We’re delighted to present another guest post from our favorite sleepytime expert, Nicole from BabySleepSite. Today she shares how to help your 4- to 6-month old baby find a sleep schedule.
You know that point you reach during parenthood where you just think to yourself, “This is it — I can’t take it anymore!” I think we all have at least a few of those during the course of raising children. But I’ve learned in my years of sleep consulting that many parents reach that point when their babies are around four-months old.
Why? Because by the time your baby is four-months old, the newborn phase is done. Your adrenaline is gone. And the sleep deprivation is starting to catch up with you.
No wonder, then, that this is the time when many parents start anxiously trying to piece together a daytime schedule for their babies. They are desperate for some measure of order in the day!
If this sounds like you, then keep reading – I’m sharing tips on how you can get your 4- to 6- month old baby eating and sleeping more predictably during the day (which in turn can buy YOU some much-needed down time!) After all, you deserve some time to plan your baby’s classes or spend time with your spouse.
Is Your 4-6 Month Old Baby Ready For A Schedule?
Short answer: Maybe. All babies develop at different rates, which is why some will crawl at 6 months and others not until 11 months. Most 6-month old babies are ready for a daytime schedule; however, it’s a little more iffy with 4-5 month old babies. Your 4-5 month old baby may be ready for a clock-based schedule if…
- your baby has already been through the 4-month sleep regression.
- your baby can go about 2.5 hours between daytime feedings.
- your baby can comfortably stay awake for about 2 hours between naps.
- your baby is not overly sensitive to small fluctuations in awake time. Sensitive babies who become over-tired easily may need to wait until closer to 6 months for a predictable daytime schedule.
By the time your baby is about 6 months old, he or she will most likely be ready for a clock-based schedule, though not all do well with rigid schedules.
How To Get Your 4-6 Month Old Baby Napping and Eating On A Schedule
The best way to add predictability and structure to your younger baby’s day is to follow more of a routine than a schedule. Your routine may be something like the common eat-play-sleep or something unique you create for your unique baby. Predictability not only helps you plan your day; it can also help some babies, particularly slow-to-adapt babies feel more secure and sleep better.
As your baby ages, your baby might be ready for a timed schedule. A great way to begin building this kind of schedule is to use fixed points. You can see a sample 5 month schedule here, if you want an idea of what good fixed points look like. Start by waking your baby within the same 30-minute window each day (since the timing of your baby’s morning wake-up sets the timing of the rest of the day). From there, work to ensure that the morning nap happens within the same 30-minute window each day. As time passes, continue adding in naps and meals as fixed points until you’re operating on a daily timed schedule. Be prepared to have some ebbs and flows and it may take several weeks to get there.
A Few More Baby Scheduling Tips
I can’t wrap up this post without pointing out a few more key scheduling facts:
- Your baby’s sleep needs trump the schedule. Even the best schedule won’t work if it doesn’t allow your baby enough nap sleep, or if it demands too much awake time between naps. Always start with your baby’s unique sleeping habits and patterns, and build your schedule around those.
- “Schedule busters” like sleep regressions, illness, teething, vacations, etc. tend to do damage to sleep schedules. This is normal, so be prepared to roll with issues like these; you can usually get back on track within about a week.
- Don’t forget to build flexibility into your schedule! You’re going to want to get out of the house sometimes, after all with many of the Rookie Moms activities! It’s a good idea to stick to your schedule most of the time, but allow yourself (and your baby) some “flex” days during which you can enjoy a play date, grab coffee with a friend, or head to the gym.
One final reminder is that all babies are unique, so even if your friend with the same age baby has a “perfect” schedule, your baby may not quite be ready. Babies all “work” on different skills and developmental milestones at different rates and times, and are impacted by stimulation in a different way. But, take heart that all babies get on a schedule eventually, even if it’s not 100% the same every single day.
What’s an Express Sleep Plan?
The Express Sleep Plan is a $49 value; it provides parents with an easy way to get a budget-friendly custom sleep plan instantly – no waiting! Simply log into your help desk account (created for you by BabySleepSite), complete a brief survey in which you outline your sleep issues/needs, and then submit your answers. Within about 30 seconds, your custom sleep plan will be ready for download.
Nicole Johnson is a married mother of two wonderful boys and owner of The Baby Sleep Site. When her eldest son was born, he had a lot of sleep problems – he would wake every one or two hours, all night long! She got busy and thoroughly researched literature and scientific reports until she became an expert in sleep methods, scheduling routines, baby developmental needs, and more. She overcame her son’s sleeping issues in a way that matched her own parenting style, and knew it was her mission to help other tired parents “find their child’s sleep”. If you have your own sleep issues, Nicole and her team at The Baby Sleep Site® can help! Download the popular free guide, 5 Ways To Help Your Child Sleep Through The Night, to get started today.
Huge thanks to Nicole for sharing today’s great advice!
[Photos by Whitney Moss, all rights reserved]
Fine print: the Express Sleep Plan is designed for children age 4 months or older (after adjusting for prematurity), who are born within 4 weeks of their due dates and who are in good overall health.