for the best and most consistent results, consistency and sleep training will need to be part of the plan (for naps and nights). Sleep dependencies are easier to break at 4 months compared to 9 months (or 1 year or 3 years, etc). The longer you wait, the more those habits are ingrained and become more difficult to break. But with a plan and being 100% consistent, and sticking to an age-appropriate schedule, you should get results pretty quickly.

*For best results…* — If you’re following appropriate WTs and schedules and have a consistent ST plan but still having problems, consider tweaking some of these:

  • Blackout shades — It doesn’t have to be 100% pitch black but it should block out the majority of light
  • White noise — This helps drown out background noise and also helps to re-create womb noise. You can keep it on full volume for entire duration of sleep or turn it down while asleep for naps/nights. Usually you don’t need white noise past 9-12 months but you can continue to use it if you want.
  • Have the baby sleep in his/her own room — If they can smell their food nearby, they tend to wake more frequently. If they are sleeping right next to you, you can get into the habit of responding to every peep too quickly and actually creating a nightwaking (NW). Babies wriggle and make noise in the MOTN so give them 5-10 min before responding to give them the opportunity to practice going back to sleep on their own.
  • Stick to EASY during the day — That is, “Eat, Activity, Sleep, Your Time”. By separating the eating from the sleeping, you prevent feed-to-sleep habits. EASY is also better for managing reflux because you allow the food time to settle before laying them them down. For the first few months, it is fine for the last bottle/nursing to be right before bedtime. But when they stop falling asleep on it, try moving the last bottle/nursing to before bathtime instead. EASY also helps them get full feedings instead of just “snacking” every couple hours. By “snacking” every couple of hours they don’t get the rich hind milk and can wake up more often at night due to hunger.. At 6+ months, you can do AEASY, where you do a little activity before feeding.
  • Don’t get them out of bed until 6:30/6:45am — If you start their day earlier than that, then they will tend to wake up earlier and earlier. For any early wakings, go in and do a quick check (e.g., hush/pat) to signal to them that it’s still bedtime and then CIO and don’t get them out til 6:30/6:45am. It takes practice for them to learn how to fall back asleep on in those early morning hours, so keep giving them the opportunity and you will prevent early wake up (EWU) habits. Keeping them in bed until at least 6:30am also keeps them rested enough to last until the time of their first nap. (Versus taking them out in the 5’s, they will tend to fall asleep for their first nap too early and this tends to propagate EWU’s). After ~5 months, avoid early morning nursing/co-sleeping as often times they become habits that are hard to break and propagate EWUs.
  • Sleep train for BT — having the child fall asleep on their own at BT reduces NWs and EWUs.
  • Nap train — For things to come together better, it seems like nap training (having them fall asleep on their own for naps) has to be part of the picture. You can wait until nights are better to nap train or nap train at the same time.
  • Try nap extensions — Leave in crib for the full hour for nap attempts so they get practice falling back to sleep and so that they can make it to their next nap time better. You can also try “wake-to-sleep” by slightly stirring them a few minutes before they usually wake up to reset their nap cycle. Or you can go in quickly when they wake and paci/pat/rock back to sleep to continue the nap.
  • Drop nightfeeds — If after 7 months you are still having inconsistent wakings even though your schedule is appropriate and you have an appropriate ST plan, some babies just will keep waking up expecting to be fed at least once in the MOTN. Once NFs are dropped, typically the schedule and naps start coming together better.
  • The schedules/suggested WTs are a good starting point, but every baby is different — Also, sometimes family schedules, daycare, doctor appointments, etc. happen. Do your best to minimize OT and play catch up on the weekends with a slightly earlier naptime and bedtime if necessary. Keep an eye on total daytime awake time (TWT). If you’ve overshot a middle WT, then the last WT will likely need to be shorter to compensate. Try to keep an eye out for trends and/or keep a sleep log. Their sleep needs are constantly changing and your child may be higher or lower in sleep needs so play around with WTs.

