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 time charts, 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 morning (I recommend no later than 7:30am if they are 4 months+) Waking baby at the same time every morning 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:
7am Wake up *fixed point
8:45am 1st nap *fixed point
Second nap: 1.45-2hr after 1st nap ends
Third nap: 1.45-2hr after 2nd nap ends
Fourth nap (if needed): 1.45-2hr after 3rd nap ends. 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 15-20 minutes every day. 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-month-old:
7am Wake Up
9:00-10:15am 1st Nap
12:30-1:30pm 2nd nap
4:00-4:45pm 3rd nap
This means the schedule start times of your naps are 9, 12:30 & 4:00. If baby wakes early into first nap, you then have the option to shift 12:30 nap to 12:15, and so on. Keeping your child’s schedule within 15-30 minutes daily helps set the internal clock which will also help extend naps eventually.
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 and are older than 6 months. 30-45-minute naps are very common among babies who have a sleep prop dependency.
If you are struggling to create an age appropriate schedule for your little one, don't fret! I offer free sample schedules on my website www.sleepe-zzzconsulting.com/freedownloads
If you are struggling with more areas than just creating a schedule, please reach out. I would love to help!