Baby Schedule Building

Sample baby schedules, wake windows and nap times galore!

Does anyone remember CliffsNotes? You know… those thin yellow books with the black stripes on the cover that concisely summarized Moby Dick, A Tale of Two Cities, or any other book you were assigned and maybe forgot to read. Not that I used CliffsNotes, mind you. I read every word of every page of every piece of literature assigned to me in high school and college. (Dad…are you reading this?!)

As a mom and a small business owner in the infant/child arena, I have read a myriad books on sleep, discipline, breastfeeding, bottle feeding, and nutrition, to name just a few. At various moments in my parenting life, I found myself longing for the CliffsNotes version of some of these topics. When you’re a new parent or even a veteran parent, you just don’t have time to read each book cover to cover. I hear this from my clients all the time. If you’re a mom or dad who can do it… a round of applause is in order, but for me – it was hard.

Thus, I’ve created a CliffsNotes version to assist with the number one topic I discuss with parents: SLEEP! How long should my baby sleep? How many naps should he or she have? What time should they go to bed? These questions all refer to schedule building, which is the building block of infant and child sleep. Below I’ve created a chart for you. You’re welcome ;)

Please note: this is not the CliffsNotes version of any one particular book but rather a summarized amassment of many books related to sleep, including (but not limited to): BabyWise by Gary Ezzo, The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley, Solve your Child's Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber, Contented Little Baby Book by Gina Ford, and Secrets of The Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg.

I focus on schedule building a lot with my clients. Having the right wake windows during the day, the appropriate amount of naps, the ideal amount of daytime sleep, and a realistic bedtime makes a huge impact on nighttime sleep and the likelihood that your child will sleep through the night. 

Here is the tricky thing about schedule building: all sleep books, experts, coaches, and pediatricians cannot agree on what the "correct" numbers should be. For example, Ferber suggests that a 3-month old needs about 13 hours of sleep while Gina Ford states that for this same age group the number should be 14.5 hours. This 1.5 hour discrepancy is huge for a 3-month old! Further, all babies are different - some babies need more daytime sleep than others, thus creating more discrepancies in recommendations.

I have been through this with my two kids, my friends’ kids, all of my clients’ kids, and I’ve noticed trends. I have created this chart using research and real-life trends that I see every day with babies and sleep. 

 

Here's my chart. I'll title this "The Big Picture":

The Big Picture
Age Average sleep in a 24 hour period Average daytime sleep Average number of naps Average wake time length Average bedtime
0-8 weeks 16-18 hours 4-8 hours 4 or more 30-60 mintues 7-11pm
8-12 weeks 15.5-18 hours 4-7 hours 4 50-80 minutes 7-10pm
4 months 14.5-16.5 hours 3-7 hours 3-4 1.5-2 hours 6-8pm
5 months 14-16 hours 3-5 hours 3-4 1.5-2.25 hours 6-8pm
6 months 14-15.5 hours 3-5 hours 2-3 2-2.25 hours 6-8pm
7 months 14-15.5 hours 3-5 hours 2-3 2.25-2.75 hours 6-8pm
8 months 14-15.5 hours 3-5 hours 2-3 2.5-3 hours 6-8pm
9 months 14-15 hours 2.5-4 hours 2 2.5-3 hours 6-8pm
10 months 14-15 hours 2.5-4 hours 2 3-3.5 hours 6-8pm
11 months 14-15 hours 2.5-4 hours 2 3-4 hours 6-8pm
12 months 13.5-14 hours 2-4 hours 2 3-4 hours 6-8pm
12-18 months 13-14 hours 1.5-4 hours 1-2 3-6 hours 6-8pm
18-24 months 12-14 hours 1.5-3 hours 1-2 5-6 hours 6-8pm
2-3 years 12-14 hours 1.5-3 hours 0-1 5.5-7 hours 7-8pm
3-4 years 11-14 hours 0-2 hours 0-1 6-8 hours 7-8pm

You can use this chart to build a schedule for your kiddie. I'll show you how.

Below is a sample schedule for a 4-month old baby. Take a look at The Big Picture chart above and find the row containing numbers for a 4-month old, then begin creating blocks of time.