OTHER HELPFUL LINKS

NEWBORNS to 2 MONTHS

0-5 weeks

  • The first week or two is usually a “honeymoon” period where they will pretty much just feed and go to sleep for a few hours. This period may be longer if the baby was born early or shorter if the baby was born late.
  • You can practice putting down drowsy/awake after feed/burp and hold/rock if you want.
  • Don’t worry about “play” time the first couple of weeks. They should only be awake for about 30-35 minutes, which includes feeding time before they should be sleeping again.
  • Nap the baby in a bright room during the day during the first 6 weeks helps to sort out day/night confusion.
  • Ask your Ped on when you can stop waking to feed every 3 hours (it helps bring in your milk and depends on the baby’s weight gain).
  • The first couple months you are just trying to figure out the child’s sleep rhythm and prevent day/night confusion and help bring in milk supply (for BFers). Nurse on demand the first 6 weeks, but try to somewhat stick to a 2-3hr schedule to avoid snacking and encourage full feeds (hind milk for BFers) during the day.
  • BT is usually around 9-11pm the first few weeks.
  • 3 weeks: Baby will seem a little more awake after feeds and can become over-stimulated quickly. Around this age try to have a consistent nap-routine set up to help his/her brain get ready for sleep time by having certain sleep associations (eg. hold/rock/sing).
  • Around 3-4 weeks naps can become progressively short (45min) and difficult due to increased awareness and gassy phase. Tummy sleeping typically helps. Do nap extensions but be somewhat flexible and try to catch the baby’s sleep rhythms. Swaddling, especially for naps, typically helps them sleep better even if they seem to hate it. Most people start using swing/carrier for naps around this age but you can try some gentle sleep training for the crib.
  • 4 weeks: Should only be awake for 45 minutes at the most, including feeding time.

~6 weeks (WT ~45min-1hr) (example schedule)

  • The baby’s natural schedule should start to emerge and you should start to get on more of a consistent 2.5-3.5hr schedule during the day (WTs 45min-1hr).
  • Darkening the room for naptime usually helps naps (day/night confusion is usually over by now).
  • BT gradually shifts earlier (watch baby’s cues) about 20 minutes every 2 weeks. The last nap usually starts around 6pm and BT is around 8pm. The “long stretch” (usually 4-5 hours) starts developing

7am WU

7:45-10 nap

11-1 nap

2-3:45 nap

4:30pm-5:30pm nap

6:15-7pm nap

~8pm BT. Start doing the “long” stretch ~4-5hrs+ before next feed, then 3+hours before next feed (you can do a DF at ~10pm if you want so that the long stretch occurs after the DF)

7-12 weeks (2.5-3.5hr schedule; WT ~1-1.25 hr) (example schedule)

  • 7-9 weeks: Should only be awake about 1 hour before being put back to sleep, including feeding time.

7am WU

8:00-10am nap 1

11:15-1:15 nap 2

2:30-4:30pm nap 3

5:45-6:30pm catnap

~7:45pm BT

3 to 4 MONTH OLDS

  • This is the age for the “3-4 month sleep regression” which is partly associated with the need to transition to 3 naps (4-3 transition) and partly because their sleep rhythms become more adult-like, and as a result, trying to put them down already asleep causes them to wake up which can start the process all over.
  • At this age, you have to get from about 1.25-1.5hr WTs on 4 naps to 2-2.5hr WTs on 3 naps so there is some OT and extra NWs that come from stretching WTs.
  • At 4 months your Ped will likely tell you that you can go ahead and stop nightfeeds (NFs), but most of us found that NFs were typically dropped at around the 3-2 transition (7-8 months) which coincides with increased solids. However, if your baby is gaining weight properly, you can try cutting out all the NFs at this age and they should be able to compensate for it during the day by taking in a few extra ounces per feed. If they are not able to (e.g. for reflux babies), then you probably should hang onto NFs longer.

3 month old schedule on 4 naps

  • WT’s are ~1.5 (eg. 1.25/1.25/1.5/1.5/1.75)
  • Aim for 11-12 hours of nightsleep and about 4 hours in naps (Total sleep 15.5-18 hours, not including nightwakings).
  • If naps are short or you’re dealing with multiple NWs, you may need to use an earlier BT to compensate
  • 1-2 nightfeeds, with the cut-off for first feed being at least 5 hours (conservative cut-off) and the 2nd feed at least 3 hours later. You can try encouraging later cut-offs by doing your ST plan for earlier wakings.

6:30/7am WU

8:00-9:45am nap 1

11:00-1 nap 2

2:30-3:30pm nap 3

5/5:30pm catnap

~7/7:30pm BT

3/4 month old starting 4-3 transition

  • WTs are stretching to 1.5-1.75 (e.g. 1.5/1.5/1.75/1.5/1.25) until there is no time for the 4th nap . Sometimes the last WT shortens as the earlier ones increase
  • Offer the 4th nap around 5pm. If it doesn’t happen, change gears and do your bedtime routine and aim for an earlier bedtime (6-6:30 BT depending on naps)
  • 1-2 nightfeeds, with the cut-off for first feed being at least 5 hours (conservative cut-off) and the 2nd feed at least 3 hours later. You can try encouraging later cut-offs by doing your ST plan for earlier wakings. Alternatively, for NFs you can do a dreamfeed at around 10pm and then another one around 5am when the baby wakes (the “long stretch” should coincide from the time of the DF to the next feed). Or, you can just do a 2am dreamfeed and do your ST plan for any other waking.

