Six months is when I usually recommend to my clients that they switch from an wake-window schedule to a clock-based schedule (meaning the baby goes down for naps at roughly the same time each day, mostly regardless of how long baby slept).
Since my daughter is now 6 months, I am sharing our current schedule and how we got here.
At 5 months old, Valentina was taking a monster 3 hour nap every morning, 6-9 am, and then not napping more than 30 minutes at a stretch the rest of the day. This made life difficult for me – it was hard to get things done with just a 30 minute break – and it wasn’t ideally restful for her, either.
I recently implemented some changes that have led to much longer naps and a happier baby. Things I would have suggested sooner to my clients but it's easy to lack insight when it comes to your own baby!
This is a rough approximation of our current schedule. Times listed are when she goes into the crib, not necessarily when she falls asleep. That said, she usually falls asleep quickly, in 5-15 minutes. Although I don’t use wake windows, I will adjust the nap time up to 30 minutes earlier or later if she seems especially tired or alert.
Morning wake time: 6:30 am
First nap: 9 am – max 1 hour
Second nap: 12 pm – max 2 hours
Third nap: 4 pm – I don’t cap it but typically 30-45 minutes
Bedtime: 7 pm
About feedings: I had started to allow her to feed more on demand before, and noticed that naps got shorter and she started having more night wakings as a result, exactly what I did not want. We have now gone back to scheduled feeds and she’s sleeping much better. Feeding on demand sounds great in theory but it does not work well for sleep in my experience.
It's important to note that I do not feed right before sleep, with the exception of the bedtime feed. Feeding to sleep can lead to night wakings, which we obviously want to avoid.
Feedings are generally breastfeeding except I offer a big bottle of pumped milk at the final feeding, about 6-8 ounces. If she doesn’t take most of it, I will do a dream feed at 8:30 pm.
I do not do overnight feedings unless she cries hard during the night and isn’t soothed by the pacifier, in which case, I nurse her for 2 minutes, exactly, then put her back in the crib. She doesn’t cry for more than a few seconds after this.
Since I have implemented these changes in the last few days, Valentina is getting much longer naps during the first two naps of the day.
More importantly, aside from me getting longer breaks during the day, Valentina is noticeably more alert, talkative, and smiley. She clearly feels so good after those longer naps. I am once again reminded that schedules make for happier children!
PS If you’d like help getting your little one onto a better schedule that is more restful for the whole family, I’m here to help. Schedule a free consult and find out how you can have a beautifully well-rested family in 2 weeks or less, guaranteed.
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.