Creating a schedule for your little one is the foundation to teaching healthy sleep habits. An age appropriate schedule can have a huge impact on your child's sleep, and overall mood. Up until approximately 5-6 months of age, I choose to create, and follow schedules based on a child's age appropriate wake time.
What are wake times?
Wake time is the total amount of time that your child is awake during one solid stretch.
Example: How long your child is awake from morning to first nap, from the end of first nap to second nap, and so on.
Wake times are guidelines, and every baby is different within these guidelines. You may find your baby is on the lower end of the recommended wake time, or your baby may be on the higher end of wake times. If the schedule is working for you, and you are not experiencing any sleep complications, then all is fine!
When creating a schedule based on your little one’s age appropriate wake times, it is important to have a reliable source to refer back to when needed. Google is filled with wake timetables, and they all seem to give a different answer for each age group, so in this blog I will include the resource that I refer back to when working with families.
Too much day sleep, or too little day sleep can cause nap and night sleep issues. Too much wake time, and too little wake time, can do the same!
It is a process of trial and error to see what works best for your baby.
How do you start creating a schedule?
The best place to start when you are ready to start your baby on a schedule, is to start by adding fixed points into your schedule. A fixed point is a part of the schedule that doesn't vary more than 15-20 minutes every day. The first two fixed points to add into schedules are morning wake up, and first nap. To do this, you start by waking your baby up at the same time every day (I recommend no later than 7:30am if they are 4 months+)
Waking baby at the same time will help structure your little ones internal clock, as well as scheduling first nap around the same time daily.
Example of a wake time schedule for 4-month-old:
Wake up: 7am *fixed point
First nap: 8:30am *fixed point
Second nap: 1.5-2hr after first nap ends
Third nap: 1.5-2hr after second nap ends
Fourth nap: 1.5-2hrs after third nap ends
Bedtime: 1.5-2hrs after last nap (between 6:15-7:30pm)
A good trick to remember when it comes to nap lengths is:
- 45 minutes: Under tired
- 30 minutes: Overtired
This trick only applies to babies whom possess the skill of independent sleep. 30-45 minute naps are very common among babies who have a sleep prop dependency.
Short naps are also very common in babies from 3-5 months.
When your little one reaches 5-6 months of age, most babies start to thrive on a more structured schedule. The difference with a structured schedule compared to a wake time schedule is, the start of nap times (and end) are not going to vary more than 15-30 minutes daily. A strict schedule helps set your baby's internal clock, so they are more aware of when sleep is expected, and in return their body can produce melatonin to help assist with the expected sleep.
Example of a set schedule for 6 months old:
7am Wake up *fixed point
9:00-10:30am Nap 1
1:00-2:00pm Nap 2
4:30-5:00pm Nap 3 (this is meant to be a short nap. It is only used to close the wake time gap until bedtime)
Now, say baby wakes early from first nap, this is how things would look when shifting by 30 minutes to accommodate for that early waking.
9:00-10:00am woke from nap 1
12:30 -2:00pm Nap 2
Since baby missed out on 30 minutes during the first nap, it is okay to allow an extra 30 within the second nap to ensure baby is still getting an adequate amount of day sleep for the age.
If you are struggling with more areas than just creating a schedule, please reach out. I would love to help!