How To Put Your Baby or Toddler On A Schedule

 
How To Put Your Baby or Toddler On A Schedule

Sure, we’ve got a ton of helpful sample sleep and feeding schedules by age on our site – but since your baby or toddler presumably can’t read yet, how are you supposed to get your child to, you know, actually follow one of these sample schedules?

Having a schedule is all well and good, but how do you get your child’s day to match said schedule?

Fear not, parents – we here at The Baby Sleep Site® are known for our awesome scheduling help. And in today’s article, we bring that scheduling help to you! Read on to learn how you can gently help your baby or toddler follow a predictably daily schedule.

How To Put Your Newborn Baby On A Schedule

Remember that when it comes to newborns, you have to use the word ‘schedule’ loosely. Your definitely don’t want to try for a clock-based schedule with your newborn – instead, you want to think in terms of shaping a loose schedule that’s based more on routine and ordering your baby’s activities than it is on the clock. You’ll also watch your baby’s sleep and hunger cues carefully – they are the single best indicator of what your baby needs.

In order to promote healthy sleep habits, we usually recommend an eat-play-sleep schedule: you feed your baby, engage him in an activity (like reading a book, playing with a soft toy, etc.) and then put him down for a nap. While it’s not based on fixed feeding and sleep times, this rhythm will support the timed schedules that come later. You can also work towards helping your baby learn to fall asleep alone by putting him down slightly awake for at least one nap of the day.

Once your baby is about 8 or 10 weeks old, you can start working in one or two fixed points into the daily schedule. This will be a step towards a schedule that’s clock-based.

See our sample newborn sleep and feeding schedules, or check out our e-book on newborn sleep, Essential Keys to Your Newborn’s Sleep.

How To Put Your 4 Month Old Baby On A Schedule

By 4 months, your baby still isn’t ready for a strict schedule, but you can work towards a semi-clock based schedule by 4 months. You’ll still want to focus mainly on establishing strong routines, as you did in the newborn stage, but you can work towards plugging in more fixed points into your baby’s schedule – at this age, the first morning and first afternoon naps make good fixed points, as well as morning wake-time and bedtime.

You can also work towards establishing strong sleep-time and bedtime routines at this age. Start by creating a predictable, consistent bedtime routine. Later on, you’ll do a mini-version of this routine at nap time.

Keep in mind that the 4 month sleep regression usually strikes at this time, and that will throw off your baby’s sleep in a big way

See our sample 4 month sleep and feeding schedules for more information, or perhaps consider becoming a Baby Sleep Site® member. Our Members Area provides you access to over 50 sample schedules by age.

How To Put Your 5, 6, or 7 Month Old Baby On A Schedule

You can start moving to a by-the-clock schedule at this point, if you want to (although if you’re more of a go-with-the-flow parent, you certainly don’t need a rigid schedule!). By 6 months, most babies are eating solid foods, so you can start to carve out more fixed “meal” times and sleep times. Naps will also start to consolidate, for most babies, around 6 months or so, so it may be easier to have a predictable, timed nap schedule at this age.

As for how to get your 5, 6, or 7 month old baby onto your desired schedule – you will simply extend your baby’s awake time between naps (do this VERY gradually), until your baby’s naps line up with the scheduled times.

Still, plan to be flexible – while your baby’s schedule may become more predictable overall, there will still no doubt be days when your little one throws you for a loop! And often, when you try to force a rigid schedule too soon, you end up focusing on the clock instead of on your baby’s cues, which leads to a cycle of overtiredness.

See 5 month, 6 month, and 7 month sample sleep and feeding schedules here. Or, consider purchasing a copy of Mastering Naps & Schedules, the e-book designed to solve your persistent nap challenges!

How To Put Your 8, 9, or 10 Month Old Baby On A Schedule

For this stage, you’ll do the same thing you did above – you’ll gradually increase your baby’s awake time until it lines up with the 2-nap schedule you’re working towards. In general, it becomes easier to achieve a clock-based schedule at this age, simply because by this time, your baby is most likely down to just 2 naps per day, and you’re out of that “hamster wheel” of constant nap transitions that you experienced in your baby’s first 6 months of life. From here on out, your baby will have 2 naps per day for quite awhile, until she transitions to 1 nap in early toddlerhood.

Do keep in mind, though, that your baby will go through the 8/9/10 month sleep regression during this time, and that will likely mean set-backs with any schedule progress you make.

See sample 8 month, 9 month, and 10 month sleep and feeding schedules here. Or, if you’re continuing to struggle with getting your baby on a predictable schedule, you may want to consider a personalized sleep consultation with one of our expert consultants.

