The Fast & Furious Route to a Perfect Nap Routine

The Fast and Furious Route to a Perfect Nap Routine - http://www.incredibleinfant.com Babies = Chaos.  A loveable chaos…but still chaos.

*whispering*

What if I told you that it doesn’t have to be this way?

That you can spot a kind of loose rhythm to your baby’s cues that will save yourself a world of worry and pain  later on in the day?

I’m going to share the typical daily baby napping routines that you can use as a road map to follow your baby’s signals all the way to Pleasantville.

To paraphrase Vin Diesel…”Ride or Die” = Routine or Disaster  

(melodramatic, but you get what I mean).

The Hunky Hubster and I rented Fast & Furious Six last weekend, so it’s been on my brain. Dearest readers! How you suffer through my movie phases!

So what “should” the perfect baby routine look like?  Depends.  Hence the air quotes around “should”.

That perfect baby routine depends on…

  • how old your baby is
  • what temperament your baby has
  • whether you are home all day or have to work, etc.
  • where around the world Winken, Blinken, and Nod are currently cruising in their wooden shoe…

(Congratulations to be reading the only article in the universe that links action star Vin Diesel with a 19th Century baby lullaby…)

Today we’re going to go through several very basic examples of “typical” baby routines at different ages to give you something to refer back to as your baby grows.

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce our two drivers for today’s Baby Routine Race.

Ned Normal and Sue Standard - Perfect Baby Routine http://www.incredibleinfant.com

Meet Ned Normal and Sue Standard.

These are the world’s most boring babies.  Everything they do is exactly on the expert’s suggested schedule (who, in this case, is Kim West…)

Keep in mind that your little princess may suddenly shout “SCREW YOU SUE!” and create her own routine.

That’s totally fine.  My goal, remember, is to give you some road signs to watch for.

Always place what your baby is telling you over what you read here.

A Fast & Furious Baby Routine
at 1 Month Old

Ned Normal is going to be sleeping anywhere from 16 to 18 hours per day.  This means, that 2/3rds of his day will be spent in Slumberland.

That’s usually divided between 8.5-10 hours of (interrupted) sleep at night, and 6-7 hours of daytime sleep, split into four, 2-3 hour naps.

Warning: Nap Routine Ahead
Warning: Naps Ahead

Grab a piece of paper and start writing down the times your baby eats and sleeps.  (The Save Your Sanity Newborn Tracker was designed just for this purpose, and you can get it for free when you purchase The Milestone Marker.)

For Ned Normal, you can expect to see sleepy road signs after every hour of waketime.  You can see an example of this in How to Rock Out a Newborn Schedule.

A Fast & Furious Baby Routine
at 2-3 Months Old

The two-month-old baby will require pretty much the same amount of sleep as the one-month old.  The only usual exception is that instead of waking two-three times at night for feedings, she may only be waking once or twice.

Sue Standard will still be napping 3-4 times a day, at pretty disorganized times.  This is when her brain will start to understand the difference between daytime sleeping and nighttime sleeping.

You can move that snooze to the fast lane by making the room very dark and quiet (with a noisemaker to block the daily sounds) during naptimes.

Somewhere close to the third month Sue Standard will fall into a 3-nap-a-day rhythm, with a morning nap, early afternoon nap, and late afternoon nap.  Visit this article to see an example of what that could look like.

Yield to the Nap Routine
Yield to Yawning

Once again, use your handy-dandy notebook (or Newborn Tracker) to spot her natural EXIT FOR NAP signs.  That’s usually every 3 hours at this age.

A Fast & Furious Baby Routine
at 4-5 Months Old

Ned Normal can usually go about 8 hours at night between feedings, and a five month old may be able to go as long as 10 hours.  If this seems like a pipe dream, be encouraged!  The Sandman has some great sleeping tips.

As for naps, Neddy will nap around 3 naps, totally 4-5 hours during the day, with the average nap time around 90 minutes.

Stop for Sleepy Signs

STOP for Sleepy Signs

Ned usually shows the typical sleepy signs (glazed over eyes, moving slower, yawning) 2-2.5 hours after waking.

That said, if he’s an infamous catnapper (less than 45 minutes) watch for that STOP EVERYTHING AND PUT TO BED neon flashing light as quickly as an hour after getting up.  (Catnappers can be overcome, by the way! I share how in my napping webinar…)

A Fast & Furious Baby Routine
at 6-8 Months Old

Sue Standard is usually able to sleep around 11 hours straight every night at this age.  If your baby is still struggling with nighttime sleep,  the Sleep Shuffle is a gentle way to nudge her in the right direction.

Typically she will take 2-3 naps every day, with the morning and afternoon naps lasting about 2 hours, and an optional 3rd nap being limited to around 45 minutes.  (See an example.)  If your baby isn’t tired and ready for bed at 7:00-7:30, that’s a good indicator that it’s time to drop that third late afternoon nap.

Exit for Napville

Exit to Napville

You can start to expect the “Exit to Napville” road signs showing up for Sue Standard 2-3 hours after waking.

