One of the questions we hear pretty frequently from moms and dads who have newborns and young infants at home is, “How can I get my baby on some kind of schedule?” In fact, the sample sleep and feeding schedules by age are some of the most popular pages on our site!
The problem is, most babies are not ready for strict, by-the-clock schedules until they are about 6 months old. Some babies are ready earlier than this, of course (some 3 month old babies are so predictable, you can set your watch by them!) And other babies will take longer to develop a consistent schedule. But 6 months is a good average.
This often leaves parents of newborns and young babies wondering how they can bring some order and predictability to their babies’ days. No, newborns and young infants are not ready for rigid sleep and feeding schedules, but isn’t there some way to create a little bit of consistency in a young baby’s day?
The answer is yes, there is. Creating what we call “fixed points” in your baby’s day is a gentle way to provide some structure and routine, which in turn can help promote better sleep for your baby.
What Are Fixed Points?
Fixed points are parts of your baby’s daily routines that happen at roughly the same time each day. Note the ‘roughly’ there — these are not strictly clock-based! However, a fixed point should happen at about the same time (give or take up to 20 or 30 minutes) from day to day.
How to Create Fixed Points In Your Baby’s Day
A great way to start establishing fixed points is to start with your baby’s morning wake-up time. This strategy works well for all babies, actually, regardless of age — and it works for toddlers, too! The idea here is that you make sure your baby (or toddler) wakes up at approximately the same time each morning. If your baby (or toddler) has a consistent wake-up time, it will go a long way towards creating consistency in the rest of the day’s activities.
The next fixed point that many parents choose to work on is a consistent bedtime. Keep in mind that bedtime looks different for a newborn than it does for a 4 or 5 month old baby. Since a newborn’s sleep cycles are driven by feedings, and since newborns tend to wake every few hours around the clock, regardless of whether it’s daytime or nighttime, most newborns don’t really have a clear bedtime. However, by 3 or 4 months, most babies are sleeping longer stretches (and feeding less) at night. At this point, you can begin to carve out a bedtime, and then work on consistently putting your baby to bed at this time. As with the morning wake-up, this fixed point works well for both babies and toddlers.
Naptime can also be a fixed point in your baby’s schedule — specifically, the timing of the first-morning nap and the first-afternoon nap. When your baby is old enough to start eating solid food, you can also make meals fixed points in your baby’s daily schedule.
Fixed Points – A Gentle Way To Create A Schedule
Using the fixed point technique, you can begin create small amounts of order and consistency in your baby’s day, starting right away, in the newborn stage. Then, as your baby grows, you can slowly add in more and more fixed points, until a predictable schedule emerges.
There’s a lot more we could say about fixed points, but we just don’t have room to do it in a blog article. Want more info about how to incorporate fixed points into your baby’s schedule? Check out our e-Book, Essential Keys to Your Newborn’s Sleep. It contains an entire chapter on schedules and sleep, which includes lots more details about fixed points, as well as a variety of sample daily sleep and feeding schedules (for both breastfed and formula-fed babies).
What are your baby’s ‘fixed points’? Any tips for how to gradually create a good baby sleep and feeding schedule?
Need help in creating a schedule that will maximize your baby or toddler’s sleep? Please be sure to pick up your FREE copy of 5 (tear-free) Ways to Help Your Child Sleep Through the Night, our e-Book with tear-free tips to help your baby sleep better. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep (babies) or The 5-Step System to Better Toddler Sleep (toddlers). Using a unique approach and practical tools for success, our e-books help you and your baby sleep through the night and nap better. Have a newborn at home? Download our free guide on newborn sleep, 15 Baby Sleep Facts New Parents Need To Know, or purchase a copy of our comprehensive e-Book on newborn sleep, Essential Keys to Your Newborn’s Sleep. Or, join our VIP Members Area packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and audio courses. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! 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.
12 thoughts on “How ‘Fixed Points’ Can Help Your Baby Sleep”
Hello. I have a 10 week old who is exclusively breastfed. We’ve been trying to create a morning wake up time fixed point of around 7:00/7:30 AM. What do you suggest we do when he wakes up 6:00 or earlier? Bedtime fluctuates between 6-8, depending on how naps for the day goes. He naps anywhere from 35 mins to 2.5 hours. We’ve done a feeding for early morning wake up (ie. 5:30) but find that naturally he’s not interested in doing a full feed once 7:30 rolls around. Thank you.
@Kat – Thank you for reading and for sharing. Creating fixed points can definitely help your baby sleep better all throughout the day. Practice makes perfect (or near to it!) when it comes to setting new routines. Many factors go into why he may be waking earlier than you like, including the quality of his night sleep, bed time, naps during the day (total sleep), noise/environment in the mornings, but if your little guy continues to wake earlier than you’d like even after consistently working to implement the fixed point, please us know as we could help you with a few strategies as we learn more about your little guy and situation. We do generally prefer to see a morning wake up of 6am or later, overall. Hang in there, Kat!
