By Molly Leighton, Certified Pediatric Sleep Coach, Sleep Shore Sleep Consulting
If you were anything like me as a new parent, you thought your newborn would sleep all the time, day and night. They’d go to bed easily and nap for hours at a time, right? WOAH was I wrong! As a newborn and young infant, my son would not fall asleep for naps and got stuck in a constant overtired cycle which made it impossible to get him to fall and stay asleep.
Fast forward to when he was 3 months old when I had my first consult call with a sleep coach. I’ll never forget when she said, “He should only be awake for 60-75 minutes before going back down for a nap”. I had ZERO clue about wake times and once I started following an age appropriate schedule, the nap and bedtime struggles got a lot easier! So, let’s talk about ways you can create a sleep schedule for your baby.
Follow Age Appropriate Wake Times and Schedules
As much as parents would like to set their children’s schedules, I’m here to break the news that babies’ sleep schedules and rhythms are predisposed based on age and circadian rhythms. You can’t force them on your schedule. So, as a starting point, use the below wake time and nap guide based on your baby’s age.
Disclaimer, this is a guide, every baby has individual, specific sleep needs. This is where a sleep coach comes in. We work with families to track and analyze YOUR baby’s sleep needs because one 5-month old’s schedule and sleep needs are different from another 5-month old! Sleep is scientific and complex. You don’t have to be a time tracker all on your own!
Set the stage
To encourage a sleep schedule, your baby’s naps should take place in a consistent sleep environment. The best and more restorative naps take place on a flat surface, a bassinet or crib, and in a room that is DARK and cool. Let me get on my dark room soap box, I’m talking DARK people, you shouldn’t be able to see your hand when the lights are off, and blinds are closed on the brightest of days. Any bit of light that comes into the room during sleep and hits your baby’s eyes can stop melatonin production (the sleepy hormone). Just make it pitch black, deal?? These are my absolute favorite blackout shades, they cover the entire window. White noise is crucial to help block out daytime sounds and to help mimic the sound of the womb.
Set your expectations
Naps and overnight sleep take time to consolidate. Naps typically consolidate between 4-6 months on average. Typically, the first nap of the day is the first one to extend. Sleep, especially independent sleep, is a hard skill to learn. Your baby was likely held or assisted to fall asleep for the first few months of life. And that’s okay! But when you start to work on a schedule and naps, don’t give up if, after a few days, it feels like you’re not getting anywhere. Getting on a good, consistent schedule can take weeks!
Your baby might have a great nap one day, but not the next—and that’s normal. Continue to give your little one the opportunity. You’ll see progression, but, as with all milestones, it’s usually two steps forward, and one step back. And PLEASE don’t compare your baby to your friends. Babies are different, and they reach different sleep milestones at different times.
Lastly, feeding plays a huge role with sleep. Ensure your baby is getting the appropriate number of feedings or ounces based on their age. Just like sleep, babies’ feeding needs are individual and specific. If you are following a feed schedule and you’re finding that your baby is hungrier than you may need to rethink the number and timing of feeds you’re offering your baby!
Baby Sleep Mistakes to Avoid
- Keeping baby up too long: Common mistake! Some parents think if they keep their baby up longer, they will sleep longer (guilty of thinking this as a new mom!) – big no, no! This will cause your baby to get severely overtired and likely get to the point where they can’t fall asleep or can cause multiple wake ups.
- Going against baby’s natural rhythm: I’ll say it once, I’ll say it again, sleep needs and times are predisposed based on age. Don’t go against those natural rhythms. If you have tried following wake times and a schedule is just not happening, call in the experts!
Baby Brezza is proud to partner with sleep coach Molly Leighton. She can help you get your your baby on a solid schedule and achieve your goals. Contact Molly at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit her website at www.sleepshore.com or follow her on Instagram (@sleep.shore) or Facebook (@sleepshore)