Schedules: Nap Timings, Nap Transitions, Bedtimes and More
Before we jump in, this blog is intended for those parents who have children with developed daytime circadian rhythms, these rhythms typically set up around 4 months of age. If your baby is younger than 4 months, please check out my Newborn Sleep: The Basics blog.
If I could give a category to my most frequently asked questions, those questions would fall under Schedules.
When should my child drop their nap?
What Wake Windows are best for my child?
Why does my child seem ramped up at bedtime?
How do I get my child to not wake so early in the morning?
All of these questions and so many more can be answered from just a quick look at a child’s schedule. This begins with naps.
3 Nap Schedule
The transition to a 3 nap schedule happens around 4-5 months old, so it is perfectly normal for a 4 month old to still be needing 4 naps as their rhythms get set up.
At this point, we can start working at honing in on those clock based naps. The schedule I like to work within gives you about 30 minutes of wiggle room- this will be used based on when babe woke in the AM and how their naps are going.
My favorite 3 nap schedule:
Morning Wake: 6-7am
Nap 1: 8:30/9am
Nap 2: 12/12:30pm
Nap 3: 3/3:30pm
Your first 2 naps are super restorative and should be at least 1 hour long in baby’s sleep space.
Nap 3 is more of a cat nap or bridge to bedtime- this nap is not restorative and should be no more than 45 minutes. Nap 3 can also be our only ‘motion’ nap so if it needs to happen on a walk or carrier, that’s just fine.
2 Nap Schedule
The transition to a 2 nap schedule happens around 6-9 months, but more typically around 8-9 months.
The transition to 2 naps is my favorite by far because if you keep that third nap until baby is well and truly finished with it then you are likely to have a very smooth transition.
My favorite 2 nap schedule:
Morning Wake: 6-7am
Nap 1: 8:30/9
Nap 2: 12:30/1pm
Look a little familiar? We just pushed nap 2 a tad later, but it’s not TOO late The trouble we have with 2 naps is when we rely on those wake windows too much and nap 2 falls too late, which then in turn pushes bedtime too late and so on and so forth!
These naps should ideally be at least 90 minutes and in your child’s sleep space as both of these naps are restorative and developmentally necessary.
1 Nap Schedule
The transition to 1 nap happens around 15-18 months of age. If you are wondering how to navigate this transition, please see my upcoming blog on nap transitions.
My favorite 1 nap schedule:
Morning Wake: 6-7:30am (yes, we can have a slightly later wake time here)
Look even MORE familiar? That’s right, nap 2 from both of the above schedules has now become our singular nap!
I know what you’re thinking… but you left a very important time off of these schedules… BEDTIME!
Now bedtime is NOT something we will base off of the clock because we need to be flexible with bedtime. Bedtime is literally the only time I will mention a length of time to consider being awake. It is important to note that these amounts of time are not set in stone but partnered with your child’s sleepy cues.
These lengths of time are the suggestions I would make if daytime sleep has been ideal:
3 nap schedule: Bedtime 90 minutes/ 2 hours after nap 3
2 nap schedule: Bedtime 3/3.5 hours after nap 2
1 nap schedule: Bedtime 4/4.5 hours after nap
If daytime sleep is not ideal or you are in the middle of a nap transition then you would pull bedtime up earlier.
When you follow these recommendations, you will normally see bedtime falling between 6-7:30pm based on your child’s daytime sleep.
So here they are, my favorite schedules. These schedules are ideal for your child’s biological needs, circadian rhythms, and ability to get that deep, developmental sleep they need.
So what happens when this kind of schedule doesn’t work with your work life or other commitments? That’s when we get creative, try our best, and just work towards doing what we can to get our children the rest they need!
Bookmark this blog to use whenever you have a nap transition coming up for when you consider sleep training. It will come into help immensely for all those transitions, and if you need more personalized, 1:1 help, you know where to find me!