Sleep is essential for the health and well-being of all living creatures. But did you know a baby sleep schedule is especially important for newborns and infants?
A typical sleep schedule for newborns can be anywhere from 10 to 18 hours per day. Brain development occurs during this sleep time, which is important for the emotional and behavioral health of your child as he or she grows.
Nonetheless, setting sleep schedules for baby is important, as they help your child to begin to develop natural circadian rhythms that teach them to distinguish night and day.
In addition to promoting good development, having your baby used to a specific routine makes it much easier to leave him with a babysitter if that becomes necessary.
In this article, we dive into whether getting a newborn on a schedule a good idea.
You might be wondering:
When Can I Start a Sleep Routine for a Baby?
Contrary to popular belief, there is little you can do to coax a brand-new baby into a schedule.
Not to fret; this is normal.
For the first month of life, newborns will wake and sleep according to hunger signals — and they should be allowed to do this.
Around one month to six weeks of age, however, is the right time to think about implementing an infant sleep schedule.
Routines like sleep schedules help a child feel secure and help them negotiate the big developmental changes that are waiting just ahead.
Getting Baby on a Sleep Schedule
So, how do you get a baby on a sleep schedule?
While there are pros and cons to each, we’re going to concentrate more on the “when” of scheduling rather than the style you choose.
Let’s look at a simple way to ease your child into a baby schedule with the least amount of fuss.
1. One Month to Six Weeks
Beginning around six weeks after birth, you can begin to introduce a routine the precedes your child’s sleep time.
Your newborn will sleep anywhere from 16 to 20 hours a day, including the naps taken between feedings. When your baby has been fed, let him stay awake for a short while and then put him down before he becomes overstimulated.
During the evening prior to an overnight sleep schedule, set the scene. This can include dimming the lights, giving him or her a warm bath, and perhaps a feeding. Establishing this little routine is the foundation of a good infant nap schedule and bedtime sleep schedule.
Get this part down, so that you can turn the baby monitor on and ease into a glass of wine!
2. Three Months
Your baby is growing quickly and learning to understand the difference between daytime and nighttime activities.
This is a good time to start keeping track of your baby’s daily schedule — her normal sleep/wake cycles — to see if you can determine a pattern.
You could use a simple notebook to keep track of changes, but there are lots of great apps to help you do this, like:
Using these apps will help you envision the emerging patterns of your child’s schedule so you can follow them, improve on them, or modify them as necessary.
Once you have a good idea of her schedule, you can start incorporating play times during your child’s most wakeful moments and implement your nap-time routine right before she gets sleepy.
This daytime/playtime activity will further reinforce your baby’s nap schedule and help her look forward to the natural rhythm of your days together.
At this age, your child should be allowed to try to self-soothe during naptimes and bedtime. Crying is normal when you put your baby down, but it is okay. If he cries for longer than 10-15 minutes, then go in and check on him. Don’t get him up, but pat his bottom or lightly rub his back until he calms down.
3. Seven Months
If you’ve been consistent with your routines, your baby will have fallen into a regular schedule of waking, feeding, playing, and sleeping that will help him be well-adjusted, fully rested, and ready to learn and grow.
Most babies can sleep through the night by this time, if they’ve been used to a schedule. Sometimes, a baby sleep schedule can get disrupted because of teething. If this is the case, check out our effective remedies to help baby teething.
Having this kind of regular schedule also helps tired parents get much-needed restorative sleep so they’re better able to cope with the rigors of having young children.
Tips for Establishing a Sleep Schedule
Now that you know when your baby is ready for a routine, let’s examine ways to make it easier for you — and your baby — to get to sleep on schedule.
Tip #1: Set the Stage
The best way to help your baby learn to anticipate sleep time is to set the stage for sleep — no matter which scheduling option you prefer.
Give her a warm bath, keep the lights low, and rock or sing quietly in advance of bedtime. Of most importance is to put her to bed while she’s sleepy — but still awake. This helps her to put herself back to sleep if she wakes up, because she’ll remember the routine.
Tip #2: Be a Calm at Night, Play During the Day
If you must feed or change your baby at night, keep the lights low and don’t play with him.
In the daytime however, you can feel free to play, laugh, and giggle with your baby.
Expose him to bright light while you’re playing so he understands that bright light and lots of play means it’s time to be awake.
Follow playtime with a feeding and then begin the slow, wind-down to sleep time. Remember to begin your sleep-time routine, even if it’s for a daytime nap.
Tip #3: Wait and See
It’s normal for babies to cry when they awaken at night. To keep your baby on a schedule, she needs to learn how to self-soothe.
You can help her by waiting a few minutes before you check on a fussing infant. If she’s still crying, check on her without turning on a light, picking her up, or playing with her.
If she’s still frantic after that, consider that she might be wet, feeling unwell, or hungry and attend to those needs if necessary.
Even though you might need to change or feed him, remember Tip #2. Stay calm and quiet and try to manage the diaper or bottle with the minimum of fuss. Keep the lights low.
When you’re finished, put her back to bed and darken the room.
Baby Sleep Schedule: The Right Thing for Baby — And You
Having a baby sleep schedule is not only necessary for helping your baby develop good emotional and behavioral skills, it’s also essential to help you get the rest you need.
Introducing your baby to a routine in a gradual way that aligns with her ability to understand and comply makes developing a schedule as fuss-free and drama-free as possible.
Allowing your child to develop her own natural circadian rhythm is critical to good sleep habits later.
Just as some people are “morning people” or “night owls,” your baby may also exhibit these tendencies early on.
No matter what the schedule, babies need rest for proper growth and development.
Developing a baby nap schedule not only promotes good health for your baby — it allows busy parents time to rest, work, or take care of essential chores that are set aside while baby is awake.
What methods have you tried for implementing a baby sleep schedule with your little one?
Share with us in the comments below!