Requesting help, please. My baby just turned 3 months old & we have been trying to get him on a sleep schedule (or any kind of schedule for that matter) for a while now. I have tried following his sleepy cues & then have tried to put him down for a nap around the same time the next day & it fails every time. I have also tried putting him down at any time (after diaper change & bottle) when I see him getting sleepy or right after he falls asleep while I’m holding him. He wakes up & crys every time. He is a very colicky baby & prefers to be held otherwise it’s nearly impossible for me to get him to take a nap. For example; he has went 8 1/2 hours during the day without anything other than a 30 min nap while being held. I’m really struggling with getting him on a schedule because of this. Since he cries every time I put him down for a nap, I have tried in the past to just let him cry it out but it hasn’t seemed to work. He has went 45 minutes at a time crying because I had no choice but to put him down so I could get ready because we had to be somewhere. (He had a clean diaper & had been fed, he just wanted to be held) I know that he would continue crying as long as I wouldn’t pick him up. I asked the pediatrician about this & they said that I shouldn’t let him cry for more than 5 minutes when I lay him down which has ultimately resorted to me having to pick him up everytime I put him down. He’s currently on an eat every 2 hour schedule because that’s what our pediatrician recommended as an infant & I still haven’t been able to get him to go much longer than that. He is fussy most days because of the colic so I know lack of sleep doesn’t help. I really feel like he would do so much better with a set routine but I just don’t know how to get there.
Thank you very much for using The Baby Sleep Site as a resource! I’m so sorry to hear you’re having such trouble with your son’s naps. I can say, what you’re experiencing is exceptionally common, and you are definitely not alone. Most babies really can’t handle a by-the-clock schedule before about 6 months-old, which can be frustrating since adults definitely live by the clock! We can expect the first nap of the day to be by-the-clock, and sometimes the second, but later naps really end up depending on the day. And, many babies under 4 months-old need a lot of help falling asleep and staying asleep, which can be hard. Babywearing can really help with babies who want to be held all the time, and you may want to ask your pediatrician about the safety of using a swing or bouncer – they shouldn’t be used for sleeping, but the swinging and/or vibrating feeling can soothe some babies who would otherwise cry when put down.
Since it seems like naps are really the area you’re struggling with, I wonder if you’ve seen our free e-book, 7 Common Napping Mistakes? You can sign up for it here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/free-baby-nap-guide/
We also routinely work with newborns who have colic, or who are extra fussy, in our personalized sleep consultations, so if you continue to struggle, please feel free to write us at [email protected], so we can talk with you further about whether a consultation package might be a good fit for you.
Best of luck, and please get in touch if we can help further!
@ Ana — I’m so, so sorry you’re struggling! Honestly, this sounds really tough. I can say that your friends’ advice (about keeping her up so she’s tired at night) isn’t really true; babies who don’t sleep well during the day become overly tired, which makes it much harder for them to sleep at night. So the fact that your daughter isn’t napping during the day is part of the reason why she’s not sleeping at night. An earlier bedtime would really help with that, but it doesn’t sound like that’s an option for you right now, with school.
Honestly, I think a personalized plan would be perfect for you. You have some unusual circumstances, and a personalized plan can take those into account and custom-design a plan that will work with your school schedule.
In the meantime — I’d suggest leaving your daughter at home with your husband whenever it’s possible. I’d also suggest doing whatever you have to during the day to help your little girl nap, so that she can catch up on some of the sleep she’s lost. That may mean letting her nap in the swing, or in your arms, etc. These things aren’t ideal long-term, but in the short term (until you’re able to get a personalized plan), they may be good short-term solutions.
Hang in there, Ana! Best of luck to both you and your little girl.
@ Christine — it certainly could be! There’s a sleep regression that happens around 4 months, but it can happen closer to 3 months, too. Read about it here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/how-we-sleep/4-month-old-sleep-regression/.
As for how to work with the fixed points — I’d suggest waking your baby close to the usual time (although you can tweak that morning wake time a bit — by 20 or 30 minutes, even). This way, you can stay close to your normal schedule.
In answer to your second comment — no, it’s not necessarily too early. Although you’re probably still timing bedtime around feedings at this point, so having a consistent bedtime means you’ll also need to have a fairly consistent feeding schedule.
Hope this feedback helps! Thanks for commenting, Christine! 🙂
Is it too early to try for a consistent bedtime at 3 months old if there was one at 1 months but it went out the window somehow by 3 months?