6:30/7am WU

8:15-9:45am nap 1

11:15-1 nap 2

2:45:-3:30pm nap 3

5/5:30pm catnap (this can be a stroller/carseat nap)

~7/7:30pm BT if catnap happens (if no catnap, BT is 6-6:30pm)

4 month old schedule on 3 naps

  • WTs are to 2-2.25hrs (e.g. 2/2.25/2.25/2.25)
  • TWT 8.5-9 (about 15-15.5 hours of total sleep, not including NWs, (i.e. ~12hrs at night and 3 hrs in naps)
  • 1-2 nightfeeds, with the cut-off for first feed being at least 5 hours (conservative cut-off) and the 2nd feed at least 3 hours later. You can try encouraging later cut-offs by doing your ST plan for earlier wakings. Alternatively, for NFs you can do a dreamfeed at around 10pm and then another one around 5am when the baby wakes (the “long stretch” should coincide from the time of the DF to the next feed). Or, you can just do a 2am dreamfeed and do your ST plan for any other waking.
  • This is the age for 30 min naps. Play around with WTs and nap extensions and/or consider nap training. Use earlier bedtimes to compensate for crap naps. (If you’ve had a 3 30min nap day, bedtime should be 5-5:30pm to compensate). If you are starting nap/BT training, it’s a good time to get rid of swaddle and paci

6:30/7am WU

8:30-9:45am nap 1

11:45-1 nap 2

3:00-3:45pm nap 3

~6-6:30pm BT (depending on length of naps)

5 to 6 MONTH OLDS

5 month old schedule on 3 naps

  • 3 nap schedule should be stabilized (4 naps at this age tend to cause EWUs and NWs)
  • WTs are to 2-2.5hrs (e.g. 2/2.25/2.25/2.5)
  • TWT ~9 (about 15 hours of total sleep, not including nightwakings, (i.e. ~12hrs at night and 3hrs in naps)
  • 1-2 nightfeeds, with the cut-off for first feed being at least 6 hours (conservative cut-off) and the 2nd feed at least 3 hours later. You can try encouraging later cut-offs by doing your ST plan for earlier wakings. Alternatively, for NFs you can do a dreamfeed at around 10pm and then another one around 5am when the baby wakes (the “long stretch” should coincide from the time of the DF to the next feed). Or, you can just do a 2am dreamfeed and do your ST plan for any other waking. Well-rested babies without sleep dependencies are typically down to one NF around 2am+ by this age.
  • This is the age for 30 min naps. Play around with WTs and nap extensions and/or consider nap training. Use earlier bedtimes to compensate for crap naps. (If you’ve had a 3 30min nap day, bedtime should be 5-5:30pm to compensate).

6:30/7am WU

8:30-9:45am nap 1 (nap no earlier than 8:15 on a 3 nap schedule)

11:45-1 nap 2

3:15-4pm nap 3

~6-6:30pm BT (depending on length of naps)

6 month old schedule on 3 naps

  • 3 nap schedule with WTs are to 2.25-2.75hrs (e.g. 2/2.5/2.5/2.5)
  • TWT ~9.5-10 (about 14-14.5 total hours of total sleep, not including nightwakings, i.e. 11-12hrs at night and 2.5-3.5hrs in naps)
  • Down to 1 nightfeed, with the cut-off for first feed being at least 7 hours (conservative cut-off). You can try encouraging later cut-offs by doing your ST plan for earlier wakings. Alternatively, for NFs you can do a dreamfeed at around 10pm and then another one around 5am when the baby wakes (the “long stretch” should coincide from the time of the DF to the next feed), eventually dropping the 5am feed. Or, you can just do a 2am dreamfeed and do your ST plan for any other waking. Well-rested babies without sleep dependencies are typically down to one NF around 2am+ by this age.
  • There are often some early signs of 3-2 transition starting at 6 months (shorter naps, more trouble at BT, unusual NWs, earlier wakings)

6:30/7am WU

8:30-9:30am nap 1 (nap no earlier than 8:15/8:30am on a 3 nap schedule)

12:00-1:15 nap 2

3:45-4:30pm nap 3

6:30-7pm BT (depending on length of naps)

