How To Put Your Baby On a Nap / Sleep Schedule

Baby ScheduleWe have a variety of sample baby sleep and feeding schedules, but how do you put your baby on a sleep or nap schedule, anyway? Your strategy for implementing a baby’s nap schedule will depend on the age of your baby. Here are some tips:

4 month old baby

Your 4 month old baby will have limited ability to be on a true by-the-clock schedule. The best way to add predictability and structure to your day is to follow more of a routine rather than a schedule. Your routine may be something like eat-play-sleep, like Babywise, or something unique you create for your unique baby.

Predictability not only helps you plan your day, but it can some babies feel more secure, particularly slow-to-adapt babies. Some babies and parents prefer to follow baby’s cues. Find what works for you and, most importantly, your baby.

5, 6, or 7 month old baby

Between 5 and 7 months old, some babies can begin to get on more of a clock schedule. Usually, at this age, it’s best to have some flexibility in this, though. For example, a 5 to 7 month old may routinely take her nap around 9 a.m., but on a day when she’s working on a developmental leap or is more active, she may need to go to sleep earlier than normal. It’s often best to watch the clock AND your baby, in this age group. To put your 5, 6, or 7 month old on a schedule, you want to move slowly to extend their awake period until your baby can comfortably get to your target nap or sleep schedule.


8, 9 or 10 month old baby

Your 8, 9, or 10 month old can often be on a more regular and predictable schedule. Remember this age group is prone to the 8-9-10 month old sleep regression. For babies sensitive to being over-tired, you probably don’t want to be TOO rigid with your baby’s schedule. Being too rigid may land you into a cycle of chronic over-tiredness, which is sometimes hard to break. And, if bedtime is a little too late, the schedule may work wonderfully for weeks and then BAM, one “off” day sets you into a downward spiral. To put your 8, 9 or 10 month old on a schedule, you’ll want to extend their awake period, just like your 5 or 6 month old, but you may be able to go a bit faster.

11 or 12 month old baby

Your 11 or 12 month old will likely have gotten on their own schedule, even if you didn’t mean for it to happen. Most babies will begin to fall into a fairly regular pattern, even if it’s not identical every day. Inconsistent babies tend to start “smoothing” out at this age, even if they aren’t strictly “consistent.”

If you are still napping and setting bedtime based on sleepy cues, you may feel frustrated if your baby/toddler is not napping long enough and still catnapping during the day. Some babies are “good” about sleepy cues and sleeping well based on them, while others need more structure and direction from you. Not enough awake time can wreak havoc in this age group.

To put your baby/toddler on a nap sleep schedule, take one for a test drive to see how your little one responds. Different babies need different schedules. That’s why we offer a wide variety of sample schedules in our Mastering Naps and Schedules book.


Of all age groups, a toddler’s schedule is often one of the easiest to achieve. As long as your toddler is napping independently and can nap long enough, they will fall into a predictable schedule. You can set the schedule based on the clock and, generally, will get a good night’s sleep and a good nap. Granted, over-tiredness can still lead to shorter naps or night-waking or your baby waking too early. But, if you follow a standard 5 hours awake before and after the nap, most toddlers should do pretty well.

Summing Up Schedules

I hope these tips will help you put your baby or toddler on a nap / sleep schedule. All babies are different and some will be able to get on a schedule earlier than others. My first didn’t get “good” at a schedule until 7 months old while his younger brother was on a schedule around 6 months old. I have seen some 6 month olds take just two naps and I’ve seen 11 month olds taking three naps, which is rare. Having a “wrong” schedule for your baby can impact how long their naps are, how well they sleep at night, what time they wake in the morning, whether they are awake a long time at night, and how fussy or happy they are during the day. Even if you don’t believe in rigid schedules, following guidelines can help, if your baby has sleep problems.

Still Struggling?

If you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 40 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets,

Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night. For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan® you can feel good about! Sometimes it’s not that you can’t make a plan. Sometimes you’re just too tired to.

How did you put your baby or toddler on a schedule?

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27 thoughts on “How To Put Your Baby On a Nap / Sleep Schedule”

  1. I recently sleep trained my baby at 3.5 months old (hurray)! He can put himself to sleep for naps and for the night. However he still takes super short naps, anywhere from 10-55 mins. We followed the Ferber method but it doesn’t provide any tips on extending naps. It just says to get the baby up if it wakes. I usually wait 5 mins before going to him to restart the feed play sleep routine. However baby is still tired especially if he naped for only 15-20 min. I don’t understand why he won’t sleep longer if he knows how to self soothe. Because he catnap so much, we end up having 4-5 naps to get to bedtime.

    He has a nap time routine for every nap and sleeps in his crib with blackout curtains. He is 16 weeks tomorrow.

    What should I do if he wakes from a short nap and how can I extend them? Should I let him cry longer until he falls back asleep? If so, how long should I let him cry for? Should I have a time cap?

    • Hi @Elisa! Thank you for writing! 🙂 Short naps are actually very common at this age! While 15 minutes is extreme, 30-60 minutes is quite common. Naps often lengthen naturally at around 6 months, so if they remain short after that age, you may want to consider working on more aggressively lengthening them. For those super short 15-20 min naps, it sounds like you are doing what you can to encourage those to lengthen. Leaving hims for 5+, or gently helping him back to sleep by giving very minimal patting/etc may help. At this young age, he may have a hard time self settling on his own 100%, so try and be patient with him as he works on self-soothing and getting back to sleep on his own.
      Here is a link to our recommend schedule for a 4 month old. You might find this helpful to see where you might be able to adjust your current schedule to help ensure naps and bedtime are at good times for him. Finding the right sleep schedule can help with naps too!:
      Good luck and thanks again for visiting!

  2. Hi Terri,
    I am sorry things are so tough! And I hope things have improved since you wrote! It is often an overall process to transition a baby or toddler to sleeping in their own bed, and it sounds like things got very rough and i think taking a break is a good idea for yo all to re-group. 🙂 At this point, your baby sees your bed as “his” bed and he doesn’t think of the crib as his bed. I would start with spending some non sleep time in his crib, maybe reading or singing songs so that he starts to see the bed as his bed. You can also try sleep on his sheet for a night or two and then putting it on his bed so that his crib smells like you.
    You can start out by putting him to sleep in his own bed only for naps. Once he seems to have adjusted to that, then work on putting him to sleep at bedtime in his own bed and then decide which wakings you may bring him into bed with you but to slowly start weaning him from coming to bed with you when he wakes. There are some additional tips here that you might also find helpful:
    If things do not improve, please consider a sleep consultation package. You can read about our services here:

  3. I have such a tough situation, the baby is now 22 months and has NEVER slept without being on me at nap time and next to me at night. I have stopped night nursing, but nurse to sleep both for names and at bedtime. I have tried (most recently for 6 nights) to put him in his crib, but the screams were so awful, I simply couldn’t bear it (after waiting for an hour), He is my second, we easily night coached our oldest and this beautiful baby is really different, definitely spirited. We did the whole night time routine – dinner, bath, reading, a bit of nursing until he was sleepy – then BAM!, a scream fest the second he even looked at the crib, and no matter how long we stood next to it to pat and soothe him (then just be a calm presence, it didn’t work. Any help would be appreciated. I am at my wit’s end.

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