How To Put Your 11 or 12 Month Old Baby On A Schedule

By now, even the most unpredictable babies tend to fall into SOME kind of regular daily schedule – even if it’s not the schedule you intended! ;) At this age, it’s actually best to start paying more attention to the clock – and it’s also best if you focus on extending your baby’s awake time. While young babies need short wake time in order to ward off over tiredness, at this stage, you’ll probably need to focus on extending your child’s wake time to ensure that your baby’s bedtime doesn’t get too late. It’s especially important to make sure that the afternoon nap isn’t too late in the day.

See sample 11 month and 12 month sleep and feeding schedules here.

How To Put Your Toddler On A Schedule

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, your toddler 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 out of him. 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.

See our sample toddler sleep and feeding schedules for more information.

Baby and Toddler Scheduling Help That Works…Guaranteed!

If scheduling help is what you need, we can certainly help with that. We have a team of caring, compassionate expert consultants standing by, waiting to create a Personalized Sleep Plan™ for your family.
 
Browse our list of consultation package options here.
 

Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to login and start your Family Sleep History form right away – it’s that simple!

Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers. You can also take a tour of the Helpdesk.
 

bss_ebook_masteringnaps_leftIf 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 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.

 
bss_ebook_5steptoddler_smalFor those persistent toddler sleep struggles, check out The 5 Step System to Help Your Toddler Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your toddler sleep through the night and enjoy a better daytime schedule.
 
 

bss_email_featprod_memberspic-CROPPEDOr, join our Members Area packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! As a member, you’ll also enjoy a weekly chat with an expert sleep consultant. And the best part – members receive 20% off all sleep consultation services!

 

Can’t decide which product or service is right for you? Visit our Getting Started Page for help.

2 Quick Tips For Making Tough Daycare Nap Schedules Work

 
2 Tips To Make Tough Daycare Nap Schedules Work

You don’t have to have school-aged kids at home to enjoy back-to-school season! But we here at The Baby Sleep Site® know that back-to-school season can be tough – if you have older kids, you have to work on reeling in your summertime schedule and get more serious with bedtime and morning wake-time, for example. (Hint – for help on getting your older kiddos ready for school, you can read our 3 tips for implementing a back-to-school sleep schedule.)

And many of our moms of babies and toddlers tell us that fall is the season when daycare schedules shift – babies “graduate” to different rooms as they get older, and that can translate into different nap schedules. Sometimes, that’s just fine – but often, it’s very challenging! Generally, we find that daycares tend to decrease naps a bit faster than we usually recommend (for instance, most 12 months olds are placed in the toddler room, and are only given one afternoon nap, but we usually recommend that parents try to hold on to two naps until 15-18 months of age). And the timing of daycare naps is very fixed – not starting nap time early if your little one woke up earlier than usual!

So, what to do? You can’t change the daycare schedule, usually – so how can you make the new daycare schedule work for your baby or toddler without sacrificing sleep?

We’ve got two tips designed to help you do just that. Keep reading, and get the details you need to keep the new daycare schedule from creating sleepless nights and missed naps in your house!

2 Tips For Making Tough Daycare Nap Schedules Work

  1. Calculate how much wake time the daycare’s nap schedule demands, and then compare that with how much you know your baby or toddler can tolerate. In our experience, daycares often expect a bit more wake-time from babies and toddlers than is age-appropriate (not always true, of course – but we see this happen quite a bit with clients). For instance, if the daycare schedule leaves 5 hours of wake-time between morning drop-off and the afternoon nap, but your baby can only manage 4 in the morning, then you’ll need to accommodate for that by changing bedtime, or re-arranging other parts of your daytime schedule.
  2. Try to prepare your baby for the new daycare schedule early. If you know that daycare will soon change your baby or toddler’s daytime nap schedule, try to get a head-start. Begin slowly moving towards the daycare schedule at home, by gradually shifting nap times until they match the daycare’s. This can help to gradually acclimate your baby to what’s coming, and might help ward-off over tiredness.

Finally, remember to take heart – this will be a short-lived trial! Your baby or toddler will eventually adjust to the daycare schedule just fine. :) Until then, though, if you’re going crazy trying to make the daycare schedule work for your little one, you could always consider connecting with one of our caring and compassionate sleep consultants! They will create a custom schedule that will work for your whole family – and for your daycare provider!
 
Browse our list of consultation package options here.
 

Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to login and start your Family Sleep History form right away – it’s that simple!

Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers. You can also take a tour of the Helpdesk.

You can also check out our special members-only article, 5 MORE Tips For Making Tough Daycare Nap Schedules Work, for extra do-it-yourself scheduling and sleep coaching tips.