7 to 8 MONTH OLDS

7/8 month old schedule starting 3-2 transition

  • There is usually a sleep regression around this age partially due to milestones (sitting/crawling) and partially due to the need to transition to 2 naps
  • WTs start to stretch to 2.25-3 and eventually there is no time for the 3rd nap to happen
  • TWT = 10+ if the 3rd nap happens (about 14 total hours of total sleep, i.e. 11-11.5 hrs at night and 2.5-3hrs in naps), otherwise TWT = 8.5-9 if only 2 nap happens (about 15 total hours of total sleep, i.e. 12 hrs at night and 3hrs in naps)
  • Starting WTs are 2.5 for the first WT, ~3 for the 2nd WT, offer catnap around 3-4pm if the first two naps are short. If the catnap doesn’t happen, the last WT will be around 3.5
  • Down to 1 nightfeed, with the cut-off for first feed being at least 8 hours (conservative cut-off). You can try encouraging later cut-offs by doing your ST plan for earlier wakings. Alternatively, for NFs you can do a dreamfeed at around 10pm. Or, you can just do a 2am dreamfeed and do your ST plan for any other waking. Well-rested babies without sleep dependencies are typically down to one NF around 2am+ by this age.
  • If solids are decently established, often times babies will drop the NF on their own around this age. However, other babies will need some ST to drop this final NF.
  • Earlier morning wakings often happen early in transition. Be consistent (a quick check to encourage them to go back to sleep) and leave in the crib til 6:30am. The early wakings usually eventually go away on their own as the 2 naps become more settled. You can try feeding for these early wakings to hope they go back to sleep, but if they rarely go back to sleep, just stick with a quick check instead. Theoretically though, if they can make it til 5am without a feed, they probably will be ok holding off another 1.5-2hrs (and feeding at 5am can sometimes throw off daytime feeding schedules anyway). Avoid holding/bring to your bed for these early wakings as these habits can be hard to break in the future and tend to propagate EWUs.

6:30/7am WU

8:45-10am nap 1 (nap no earlier than 8:45/9am when starting 3-2)

1-2:15pm nap 2

Offer catnap around 3-4pm if first two naps are short (this can be a stroller/carseat nap)

~7pm BT if catnap happens (TWT ~10)

~6pm BT if catnap doesn’t happen (TWT ~9), depending on the length of naps.

7/8 month old schedule on 2 naps

  • WTs on 2 naps start something like 2/3/4 or 2.5/3/3.5 with a TWT = 9, but as the 2 naps become settled, TWT starts gradually going back up towards 10 (e.g. 3/3.25/3.5). You should have about 11-12hrs at night and 2.5-3.5hrs in naps (14 hours total sleep)
  • Down to 1 nightfeed, with the cut-off for first feed being at least 9 hours (conservative cut-off). You can try encouraging later cut-offs by doing your ST plan for earlier wakings. Alternatively, for NFs you can do a dreamfeed at around 10pm. Or, you can just do a 2am dreamfeed and do your ST plan for any other waking. Well-rested babies without sleep dependencies are typically down to one NF around 2am+ by this age.
  • If solids are decently established, often times babies will drop the NF on their own around this age. However, other babies will need some ST to drop this final NF.

6:30/7am WU

9:15-10:30am nap 1 (nap no earlier than 9am on 2 naps)

1:45-3pm nap 2

~6-6:30pm BT

9 to 11 MONTH OLDS

9 to 11 month old schedule on 2 naps

  • TWT gradually goes up from 10 (with WTs ~3-3.25/3.5/3-3.5) to TWT 10.5 (~3.25/3.5-3.75/3.5)  You should have about 13.5-14 hrs of total sleep with about 11-12hrs at night and 2-3 hrs in naps
  • No nightfeeds. With solids established, any nightfeeds at this point are typically out of habit and typically don’t go away without doing some ST in the MOTN.

6:30/7am WU

9:30-10:45am nap 1 (nap no earlier than 9:15am at this age)

2:15-3:30pm nap 2

~7pm BT

12 to 17 MONTH OLDS

12 to 14 month old schedule holding onto 2 naps

  • At around 12 months you start seeing 2-1 signs (shorter naps, taking longer to fall asleep for BT, earlier wake-ups). Before you start 2-1, it is best if nightfeeds are out and the child is sleep trained and STTN. Unlike other nap transitions which only take a couple weeks, 2-1 takes a few months to stabilize.
  • TWT gradually goes up from 10.5 to TWT 11+ (3.25/3.5-4/3.5-4)  Once you are consistently getting over 11+ TWT on 2 naps, it is typically best to start transition.
  • You can hold onto 2 naps longer by trying to limit naps, but you may still have problems with them taking a long time to fall asleep at BT and EWUs.

