You may find that your baby starts to have a bit more of a consistent 3 nap/day schedule starting around 4-5 months. With this schedule, we hope to have two restorative naps that are at least one hour or more, and a third cat nap later in the day that’s generally 30-40 minutes. The last cat nap is not a highly restorative one, but just gives your baby a top up on sleep to get to a more reasonable bedtime.
You’ll see below that all of the times to try and start the naps are ranges. By age 5-7 months, your baby will likely be able to tolerate being awake anywhere between 1.5 to 3 hours. It’s important that you really tune into your child’s sleepy cues to get them down for sleep when they are starting to show signs of being tired. That would be signs like zoning out, showing less interest in activities, blank stares and glazed eyes. We want to avoid pushing them to the point of being overtired (hard cries, arched back/pushing away, tense body) as it’s harder for them to get to sleep and then fall back asleep when they wake between sleep cycles.
So here’s a general guide of timing for these three naps - these times are when you want to start the nap and have your baby in their crib.
Nap 1: between 8:30-9a
Nap 2: between 12-1p
Nap 3: between 3:30-4:30p
Bedtime: between 6:30-7:30p (depending on when the last nap ended and how much sleep your baby had through the day. Don’t be afraid of an early bedtime!)
A few other suggestions.
We want to start the day no later than 7a. This gives your baby enough time to have wakeful periods in between naps. If your baby wakes before 6a, try your best to leave them in the crib. While they may be “awake”, it’s still restful for them to be in their crib in a dark environment without the stimulation of the outside world.
For those first two naps, we hope that they are each at least one hour in length. If your baby wakes before one hour, do your best to give him/her time and space to get back to sleep without intervention. If they get back to sleep, let them sleep! If they do not get back to sleep by the hour mark, then go in and start the next wakeful period.
Try to cap the first two naps at a max of two hours. Wake a sleeping baby you ask?! Sometimes we do need to. This ensures that they can have enough wakeful time to be able to time sleep for the rest of the day.
By 7-9 months, you may start to find that the last cat nap of the day is a struggle or just not happening. Don’t worry too much! That’s a good sign that it’s time to transition to a two nap schedule as your baby can tolerate slightly longer wakeful times and no longer needs that last short nap before bedtime.
Keep in mind that this is a general guide of a schedule. If your daily schedule is different and your baby is getting enough restorative sleep, then that’s great and there’s no reason to change what is working. If you are struggling with your baby’s schedule and in a constant cycle of overtiredness, let’s connect. I would be happy to help work through some of these issues to help you and your baby get the rest needed.