Are you facing daycare schedule challenges? Ask your questions, and we’ll answer! Have tips? Share them with your fellow parents!

 
bss_ebook_3stepsystem_leftFor 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.
 
 
 
bss_ebook_masteringnaps_leftIf 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 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.

 

bss_email_featprod_memberspic-CROPPEDOr, join our Members Area packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! As a member, you’ll also enjoy a weekly chat with an expert sleep consultant. And the best part – members receive 20% off all sleep consultation services!

 
Baby_On_Computer_RESIZEDIf you are looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation, and want plenty support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations. Your consultation package will provide you with the chance to interact one-on-one with a trained sleep consultant, who will create a Personalized Sleep Plan™ for your family and then work to help you implement it at home.
 

Can’t decide which product or service is right for you? Visit our Getting Started Page for help.

How Daycare Impacts Your Baby’s Sleep Schedule and Habits

DayCare-baby-sleep
When it comes to daycare, many parents have no shortage of questions, ranging from “What’s the staff to child ratio at this facility” to “How on earth am I going to beat traffic and manage a 5:30 p.m. pick-up time?!” But here’s one question you may not have thought to ask yourself: “How is daycare going to affect my child’s sleep?”

Some Babies Sleep Better at Daycare Than They Do At Home

Most daycares operate on a schedule for all children, including infants. If you haven’t adopted a schedule at home, you may find that your baby responds so well to this kind of consistent routine that he’s sleeping far better at daycare than he does at home! For instance, babies who struggle with naps at home may nap like a dream while at daycare. If this is true for you, and if you want your little one to sleep as well at home as he does at daycare, consider asking the daycare to write out their schedule and then try to duplicate it at home as much as you can.

Your baby may also sleep better at daycare because she knows it’s expected of her. Children are experts at knowing how to “read” adults. If your child has learned that her daycare caregiver won’t rock/sing/nurse her to sleep, then she’s much more likely to sleep without fuss when she’s at daycare. But at home, it’s a different story! If your child knows that you’ll spend hours rocking her to sleep, then she’ll likely require you to do it. If you suspect this is the case, consider weaning your child off her sleep associations at home (especially since you know she can sleep without them at daycare!)

Some Babies Sleep Worse at Daycare Than They Do At Home

Other babies fall into this category. This is especially true for babies who have highly-structured nap schedules and routines at home. It can be difficult for these little ones to adjust to a different schedule at daycare. For example, if your child is used to napping at a certain time each day, or if he’s used to napping in a certain way (with the shades drawn, with a certain CD playing, etc.), it can be very difficult for him to nap at daycare when that same environment isn’t provided. What’s more, daycare is usually a more stimulating place than home — there’s lots of noise, lots of toys, lots to see and do. This extra stimulation can make it hard for a baby to wind down enough to take a nap.

If this is the case, consider writing out your child’s daily routine and asking your daycare providers to follow it as best they can. You may also want to consider sending familiar items from home that will help reproduce your child’s napping environment. These might include sheets and bedding, a “lovey”, a lullaby CD, etc. A good daycare will be willing to work with you and will attempt to accommodate your child’s needs.

Your Baby’s Temperament Matters

If you’re struggling with daycare-related sleep challenges, it’s important to remember that your baby’s unique personality and temperament play a big part. Some babies are great at quickly adapting to new settings, new people, and new schedules. Highly adaptable babies will likely have no problem adjusting to different settings and sleep schedules, and for those babies, daycare may not present any real sleep challenges.

Other babies, however, are much slower to adapt. Slow-to-adapt babies have a much harder time dealing with change, and they tend to need lots of consistency. If your baby is slow to adapt, then it may be hard for him to transition easily between the setting and schedule at daycare and the setting and schedule at home. If this is the case for you, do the best you can to make the transition between home and daycare smooth and easy, and work to build in as much consistency as you can at home.

When Should You Make A Change?

If your child’s getting less sleep in daycare than you’d like, monitor her for a few weeks. If she seems to be coping well, then make the best of it. If you feel that your baby’s lack of sleep is affecting her health and well-being, however, consider making a change. For example, an in-home daycare with fewer children might be a good choice. Or hiring a private nanny might be an option, especially if you only need care a few days a week, or for a few hours each day. And there are ways to offset the cost of a private nanny. The practice of “nanny sharing” allows families to split the use of the same nanny and share the cost.

Daycare is a reality for children of working parents. For some, it may not affect sleep much (or it may even improve it!) For others, however, daycare will negatively impact sleep. If that’s the case for your child, educate yourself about healthy sleep habits, do everything you can to implement them at home, and then do what you can to make sure your daycare provider is implementing them, too.

