When Can I Put My Baby On A Sleep Schedule?

Here is a great question from a wonderful Facebook friend:

Hi Pam,

I have two month old that slept ten hours last night. She usually sleeps eight hours at night then feeds and has another two.

I can’t figure out naps. Is she two young for scheduled naps? I feel like she cat naps all day unless we are out.  She sleeps when we are in the car or out and about.

Thanks,

Rita

Congratulations on the great nights! That is wonderful news. I hope it continues. In order to make sure that it does, please make sure she is AWAKE every night before she goes into her crib and that you are doing a consistent, FUN and enjoyable bedtime routine.

Why do you need to make sure she is AWAKE every time she goes into the crib? I have seen this time and time again in the past three and half years that I have been consulting whereby babies sleep GREAT for the first few months and the nights get better and better. Then around the two to six month mark, they start waking up all night long and the parents are left wondering … is it a growth spurt? Is this the four month sleep regression that I have heard about from other mothers? Is it teething? No, it’s not that … it is simply that the baby does not know how to fall asleep initially at bedtime and the baby has gotten smarter! You can read more about this here: Nurse to Sleep…Is it Bad?

Naps in the crib can be VERY frustrating for many babies. Newborns and infants cycle through sleep every twenty to forty-five minutes. Thirty minutes is the average. Your sweet little girl is having a hard time pushing through to a second or third sleep cycle on her own. (When she is in the car or stroller, she is being helped back into the second or third sleep cycle so that’s why she most likely sleeps longer in those environments).

Once again, having her go into the crib AWAKE is key so that she can push through to a second or third sleep cycle all on her own.

Yes, she will most likely cry if she is currently being helped into sleep through cuddles, rocking, nursing, walking, car rides and/or using a soother. If you would like professional help to minimize and reduce those tears, I would be honoured to help you and your family. Yes, unfortunately, there will be tears involved as we are changing her sleep habits. That’s the only way she can say, “I don’t like it!”  (When parents hire me for their newborns, there are potentially no tears involved as we are instilling the right habits rather than changing them.)

Just to let you know, I am not CIO. I won’t ask you to leave her all alone.  My approach is the most gentle and effective solution available. I would suggest that you do not make any changes on HOW she falls asleep initially at nap time and bedtime until you have a solid plan (method) or professional to help you.

From now to age six months, a baby’s circadian rhythm is still developing and they are learning to consolidate their daytime sleep. As you have already discovered, they can consolidate their night time sleep a lot younger!

You CAN expect longer naps now but you won’t be able to put her on a schedule until she is at least six months old.  For now, I would recommend that you put her down for a nap every hour 15 minutes to an hour a half.  When a baby gets over tired they have a harder time falling asleep and/or staying asleep.  As the weeks go by, keep increasing her awake time so that you can get to three hours around her six-month birthday.  At that point, you can put her on a schedule. A typical one is 9:45 am start first nap, 2:15pm start second nap, 7 to 7:30 pm bedtime.