Why do you need a baby sleep schedule?
Your eyes are bloodshot and you are wondering when will someone invent intravenous caffeine so you can finally feel awake after weeks of incredibly sparse sleeping patterns. Maybe you are awake right now, rocking your dear, sweet child in one arm as your other hand is scouring the internet for information about how to help this child stay asleep so you can finally get some much-needed shut-eye yourself. Good news, you are not alone.
Many of us have gone through the sleep deprivation that is called "parenthood". I would love to tell you that reading this article will fix all of those issues, but it won't. What it WILL do is give you some helpful insights that will seriously benefit you as you are on this journey of trying to find the sleep schedule that will work for you and your child.
You set the routine
Your child is born into this world without any routine, ideas, or understanding of sleep deprivation. This blank slate can be incredibly beneficial to you as much as it can be horribly disastrous. See, since babies come into this world without understanding routines schedules or plans, it is up to us as parents to teach them how to create a routine in their daily lives.
I know, maybe that's not what you wanted to hear. But let me say it: Routine is NOT a dirty world. You are not stifling the creativity or free-spirit of your child. You are helping them to develop. Routine is both healthy and beneficial to you and your child as adhering to a schedule can help your child anticipate what time it is and can help your own sanity when it comes to figuring out how your daily schedule is going to work.
Is it day or night?
Confusing day and night
Young children sometimes have the issue of not being able to tell the difference between night and day. Because of this, daytime can become their time to sleep and night time seems to be the perfect moment to party. Helping your child understand the difference between what is done during the daytime and what is done at night will help the sleep schedule be adhered to.
How do we do that? Communicating with your child by as many ways as possible. Language, of course is a simple one - saying "it's night time" and "it's daytime" become verbal cues that help them recognize what time of day it is. But for many newborns, who do not understand speech, we must help them realize through experience. For example, keeping the house bright and lit up and energetic during the daytime and dark and quiet at night helps children experience the cues of what time it is.
What age to start setting a sleep schedule for a newborn?
When can I start scheduling sleep?
Baby sleep schedule is not something you can simply start the moment a child is born. If your baby is only a couple of weeks old, there is no way you are going to get them to adhere to any type of schedule. Until the child is about two months old most of what your baby will do is eat and sleep. That means your schedule is totally out of the question.
You can start practicing a night time routine at about 2 months. Although the sleep schedule may not be fully followed yet, the beginning of a routine can help your child develop healthy habits of when to get tired and how to note the cues of a tired body.
By the time the child reaches four months if the routine has become a part of the regular lifestyle, they will begin to learn to fall asleep by themselves and you can put them to bed awake.
Sleep Schedule books
There are a ton of books out there on baby sleep, many of them are great, but not all agree on the same pattern. The reason is, every baby is different, and every style of sleep schedule is slightly different. This is normal.
Find the book and style that works for you and your child.
Save Our Sleep by Tizzie Hall
Save our Sleep
Tizzie Hall is known for being a miracle child soother. Within the pages of this book, she shares many of her tips and tricks to help children fall asleep and stay asleep. It's a must read for any parent who has had trouble getting their little one to sleep for lengthened periods of time.
Baby S.T.E.P.S. To Better Sleep: How to gently coach your child to peaceful naps and rested nights
Baby S.T.E.P.S. To Better Sleep
Unlike many other baby sleep books, Baby S.T.E.P.S. prescribes to the fact that each child and each situation is different. Something we all can attest to. This book is more of a guide that gives the parents the power to find what works for them rather than adhering to the ways that a certain author has found worked for their child.
This book is perfect for parents who are trying to find the "right" solution for their situation and other books and ways haven't seemed to "click" for their little one.
Precious Little Sleep: The Complete Baby Sleep Guide for Modern Parents
Precious Little Sleep: The Complete Baby Sleep Guide for Modern Parents
Precious Little Sleep started as a website that encouraged parents to find what worked for them when it came to establishing a sleeping schedule for their children. I love both the premise and the purpose of this book that gives effective and applicable advice for parents who are having trouble with finding the right fit for their child's sleeping habits.
Setting the sleep schedule
Baby Sleep schedule by month
Newborns can sleep up to 15 - 18 hours a day
1 - 2 months old
At the beginning of their life, children need a lot of rest. You can expect your baby to sleep around 15 - 18 hours a day. This will usually comprise plenty of small naps throughout the day. For the most part, this means the schedule will be about one or two hours of nap time and one or two hours of playing at a time.
In the first month, sleeping generally won't go past about four hours, but by month two your child could potentially sleep for about eight hours at the longest.
Also, in month one allow the baby to sleep as much as they desire. It is important for plenty of sleep during this time. Once the second month arrives, feel free to wake your child if they are napping for over one and a half or two hours.
Sleeping a bit more at night...
2 - 4 months old
Your child is growing and that means sleeping a bit less. At this point, you can expect them to sleep around five to eight hours at night. Naps will be a bit more sparse comprising of about three daily naps of about an hour to an hour and a half each.
4 - 8 months old
After month four, your child will start to sleep much better on their own at night for the most part. This means you could possibly have up to ten hours of sleep at night (but more than likely it will be around 7 - 8). Naps will still happen about three times a day and comprise of about thirty minutes to an hour of shut-eye.
Eight to twelve months
8 - 12 months old
Sleeping should become much easier at this point and your little one can sleep eight to ten hours a night. Napping is still regularly about two or three times a day of about thirty minutes to an hour each time.
Happy in between naps
12 months old (1 year old!)
Your baby is officially a year old. Sleeping at night will be about the same with having seven to ten hours of shut-eye a night. Naps during the day will only be about two now between thirty minutes to an hour each time.
Understand your babies needs
Conclusion: Adapt to baby needs
In conclusion, I must say this: schedules are approximate. Please don’t try to be a totalitarian overlord when it comes to what time your child needs to nap. I've known parents who were so strict about the sleep schedule that they had their child in the bedroom the exact minute they had scheduled. That's just not feasible in real life.
Instead, focus on roundabout times. Meaning you can write down 9 AM as your scheduled wake-up time, but it may be around 9:15 am because they had a rough night.
Understanding your child’s needs and adapting to them is an important aspect of caring parenting. You are the parent and ultimately you know what is right for your child when it comes to how much sleep they need. We can all look at guides and tips and tricks, but nothing will replace the instinct of a caring parent.
Trust yourself, and I promise you - eventually, you will get a full night's sleep again! For now, try your best to enjoy the journey of parenting.