6:30/7am WU

10-11am nap  (If you are nap limiting, limit this nap to 45min-1hr to preserve the 2nd nap)

3-4pm nap (This nap can be a stroller or carseat nap if you need this nap to happen)

7-8pm BT

12 to 14 month old schedule starting 2-1

  • To start transition, you gradually stretch the first WT to 4hrs and don’t limit the nap. If the nap is less than 1.5hrs, you offer a catnap around 3-4pm. Starting TWT on 2 naps is around 10. Typically, you start around 4/6 WTs, then gradually keep upping the first WT (e.g 4.25/5.75 then 4.5/5.5).
  • You may need to alternate 1 and 2 nap days for a few weeks. If you start getting EWUs, move BT earlier to compensate since OT tends to slowly build up on 2-1, and then push the nap time out again. EWUs are often from BT not being early enough.

6:30/7am WU

10:30am nap (nap no earlier than 10am for doing 2-1, WT ~4hrs)

(Offer a catnap around 3-4pm if the first nap was

~6pm BT (WT 5.5-6hrs from when the nap ended; so if the nap was 10:30-12pm, BT is 6pm)

eventually…..

14 to 18 month old settled on 1 nap

  • As the first WT increases, the nap time gradually moves out to 10:45am, then 11am, etc. Once you hit the nap starting around 11am-12pm (5-5.5hr WT), one nap is established and you are settled on 1 nap with TWT of about 10.5-11 (total sleep 13-13.5hrs).
  • EWUs often happen early in transition. Be consistent (a quick check to encourage them to go back to sleep) and leave in the crib til at least 6:30/6:45am. The early wakings usually eventually go away on their own as the 1 nap become more settled. Avoid nursing/bring to your bed for these early wakings as these habits can be hard to break in the future and tend to propagate EWUs.

6:30/7am WU

nap starting between 11-12pm (WT 5-5.5hrs)

~6:30-7pm BT (WT 5-5.5hrs)

19-23 MONTH OLDS

18-23 month olds 1 nap schedule

  • Sleep needs start to drop a little around 18 months and the nap moves a little later. If the nap gets shorter or they start taking longer to fall asleep for BT, try moving the naptime 15 minutes later.
  • TWT = 11-12 (Total sleep 12-13hrs with about 11-12hrs at night and 1.5-2hrs in naps)
  • WTs are 5.5-6+/5.5
  • There are typically extra bedtime shenanigans due to increased talking/milestones. Stay the course and be consistent with BT and NWs and avoid starting up habits that will need to be broken.

6:30/7am WU

nap starting around 12-1pm for 1.5-2hrs

7-7:30pm BT

2 YEAR OLDS

24 month old 1 nap schedule

  • Schedule doesn’t change that much. Sometimes the nap shifts another 15-30 minutes later. If the nap gets shorter or they start taking longer to fall asleep for BT, try moving the naptime 15 minutes later.
  • There are typically extra bedtime shenanigans due to increased talking/milestones. Stay the course and be consistent with BT and NWs and avoid starting up habits that will need to be broken.

6:30/7am WU

nap starting around 12:30-1pm for 1.5-2hrs

7-8pm BT

2.5-4 YEAR OLDS

2.5-4 year olds start 1-0 transition

  • 1-0 is a gradual transition that can take a couple of years. Your child may miss one nap a week, then 2 naps a week, then every other day, then just nap once a week, etc.
  • You can try pushing the nap later in the day to preserve it. Often times this will push BT later.
  • There are typically extra naptime and bedtime shenanigans due to testing boundaries. Stay the course and be consistent with BT and naps and avoid starting up habits that will need to be broken.
  • Potty training and transition to toddler bed will throw things off. Stay conservative with BT and be consistent with EWUs and stress that it isn’t time to wake up yet and for them to go back to sleep.

6:30/7am WU

nap starting around 1-2pm for ~1.5hrs

~8pm BT

(If no nap, BT should be 0.5-1hr earlier)

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About katepflynn

International Montessori teacher (birth to 12 years), RIE Foundations Course graduate, and Infant Development Specialist teaching Bradley Childbirth, Parent-Infant (pre-walkers), Parent-Child (walkers) and Toddlers.
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One Response to How to Simplify Baby Sleep

  1. Pingback: 3 Ways New Parents Can Kill the Sleep Monster | Regarding Parents

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