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Baby Sleep Scheduling: The Basics

Some first-time mamas are ready to roll with it, and figure that during the first few weeks, their little one will sleep “a lot,” and as they get older they will sleep “a little less,” and that is enough for them. They’ll figure out the details as they get there.

I admire these mamas!

Me, on the other hand? Yeah, I had a sample sleep schedule for each age for my newborn—printed, three-hole punched, and in a binder—months before she was born. So.

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This was mainly for my own sanity and sense of control, and it worked for me! In my self-doubt as a new mama, I appreciated the guideline to go by at each stage, to make sure I knew the “normal” amount of sleep. I did of course stray from the schedule, almost immediately, but the point was, I had a starting point in mind.

Every baby is so different, including their sleep habits. That’s why almost any site you visit about baby sleep and schedules will tell you not to worry if your little one strays from the “average” range (unless drastically). But I did a good bit of research and combined the average sleep stats into the following at-a-glance guideline. This covers birth through one year. You can see that average total sleep in a day gradually goes down, and average time asleep at night goes up. Yay!

I would compare my schedule to this chart intermittently to prove to myself that I was doing awesome at this parenting thing.

So, for instance, I kept track and saw that at 0-6 weeks my daughter was getting ~18 hours total sleep in 24 hours. Check!

She was taking 4 naps a day, for anywhere from an hour to 2.5 hours at a time. Check!

She was sleeping in 3 hours blocks at night. Check!

Here is an example of how I laid out my personal schedules for each age. (I have a whiteboard in my kitchen, and I wrote it there. It didn’t hurt that it was easy to erase for adjustments.) This is the 4-6 month block:

4-6 months (Sample)

6:00 am, Wake + EAT
8:0010:00 NAP
10:15 am: EAT
12:00pm – 1:00/2:00 pm NAP
2:00 pm, EAT
3:15/3:45 pm – 4:00/4:50 pm NAP*
6:00 pm, bath
6:30 pm, EAT dinner
7:00 pm, bedtime

*The afternoon nap depended on how long she slept at the noon nap, which was always a wild card. If she had slept only for an hour at noon, I’d put her down at 3:15 and she’d sleep until around 4. If she slept longer at her noon nap, I’d wait until 3:45 to put her down and she’d sleep until 4:50 or so. Either way, I wanted her up again before too close to her dinner/bedtime block. As you can see, I had to be flexible, and I was okay with that. Sidenote: Always, always check on your baby if their cry sounds distressful, and not just them saying “Umm hello? I’m awake now!” Don’t ever leave them to cry if it sounds like something may be wrong.  

Sigh. Babies do NOT know how good they have it. A nap at 8 in the morning?!

This was my guide for the day! It was also helpful when my husband took over, since he didn’t have her schedule memorized like I did.

Again, I used this schedule quite flexibly, and as much of a day-planner as anything else. These are the ranges, not the exact times.

For instance, during her first nap, which is blocked from 8-10am, she often woke around 9:30 or 9:40am instead of 10:00 exactly. So I’d go ahead and get her up. But if she woke up at 9 or 9:15, I’d let her be for at least 10 or 15 minutes to see if she went back to sleep—because she usually would sleep longer than that. If you notice your little one will consistently not sleep as long (or likes to sleep longer) than your schedule, adjust it to what works for you!

Having a loose guideline, and knowing roughly how much sleep your little one should ideally be getting during the day, and in how many naps, is super helpful when you’re starting out as a mama!

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