Understanding and Creating a Sleep Schedule for your Baby
Sleep is important to babies. They spend most of their time asleep. As they get older, their waking hours increase and their sleep patterns change but what remains constant is that they have to have the right amount of sleep in a conducive and comfortable environment. Each baby is different and so are their needs. Parents need to make decisions based on medical advice, a common practice but also equally important is the unique needs of your baby. Like should you use a nightlight, or give them their favorite blankets even though the weather is hot, or should you let your baby fall asleep in their Newborn Knotted Hats that they seem to find very comfortable and cozy? Answering all this depends largely on your baby’s unique needs and the discernment of you the parent or guardian. This article discusses the general sleep needs of a baby at each stage of development; 3 months. 6 months, 9 months, and when they become a toddler.
Baby’s Sleep Pattern at 3 Months
At 3 months, your baby is past the newborn stage and this is a milestone age. In many cultures, the baby is not allowed to be outdoors till they are 3 months old. Your baby has been doing a lot of growing and developing in the last 12 weeks, so he no doubt looks and behaves quite differently now than he did when you first brought him home from the hospital. By 3 months old, your baby’s sleep may have started to regulate itself slightly – you may notice that your baby is starting to sleep longer stretches at night and to have more wake time during the day. If this is not happening, don’t worry – by no means is it standard for all babies to sleep well at 3 months old.
Remember each baby is unique. Around this time, you have to make some changes to the feeding or breastfeeding schedule because your baby’s needs will have changed drastically. Your baby will likely also start to consolidate feedings by 3 months old. Your baby’s stomach capacity is considerably larger now than it was in the early days and weeks after birth, so your 3-month-old baby will likely be able to go for longer stretches between feedings. You may also find that your baby feeds more frequently during the day and is beginning to drop night feedings. If this doesn’t happen that's normal too. Do remember, though, that if you are breastfeeding, you’ll want to continue to breastfeed at least every few hours during the day, and your baby will continue to need night feedings at this age, most likely. If your baby is still waking frequently at 3 months old, you may start to feel like you need to introduce solid food, in order to help your baby sleep. However, keep in mind that starting solids doesn’t usually improve sleep, and 3 months old is still considered too young to begin solid food. It’s best to stick exclusively with breastmilk or formula unless your healthcare provider indicates you should do otherwise.
Baby’s Sleep Pattern at 6 months
At this age, if you are not lucky enough to have a baby who sleeps through the night, many 6-month-olds are still waking 1-2 times to eat at night. Anything more and likely you have a sleep association problem. Your 6-month-old should be taking 2-4 naps per day for a total of 2-3 hours per day plus 11-12 hours at night. If you’re having trouble with naps, you might be interested in helping your baby nap by creating a nap schedule.
It varies by the baby so you should identify your baby’s needs before creating one. Schedules should be flexible at this age because many babies simply can not stay up past 2 hours to get to the next scheduled nap-time, so at this age, it’s likely naps are still on the short side, but come frequently. Over the next several weeks, you can work on getting down to just 3 naps to get closer to the 7-month schedule.
Baby’s Sleep Pattern at 9 months
At this age, if you are not lucky enough to have a baby who sleeps through the night, most 9-month-olds can sleep all night without a feeding and take two naps during the day. However, some babies, in my experience, do better with one feeding after 4 or 5 a.m. and sleep longer than not feed and get an early wake-time. It would have to depend on your specific baby and their needs. Your 9-month-old should be taking 2 naps per day for a total of about 2-3 hours per day plus 11-12 hours at night. If you’re having trouble with naps, you should continue to help your baby nap through schedules and providing the comfortable relaxing environment.
Sleep Pattern for Toddlers
At this age, your toddler should be sleeping through the night, with no night feedings. Obviously, all babies vary, but here are some rough schedules you can use to make your own for your unique baby. When we say toddler, we are typically referring to a child that falls within the 1-3 year-old age range, which is a wide range. Sleep need a change in that time-frame. While your one year old may be sleeping 12 hours at night and 2-3 hours during the day made up of 2 naps, on average, your three-year-old is likely starting to transition into not napping altogether and will do so most likely before the age of four. At this age they already understand structure and authority and so you have to enforce nap time as a rule. At 2 years old, the average amount of sleep drops to between 12 and 12 1/2 hours in 24 hours, including just one afternoon nap. The average age for a toddler to transition to just one nap is 15-18 months. Transitioning too soon.