 

Sample sleep schedule for a 4-month old baby:

Sample Schedule for a 4-month old baby
6:30am Wake time
6:30am Feeding
Awake time
8:30am Nap #1 (1.25-hour nap assumption)
9:45am Feeding
Awake time
11:45am Nap #2 (1.25-hour nap assumption)
1:00pm Feeding
Awake time
3:00pm Nap #3 (1.25-hour nap assumption)
4:15pm Feeding
Awake time
6:15pm Begin bedtime routine and final feeding
6:30pm Bedtime

Notes about this schedule:

  • I advise a sleep/eat/play pattern when I build schedules to help babies learn how to fall asleep without the strong crutch of feeding to sleep. Thus, you will see this pattern repeat throughout the day.

  • I created this schedule using a 6:30am wake time and a 6:30pm bedtime.

  • I spaced out the time between feedings by 3.5 hours, which is age appropriate for a 4-month old; however, some babies in this age group may eat more frequently and others less frequently so you will need to adjust accordingly.

  • Most children will transition from 4 naps to 3 naps around the time they are 4-months old. I created a 3-nap schedule for the example above.

  • A 4-month old should have “wake windows,” or the amount of time they are awake from the end of one nap to the beginning of the next, for not more than 1.25-2 hours. You will see that none of the wake windows in the schedule above exceed 2 hours.

  • A 4-month old should be getting between 3-7 hours of daytime sleep. The schedule above builds in 3.75 hours of daytime sleep. Some children will sleep longer than the 1.25 hours as indicated in the sample schedule. In that instance you would allow them to sleep longer and then simply feed them upon waking.

  • A 4-month old should be getting 14.5-16.5 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. The schedule above creates a 12-hour block of time for nighttime sleep (that can include night feedings), and then an additional 3 hours and 45 minutes hours of daytime sleep, which totals 15.75 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. Perfect!

 

Let’s do another sample schedule.

We will create a schedule for an 11-month old baby this time. Again, look at The Big Picture Chart above and follow the row that contains the numbers for an 11-month old to start creating blocks of time. 

 

Sample Schedule for an 11-month old baby:

Sample Schedule for an 11-month old baby
7:00am Wake time
7:00am Feeding (nursing/bottle)
Awake time
Solid foods
Awake time
10:00am Nap #1 (1.5-hour nap assumption)
11:30am Feeding (nursing/bottle)
Awake time
Solid foods
Awake time
2:00pm Nap #2 (1.5-hour nap assumption)
3:30pm Feeding (nursing/bottle)
Awake time
Solid foods
Awake time
6:30pm Begin bedtime routine and final feeding
7:00pm Bedtime

Notes about this schedule:

  • I made the assumption that this baby was eating solid foods three times a day.

  • I further spaced out milk feedings to accommodate three solid food meals.

  • I wedged solid food meals between awake time which is where babies usually enjoy them the most.

  • An 11-month old should have wake windows between 3-4 hours. You will see that none of the wake windows exceed 4 hours.

  • An 11-month old should be getting between 2.5-4 hours of daytime sleep. The schedule above builds in 3 hours of daytime sleep, which is within this guideline.

  • An 11-month old should be getting 14-15 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. The schedule above creates a 12-hour block of time for nighttime sleep, and then an additional 3 hours of daytime sleep, which totals 15 hours in a 24-hour period. We did it!

 

Your turn!!!

When building a schedule for your little one using The Big Picture Chart please remember that these numbers are averages. Some kiddies need more sleep and some kiddies need less. You won't know if you have a baby that needs more sleep or less sleep until you begin to organize their sleep cycles. So start with the numbers in the chart and shift things around as needed.

 

Want some help creating a schedule for your baby? Sometimes schedule building can be tricky when you are trying to work around other siblings, family activities, work schedules, etc. I can help! Shoot me an email and we can get to work.


 

My name is Amy Bonsiero. I am an Infant/Child Sleep Coach and the founder of Mind Body Family, LLC. I help families learn how to soothe their infants, create loving and supportive environments for their children, create effective family schedules, and to successfully get their entire families sleeping more soundly. Let me know what I can do to help you!