What is a Sleep Schedule? – Baby Brezza
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What is a Sleep Schedule?

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. I never would’ve guessed how important setting a napping schedule would be. 

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. Baby sleep schedules can feel difficult to establish, but once you’ve found the rhythm, you’ll both be grateful.

Follow Age Appropriate Wake Times and Schedules

There are different sleep schedules on an almost individual basis, and finding your baby’s can feel like a never ending search. Newborn sleep schedules will not be the same as a toddler’s, for instance. 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, and baby sleep schedules are no exception. You don’t have to be a time tracker all on your own!

Set the stage

To encourage an optimal sleep and napping 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. With a good sleeping environment set, finding the sleep schedules that work best for you and baby alike will be easier than ever. Check out our sleeping tips for more tricks on getting your baby to sleep.

Set your expectations

Naps and overnight sleep take time to consolidate. 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 and develop sleep schedules 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

How to Break the Cycle of an Overtired Baby:

A few other things to keep in mind when trying to break the cycle of your overtired baby are consistency, observance, and overstimulation. First and foremost, as we mentioned above– keep your little one on a consistent nap and sleep timetable to help keep them from ever getting overtired. In conjunction with that, observe your baby’s sleep cues– when do they start nodding off, what helps them feel drowsy, and where are they when they get sleepy? Noting these aspects will help you create the right sleep schedule and environment for your little snoozer. Lastly, be sure to avoid overstimulation around or before bedtime. New toys, TV, and playtime can distract baby away from getting sleepy, causing you both to lose sleep.

When Do Babies Consolidate Naps?

Ideally, your baby will have their own natural napping rhythm down by about 4-6 months of age. In order to encourage this process, ensure that baby’s night sleep cycle is established while also paying attention to their awake hours, too. Keep baby fed and get them used to other “pre-nap” processes that will induce sleepiness. This includes creating the perfect space to nap in: darkened rooms at the right temperature (not too hot, not too cold), absent of TV or toys, and sometimes including a white noise machine (if baby tends to sleep better with one) are all elements that can help create the most nap-friendly environment.

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 molly@sleepshore.com, visit her website at www.sleepshore.com or follow her on Instagram (@sleep.shore) or Facebook (@sleepshore)

 

Sleep & Soothing

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