Has daycare affected your baby’s sleeping habits and schedule? How do you handle the sleep challenges that daycare creates? Share your story with us!

Helping your baby learn to sleep soundly can be a real challenge, can’t it? That’s true for both working parents and stay-at-home parents! 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. 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 Many Naps Does Your Baby or Toddler Actually Need?

 
Napping is a hot topic around The Baby Sleep Site, and it’s no wonder: most of us count nap time as our favorite time of the day! Of course, naps are essential for the health and development of your baby, but don’t count yourself out — you need a little downtime during the day, too! And naps offer the perfect opportunity for you to get a little breather.

One of the most popular questions we get around here (aside from “How can I get my baby to nap longer?”) is “How many naps does my baby/toddler need each day?”

All babies are different and your baby will develop at a different pace than other babies the same age. Even twins develop at a different pace, sometimes! Just like some babies will walk first and some babies talk first, the age at which your baby will transition to fewer naps will vary, too.

Newborns and Naps

In those first few months after your baby is born, it’s best not to worry much about a napping schedule. Your baby’s brain is developing, central nervous system maturing, and sleep is organizing. As we’ve previously shared:

In the beginning, your newborn sleeps most of the time and you don’t usually have to worry too much about naps. Your newborn’s sleep schedule and patterns are highly unpredictable, usually, so it’s hard to tell if she will have 5 naps or 8 on any given day. You’ve just given birth (or partnered the birth), so as long as she sorts out the difference between day and night, you probably won’t stress too much about it, unless she isn’t “sleeping like a baby.”

Once your newborn has become more social, you may begin to have more napping challenges. You may also want more predictability in your day. This won’t come easily for some babies, depending on age, but you can begin focusing on getting your baby to nap better and get on a schedule, especially if your baby won’t nap at all. No naps or short naps can lead to fussiness (for you and baby!) and make it difficult for your baby to sleep through the night.

How Many Naps Do Babies and Toddlers Need?

Here are some guidelines for how many naps your baby or toddler likely needs:

  • 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 (though my son had four until after 7 months). They will start to resist the fourth nap, no matter how tired they are. 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 or 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.

Remember, these are general guidelines and all babies are different. We have seen a few 10 month olds taking just one nap while others are taking three naps, still. Your baby’s sleep needs will vary. You should also know that a nap should be at least an hour to be considered restorative, except for any third or fourth nap of the day, which are almost always catnaps of about 30-45 minutes each.

My Baby/Toddler Won’t Nap — Help!

bss_ebook_7napmistakes_left-transShort or non-existent baby naps can be so frustrating – but you don’t have to suffer through them! We have a ton of nap resources – and one of those nap resources is our free guide, 7 Common Napping Mistakes. Are you making any of these common nap mistakes? If so, they may be the cause of your baby’s non-napping. So download your free guide today, and start putting the tips to use as early as your baby’s next nap!
 
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Special Members-Only Nap Resources

bss_ebook_masteringnaps_left Mastering Naps & Schedules — For starters, all Baby Sleep Site® members receive unlimited access to all our e-Books. That’s right – for the price of your membership, you can read all our e-Books at no additional cost! That includes Mastering Naps & Schedules. With over 45 sample schedules (all available for you to view in the Members Area), Mastering Naps & Schedules is THE e-Book for tired parents of non-napping kiddos! We tackle all your top napping issues, including how to get your baby or toddler to take longer naps, how to get your child’s naps to be more consistent and predictable, how to manage nap transitions, how to encourage good napping while traveling – and more! Become a member today, and access the e-Book instantly – no download necessary!
 
Tele-seminarNap Tele-Seminars — Another great members-only resource? Our tele-seminars. Hosted by Nicole herself, these 30 – 45-minute tele-seminars offer you insider-information and our trademark sleep coaching methods and techniques. We have several awesome nap-focused tele-seminars, including one on managing nap transitions, and one on lengthening short naps! Listening to these seminars is like getting a coaching session from Nicole! She’ll walk you through the basics of dealing with common nap problems and give you tried-and-true strategies you can implement at home.

Members-Only Nap Articles — And now, we’ve recently added a special members-only article on the hot topic of nap transitions: 5 Practical, Hands-On Tips For Managing Common Nap Transitions. Learn our 5 top secrets for how to gently and painlessly navigate nap transitions, and help them happen in a way that preserves your child’s sleep while also preserving your own sanity! ;-)

For more details about all our member benefits (including weekly chats with a trained sleep consultant and 20% off ALL sleep consulting packages), visit our membership page, and consider becoming a member today!
 
 
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Is your child a champion napper? A no-napper? Something in between? Share your story!