If my 3 month old went to bed at 1am one day do I still wake her up at 8am (our usual time)? She was on a pretty consistent schedule of falling into deep sleep by 10pm but has been really inconsistent for the last two weeks. Since the inconsistency she’s also waking up every hour after the first stretch of four hours of sleep. She just turned 3 months old yesterday. Could this be a sleep regression?
thank you for answering, i live in Mexico and here 10pm or even 11pm is very acceptable to everyone and everyone keeps telling me to not let her sleep all day so she can be tiered and sleep at night but the problem is she doesnt even sleep in the day im lucky if i get one or two 30min naps but never at a consistent hr im lucky if she sleeps 8 hrs total in day and night but to answer your question i dont have anyone for child care since my family lives far and i dont really know or trust anyone only my husband who also has a very chaotic work schedule, somedays he can take care of her but not very often, in the mornings i work from home from 8am-3pm but i play with her and tend to her while working but in the night my last class is over at 9pm and i cant change my schedule till august of next year im stuck with those hours i was thinking maybe i can get her to sleep before my last class which starts at 8pm but then the problem would be all the movement and fuss of getting her from the school to the car then up the apartment stairs and into her crib which normally wakes her up and she wont go back to bed for hours, she wakes very easily and is very very active, i tried cosleeping the past 2weeks but she ends up taking the whole bed to herself she rolls all over at night and my husband ends in the floor so it not exactly working, im seriously desperate i want to get a personalized plan but right now it not an option since it would be all of the month´s salary i know it would be worth it but im saving up so hopefully by december i can get it but i want to do something meanwhile because its really affacting me and my baby not getting ANY SLEEP AT ALL I FEEL LIKE A ZOMBI AND SHE DOES TOO she is veery cranky and upset alot of the time and now hardly wants to eat plus her immune system is very low she gets sick very often and i think its because of the lack of sleep.
@ Ana — sounds like a tough situation 🙁 Do you have to take your daughter to school with you, because you don’t have any other childcare for her while you’re at school?
Here are my observations: 10 p.m. really is quite late for a 9 month old to go to bed. The simple fact is that earlier bedtimes, for babies and young toddlers, lead to better and longer sleep. It’s very likely that, by 10 p.m., your daughter is overly tired, and that’s why she won’t fall asleep until 2 a.m. (that’s especially true if she’s barely napping during the day). Her over tiredness probably just snowballs from day to day, making it tough for her to relax and fall asleep.
Honestly, at this age, I would shoot for a bedtime of 7:00 or 7:30 — 8:00 at the latest. But again, that might not be possible for you, given your school situation. Do you have anyone who can watch her while you’re in class, and put her to bed for you? Or is that not a possibility? I’d suggest that if you can find someone to do your childcare, then do that; this will help ensure that your daughter goes to bed earlier and has a chance to be well-rested. If you don’t have childcare help, though, that’s a tougher situation to figure out. Maybe you can schedule your classes differently next semester?
Again, sorry you’re struggling with this, Ana! Sounds like a tough situation to be in. Best of luck to you! Don’t hesitate to ask follow-up questions via the comments, or by e-mailing them to contact (at) babysleepsite (dot) com.
Thanks for commenting, Ana! 🙂
HI MY BABY IS NOT SOO LITTLE SHE IS 9MONTHS NOW BUT IM STILL HAVING A VERY VERY HARD TIME GETTING HER ON A SCHEDULE, I LOVE THE POINTS IDEA WHICH WOULD BE SIMPLER TO START IMPLEMENTING BUT THE QUESTION IS THIS… WHY CANT BEDTIME BE LATER THAN 8PM? I GO TO SCHOOL IN THE AFTERNOON AND HAVE TO TAKE THE BABY WITH ME AND WE DONT GET HOME TILL 10PM, CAN I MAKE 10PM HER BED TIME? WHY DOES ALL THE LITERATURE OUT THERE SAY BEDTIME SHOULD B NO LATER THAN 8PM WOULD IT BE WRONG OF ME TO MAKE HER BEDTIME 10PM? RIGHT NOW SHE WONT SLEEP TILL 2AM AND ITS KILLING ME BECAUSE SHE HAS BEEN THIS WAY SINCE SHE WAS 1 MONTH OLD AND SHE STILL WAKES 4-7 TIMES A NIGHT WICH IS HORRIBLE SINCE SHE WONT GO TO BED TIL 2AM AND WAKES AT 9AM… IN THE DAY IM LUCKY IF I GET 2 NAPS MOST OF THE TIME BETWEEN 30MIN-45MIN. I WOULD REALLY APPRECIATE ANY ADVICE, THANKS!
@ Noemi Blair — thanks for sharing your experience! You’re right; even having a few activities occur at the same time each day can go a long way towards slowly and gently creating a schedule. Glad this technique worked for you!
Thanks for commenting 🙂
I may have over scheduled my twins but once they were about 3 months I tried to have various activities occur close to the same time each day. Mornings on the playmat, midday was tummy time, some time on the deck in bouncy seats (weather permitting) and afternoon was swing or jumperoo time. Sometimes it would only be for 15 min but it was pretty consistent and seemed to help.
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