A good sleep schedule from 4 months up to 1 year old
Author: Heidi Holvoet, PhD
schedule at 4 to 12 months helps your
into a healthy rhythm, take restful naps and start sleeping through the
Between 4 and 6 months already, the sleep
schedule becomes more regular. It is the time when the chaos of the
first months finally seems to make place for more structure. Many
parents and babies really enjoy this time as it brings a bit more
rest and time to enjoy each other in a relaxed way.
Your baby may or may not quite
sleep through the night yet. You may still be looking for longer naps,
or more suited nap and night bed times.
Stan's mom about his sleep schedule ...
I was just about
to give up
on getting my son to sleep regularly during the day. We had started
the first weeks to create regular nap time possibilities. That usually
went well for a couple of days but then he changed a feeding time and
the schedule was all gone again.
But then he turned six
months old and, as if by magic,
he started napping at these regular times. He even got so used to these
naps that he really needed them. When he missed a nap for some reason,
he could be really cranky later on ..."
Do keep up with the sleep schedule,
and reinforce it, because it continues to structure your baby's sleep patterns. It's what helps her develop the
sleeping skills she needs: easy settling into longer stretches
and independent self
soothing when waking up at night.
In a typical sleep schedule between 4
months and one year old a baby will have:
- 2 or 3 naps (up to 4 shorter ones under 6 months old): mid-morning, early
afternoon and/or late afternoon
- a 12-hour "night" with one or more feeds -
or no feedings for some
Even if it helps your baby sleep, the newly found
regularity may give you some restrictions too. You might be less mobile
and/or find yourself re-scheduling your day around nap times.
It may not even be possible to stick to the
schedule when you have older
children and/or work arrangements. Therefore it remains important that
you schedule sleep times
that suit you well.
Let's have a look at schedule tips for naps first,
then on to the nights ...
Sleep schedule tips for naps
Naps remain an important part of the sleep
schedule. How many hours sleep she needs varies a lot from baby to baby
but regular rest moments during the day keep her from getting
over-tired. A baby who is over-tired at night will find it
difficult to settle. It will then also be more difficult to sleep
through the night.
tips below focus on
a strictly timed nap schedule.
See my nap
complete instructions to set up
this or another type of routine
(pattern, baby-led, etc.) depending on your baby's specific needs.
For a good nap time schedule:
fixed nap times
determined: when it's nap time, it's nap
time. Put your baby to bed (or cot, or stroller, or sling ...), even if
you are unsure she's very sleepy this time. It is the regularity of the
schedule that will help her sleep.
A good illustration
is that many babies that
do not nap easily at home, suddenly take good naps when they go to daycare
or creche. That is because there is usually a strict scheme and
- not in the least - there is no other option. The carers usually don't
have the time to help each baby nap individually.
Of course you are not a creche. If your baby
is very easy with sleeping at nap times, you can be pretty flexible and
shift nap times with about half an hour or so. If your baby is not easy
with naps, try to be as strict as within ten minutes, it can really
Also, towards one year old, many babies will
go from three to two naps, or from two to one.
with nap times
If your baby has a difficult time settling or
sleeping a longer stretch, it is a good idea to experiment a bit with
the nap time. Move it forward
or backward in time, and see what
When my girl was 8 months old, we shifted her
nap to one hour earlier than usual. She suddenly had three-hour naps!
Before it was barely an hour.
Of course, with every experiment, give it a
week or so to see what happens before changing something again.
Do not skip
(all) naps in the hope of a longer
When a baby sleeps poorly at night, it can
seem like an obvious choice to skip a nap, or all naps during the day.
However that usually does not help. It just makes a baby overtired,
and that results in worse nights.
a nap can be a good idea in some
situations though. For example, if your baby has been taking three naps
a day for a long time, and suddenly starts waking up earlier in the
morning. Then one less nap can help, but always keep ensuring that she doesn't
become too tired at the end of the day.
Sleep schedule tips for nights
Many parents find their baby sleeping through the
around 6 to 12 months, but many also continue to have one or several
night feedings. A lot of it will depend purely on their physical ability to
sleep for longer without food or attention. But you can create the best chances.
For a good night time sleep schedule:
Stick to a
fixed night bed time
Also here, be
determined. Light or dark
outside, tired or not tired: bed time is bed time. This may seem more
strict than it is, no need to time your baby with a stopwatch of
Just keep the schedule regular and
recognizable for your baby. It will help her to the best sleep.
with night time bed times
parents may find this surprising, but most parents including myself
have experienced this, and it's backed up research. If your baby's
usual bed time for the night is say 9pm and she has two or three
awakenings during the night. Then shifting
the bed time to earlier, even quite drastic to 7.30pm, can
result in a wonderful sleep through night!
This is not a magical formula that always
works, but it does often, and therefore definitely
worth a try. You can also go earlier by just half an hour, see what
happens, then the next week another half hour ...
Naturally, do not try out a new bed time every
other night. Always give it a week or so before you will see the
effect. It is also best to experiment in a period when your child is
not ill, or teething.
Do not delay
night bed time in hopes of a
Although it seems logical to sleep until later
if they go to bed later, in general that's not how it works and more often than not it has the inverse effect, caused by over-tiredness.
a regular sleep schedule for your baby
towards one year old usually is not too difficult. If you remain
but also flexible enough to keep the schedule pleasant for
both of you, you are helping your baby a long way towards good sleep.
Do not worry if things still seem chaotic to you.
A lot is going on in baby's life: teething, discovering their
surroundings, learning to turn over, crawl, preparing those first
That is a lot to cope with for a little child and
can affect her sleeping. With a good sleep schedule you have the best
chances to find good sleep along the way.
Sadly, many (!) different causes can keep disrupting your nights. My
Sleeping Through the Night guide
helps you assess these and gives you the no-cry techniques to avoid any
months 4-12 months