by Nicole Johnson, Founder and Lead Consultant at The Baby Sleep Site®
Spring is here and if you’re like me, that means it’s time for spring cleaning! While the work of spring cleaning isn’t my favorite, I so love the aftermath – my fresh, clean, organized, sweet-smelling house.
Of course, spring cleaning isn’t just for our homes…we can spring clean other areas in our lives, too! For example, if your baby or toddler isn’t sleeping well – if your little one is waking frequently at night, or taking short and erratic naps – then this is the perfect time to “clean out” your child’s sleep schedule!
Keep reading for my top schedule clean-up tips, and learn how you can get your baby or toddler sleeping peacefully at night and napping consistently each day.
7 Tips To “Clean Out” Your Child’s Sleep Schedule
1. Make sure feedings and naps time up appropriately. Hunger is a very common reason for night-waking, and interrupted naps. Be sure that the timing of your child’s next meal isn’t falling in the middle of a nap; also, be sure that you are offering ample feedings during the day, so that you’re maximizing your child’s chances of sleeping for long stretches at night. Note, however, that newborns (especially those with reflux) need a little time after eating to set upright and digest, so don’t put your newborn down immediately after a feeding. For help creating a feeding and sleep schedule that works for your child, check out our.
2. Speaking of naps – know how many your child needs, and how long they should be. You can’t exactly work towards consistent naps until you know exactly how many naps your little one actually needs! Here’s a quick overview of nap totals by age, to help you out:
• From 1-4 months, the number of naps your baby takes will be variable, but will hover around 4-5 naps per day, depending on how long his naps are and how long he can stay up between naps.
• By 3 or 4 months old, she will lean towards just 4 naps, rather than 5.
• From 5-8 months, most babies will have three naps per day. There are a few babies who will only have two naps at a very young age, but those naps are usually long.
• From 9-15 to 18 months, on average, your baby will nap two times a day. Although many people believe most babies can transition to one nap at 12 months, the average age is actually 15 to 18 months.
From 18 months to 4 years, toddlers nap once a day. The age to transition away from all napping varies a lot, from 2 to 5+ years old, but the average age is between 3 and 4 years old.
3. Don’t force a schedule too soon. I’ve talked a lot so far about schedules – but keep in mind that most babies aren’t ready for a by-the-clock schedule until close to 6 months of age or older. In the newborn stage, simply focus on cycles – for example, an eat-play-sleep cycle works well for most families, and is a great way to foster healthy sleep habits. Once your baby is about 4 months old, work towards more clock-based consistency by trying to ensure that your baby wakes up and goes to bed at the same time each day. You can gradually work towards a by-the-clock schedule by timing up the first morning and first afternoon naps, and so on.
4. Create (or strengthen) bedtime and nap time routines. A pre-sleep routine can go a long way towards signaling to your baby or toddler that it’s time to settle in and go to sleep. If you don’t have one in place already, work on establishing a consistent bedtime routine. Your bedtime routine doesn’t have to be long, and it should be made up of a few relaxing, calm activities, designed to gradually wind-down your child.
5. Know your baby or toddler’s ideal bedtime, and work towards it. Speaking of bedtime – keep in mind that not all bedtimes are created equal! In my experience, many parents make the mistake of putting their babies in bed too late in the evening, and their toddlers to bed too early. For a look at your child’s ideal bedtime, check out our.
6. Work towards earlier bedtimes and longer naps, if your child seems overly-tired and cranky. I know it seems counter-intuitive, but it’s true…a child who’s overly-tired actually benefits from more nap sleep, and an earlier bedtime. Many parents assume that cutting naps short and putting baby to bed late will help with sleeping through the night, but that’s not the case. The truth is, well-rested babies tend to sleep better and longer.
7. If your child needs your help to fall asleep, begin working on drowsy, but awake. If you typically have to hold or rock or nurse your baby to sleep, this no doubt has as lot to do with why he/she wakes at night, and wakes too early for naps. See, if your baby or toddler doesn’t know how to fall asleep independently, then he/she wont’ know how to go BACK to sleep without your help, when waking between sleep cycles (which is something we all do). To help your child learn to fall asleep without your help, begin putting your little one into the crib drowsy but awake at sleep times.
Regardless of how you choose to work on your child’s sleep challenges this spring, I think that you will benefit from my free e-book,. The tips and strategies in this book work for all parenting styles, and are designed to trouble-shoot a wide range of common childhood sleep challenges. Best of luck to you and to your family – and happy sleeping!
Nicole Johnson is a married mother of two wonderful boys and owner of . When her eldest son was born, he had a lot of sleep problems – he would wake every one or two hours, all night long! She got busy and thoroughly researched literature and scientific reporreports until she became an expert in sleep methods, scheduling routines, baby developmental needs, and more. She overcame her son’s sleeping issues in a way that matched her own parenting style, and knew it was her mission to help other tired parents “find their child’s sleep”. If you have your own sleep issues, maybe she can help you, too.