Now that I have a newly 7-month-old baby of my own, I’ve got some new thoughts on baby sleep schedules.
The big thing I have realized is that clock-based sleep schedules aren’t necessary as early as I thought.
I have previously recommended a clock-based schedule by about 6 months old, sometimes even younger.
But with my own baby, at seven months, I can see that using a clock-based schedule would actually backfire because it would leave her overtired. Here’s why: the length of her naps is quite variable. And obviously, she’ll need the next nap (or bedtime) much earlier if she took a 50-minute-nap than if she took a 2-hour nap. And this is typical of babies her age.
The advantages of a clock-based schedule – namely, more predictability if you want to actually leave your house with your baby, if you have older children who need you, or if you need to give your childcare provider more clear cut instructions – are considerable. But for me, working from home and having childcare for her at home (and without other children), it’s been ideal to follow her sleepy cues exclusively. That way, she gets the perfect amount of sleep for her each day.
The cool thing is that she is naturally moving closer to the 9-12-3 nap schedule that I typically recommend for a baby her age. But yesterday she needed 4 naps and I’m grateful that we are able to accommodate that! And it meant that we could go out for an early dinner yesterday and she could snooze on the way home, around 6:30, get home for a quick feed, then put her straight to bed. I wouldn't normally recommend a nap that late but she was overtired at that point and luckily, it didn't hurt bedtime.
If you aren’t able to accommodate a sleepy-cues-led sleep schedule, your 6+ month old will be fine, not to worry. But if you can accommodate it, even better!
About wake windows... I'm beginning to realize that I don't think they are all that useful UNLESS you have trouble seeing sleepy cues in your baby. Sleepy cues are always better, but overtired babies often don't show sleepy cues. In that case, go by wake windows, at least until your baby is more rested, then try again with sleepy cues.
PS It’s not too late for you to have a well-rested family before the end of the year! Two week coaching packages as well as tune-up sessions are available. Schedule a free consult and start of 2024 off with a bang, well-rested and energized.
Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and certified life coach for parents. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.