The best sleep/wake schedule for an infant depends on their age, developmental stage, and individual needs, but there are some general guidelines that can help you establish a healthy sleep routine for your baby. Keep in mind that every baby is unique, so it’s essential to be flexible and adjust the schedule as needed to meet your baby’s specific requirements.
However, everyone (including adults) generally will have consistent 90 minute sleep cycles throughout the night. Infants will have shorter 45 minute cycles where they tend to move or wake at the 45 minute mark. It is very important that we get this full nap cycle in so that we have restorative deep sleep. 15-20 minute “cat naps” will not allow for the baby to move adequately through all the sleep stages and will lead to a fussier baby and more night wakings.
Newborns (0-3 months):
1. Irregular Sleep Patterns: Newborns have irregular sleep patterns and need to feed frequently, typically every 2-3 hours. They may sleep for a total of 14-17 hours a day.
2. Nocturnal Sleep: Newborns tend to be more awake during the night and sleep during the day. To help your baby establish a day-night rhythm, expose them to natural light and engage in more active play during the day.
3. Short Awake Windows: Newborns can only stay awake for short periods (30-45 minutes) before becoming overtired. Watch for signs of sleepiness (e.g., rubbing eyes, yawning) and put them down for a nap as soon as you notice these cues. If they have trouble falling asleep, try to anticipate and put them down 15-20 minutes before you think they are ready. This will prevent them from already being overtired and fighting sleep.
4. Consistent Bedtime Routine: Establish a calming bedtime routine that includes activities like bathing, reading a book, and dimming the lights to signal that it’s time for sleep.
5. Colic: Occurs approximately 3 weeks to 3 months. Generally same time each day where the baby cries, seems inconsolable, and has difficulty sleeping. This is likely developmental and related to progressive overstimulation throughout the day. Be reassured that even the fussiest baby can be a calm, good sleeper later.
6. Attempt to have baby fall asleep in crib / bassinet rather than in another location. Transitioning to the crib once they are asleep is difficult for the sensitive baby and can lead to immediate waking and crying and will disrupt the sleep schedule.
Infants (3-6 months):
1. Longer Sleep Stretches: By 3-6 months, infants may start sleeping for longer stretches at night, up to 6-8 hours. Hopefully, they are learning to self-soothe whenever possible.
2. Consistent Bedtime: Aim for a consistent bedtime between 7:00 PM and 8:00 PM. This can help regulate their internal body clock.
3. Regular Naptimes: Maintain regular nap schedules during the day, with 3-4 naps totaling 3-5 hours of daytime sleep. Always attempt to nap in the same location that you expect them to sleep at night.
4. Gradual Sleep Training: Some parents choose to introduce sleep training methods at this stage to help babies learn to fall asleep independently. Ideally, this skill is learned before 6 months. Try to minimize any intervention that the child will depend on in the future to fall asleep or fall back asleep when they wake in the night (rocking, swinging, feeding, etc). After 6 months it can be very difficult to sleep train.
5. Introduction of solid food around this age will not necessarily help baby sleep longer at night. It is more important to maintain solid proper length naps and learn to self-soothe.
1. Consolidated Sleep: Babies in this age range typically sleep for 11-12 hours at night, with 2-3 naps during the day that gradually transition into 1-2 longer naps.
2. Fixed Bedtime: Continue with a consistent bedtime between 7:00 PM and 8:00 PM. Too long of a wake stretch before bed may lead to overstimulation and night waking.
3. Establish Routines: Maintain bedtime routines to signal the approach of sleep.
4. Monitor Developmental Milestones: Pay attention to developmental changes (e.g., teething, separation anxiety) that can disrupt sleep patterns.
Remember that these are general guidelines, and individual variations can be significant. Always prioritize your baby’s cues and needs. Also watch for fever or other signs of illness that may require medical attention.