Are there Specific times of day my child should be sleeping? Yes!!
Here are your ideal sleep schedules for children ages 4 months – 5 years
Yes! There are absolutely specific times of day that your child should be sleeping. While the frequency and relevance of these times will change as your child ages (and starts dropping naps) the times stay concrete. Sleep is still unorganized for babies under the age of 4 months and while you can do some things to help guide their sleep through sleep shaping (see: Sleep Shaping For Infants) they are essentially in charge of their own sleep schedule.
**Drowsy But Awake Sleep Tip!**
Start practicing drowsy but awake by 3 months of age. This is something you will need to do regardless of your child’s age if you have not done it yet. This is the key to teaching your child how to self-soothe which is the process under which they put themselves to sleep independently and back to sleep from nap and night wakings.
At then end of your soothing routine, as you are rocking them etc, place them in the crib before they fall asleep, this is the state known as drowsy but awake. On a scale of 1-10, 10 being totally asleep, aim for a 7-8, they are sleepy but are also aware that you are placing them down. Do this for every nap and night sleep as well as after all night feedings. This is the KEY to successful sleep training!!
At 4 months of age you will be able to help sleep train them into an age appropriate, biologically beneficial, and restorative sleep schedule. The sleep times or parameters on this schedule will stay the same until they start dropping naps. These schedules will look like:
Schedule 4-8 months:
Wake time: Acceptable wake times can range anywhere between 5:30-7am. Any earlier than 5am can be considered a night waking and should be treated as such. If your child is still sleeping by 7am, wake them up, this is imperative in order to protect the day’s naps.
Nap 1: 9am- or as close to it as you can – for younger babies 9am might not be possible, stretch as close to 8:30 as you can and once your training method has helped to lengthen those naps, you start pushing that nap 1 start time closer and closer to 9am.
Nap 2:1pm- or as close to it as you can-again, for the younger ones or for those who are taking short naps, aim for as close to 12/12:30 as you can and once the first nap has lengthened, this start time needs to be moved closer to 1pm.
Nap 3: Catnap/bridge nap. Taken within two hours from the end of nap 2, if they are not capable of an awake period of two hours, then start this nap 1.5 hours from the end of nap 2. Do not start this nap later than 4/4:30. Always have them up from this nap by 5pm at the latest, regardless of what time it started.
Bedtime: Within two hours from the end of the catnap. Again, use 1.5 hours if they are not yet capable of being awake for 2 hours at a time.
**If the catnap is skipped, bedtime will fall early, within 3.5-4 hours from the end of nap 2.
**Leave for a minimum of 1 hour for all naps, 75 minutes if possible. If they wake before 75 minutes have elapsed either leave them to self soothe back to sleep or use your sleep training method to assist them in falling back to sleep.
8 months-15 months (average age babies drop from 2 naps to 1)
Nap 1: 9am
Nap 2: 1pm
Bedtime: Within 3.5-4 hours after the end of nap 2
15 months-whenever last nap is dropped for good varies anywhere from 3-5 years
The afternoon nap is the only nap taken at this age. It usually falls around 12-1, being pushed closer to one as they adjust from dropping the morning nap.
You may wonder why the schedule falls as it does, there is a definitive science behind this sleep schedule, stay tuned to next week’s free tip Tuesday to find out why and for tips to trouble shoot common issues with assimilating to these schedules.