A Fast & Furious Baby Routine
at 9+ Months Old

At nine months, sweet little Ned Normal can sleep around 11 hours at night, uninterrupted.  He also likes to take two naps during the day, both between 1.5 and 2 hours long.

At this age, you need to walk a close line between too much and too little sleep.  If he sleeps too much in the morning, he won’t sleep in the afternoon…and the result is Godzilla, storming through the house and wreaking emotional (and if he’s walking, physical) havoc.

So at nine months you’ll want to limit his morning nap to 1.5 hours.  As he gets closer he gets to his first birthday, you can shorten that morning nap down to a single hour.

The exception to this is if he’s been sick or slept poorly one night, or had a very crazy-busy morning exercising his new crawling or walking skills.  Once in a while lengthening a morning nap could serve you really well, but making it habit could seriously scramble things up.

You also don’t want to let him nap before 8am in the morning, or else he’ll be too tired in the afternoon to have his Mega-Nap (which can last anywhere from 1-3 hours).

Usually the napping exit sign for the 9-12 month age begins to peek over the horizon at around 3 hours after the morning nap ended.  Watch your baby closely for his “tells” that he’s beginning to get sleepy and then scoop him up and start your napping baby routine.

If your baby only take short naps throughout the day, he’s most likely going to be over-tired by bedtime.  I will give several strategies to break that catnapping cycle in my webinar, Napping Know-How: Learning to Gently Coach Your Baby Towards Better Daytime Sleep.  Get more details on this class.

Merge to one nap

Merge into One Nap

Somewhere between 15 and 18 months old, he’ll start showing signs that he doesn’t need that morning nap: he’s sleeping through the night consistently, he’s taking for-ev-er to fall asleep for the morning nap, or is catnapping).

For All the Nap-Haters Out There…

Some babies really just hate agreeing with all the other babies on how long to sleep.

Unfortunately, that’s murder on their parents, and it (quite honestly) isn’t all that great for them.

Resist the temptation to stop pushing for naps!

Sleep is just as important to that tiny brain as nutrition.  Both are needed for healthy growth and development.

If you are concerned about your baby’s daytime sleeping habits, I would encourage you to sign up for my Napping Know-How webinar.

I will promise you two things about the Napping Know-How Webinar:

  1. You will learn a ton of little tweaks that will help you better understand your unique baby’s sleeping needs.
  2. You will have fun.  (Because I hate being bored, and I’m not going to sit and talk about something for an hour without at least entertaining myself.)

Your Turn! What's your baby's nap routine?

*The information I shared above was taken from my favorite sleeping training book of all time by Kim West:  Good Night Sleep Tight: Gentle Proven Solutions to Help Your Child Sleep Well and Wake Up Happy.  Every parent needs a copy of this book on their emergency shelf.  It’s one of my standard must-share baby shower gifts. (Surprise: ruined.)

Comments

  1. Oh I need this class! My 10 month son’s naps are veeerrry inconsistent lately and he has started waking up at night multiple times. Mommy (and Daddy) are so tired! I will check out this webinar for sure.

    • Will we receive info on how to link up to the webinar? What if we have computer problems? My computer is notorious for not working when I really need it to.

      • Jenny, go http://nappinghelp.incredibleinfant.com and start the registration. I will be taping the class, so if there’s an issue during the class period, I can easily send it to you afterwards. But we’ll hope everything goes off without a hitch!

        I will be excited to have you in on the class Jenny! I’m very excited about it, I know it’s going to make a huge difference for families like yours!

  2. Hi Heather, my 10 months old son has 3 naps a day, each no longer than 40 mins. He seems to be tired 1,5 hours after waking in the morning (around 6am). He wakes up around 5 times a night and needs feeding to go back sleep every time. He falls asleep on his own (with some crying) at night and I usually feed him until he is very drowsy for his naps. I am soooo tired, everything else seems like too much effort! I feel like I’m loosing my mind! He seems to be tired all the time too. I have tried to extend the length of his naps by rubbing his back when he starts to wake up and it worked for two days. I was soooo happy but my son soon got used to it woke up after 40 mins again. It felt like I was back at square one and it made me so hopeless!! I don’t feel like anything I do will make a difference and I am so shattered what can I do??

    • Sarah, oh friend! No wonder you’re exhausted! I would start by concentrating on his nighttime sleeping habits first. Napping is best addressed AFTER the nighttime wakenings are handled. First, talk over with your doctor his growth and ask how many feedings your son still needs at night. Does he need extra calories at night? or does the doctor feel he can go without? Then, once your doctor (and possibly your Lactation consultant if you have one) have weighed in, talk it over with your partner/spouse and ask if YOU think he still needs a late night feeding. If he does, decide when you’re going to feed him, and when you’re going to start coaching him to sleep.

      Then start putting him down drowsy but awake, and working through the Shuffle Method as consistently as you possibly can. (Consistency is really important – decide on your plan, decide how you’re going to soothe and reassure him, and then work the system you created!) It can improve Sarah! It just needs some dedicated attention and effort! You can get there, little steps first. :-)

  3. Hi Heather,
    I’d like to join your webinar, but the time doesnt work since I’m in Hong Kong time. Any advice please. TIA!
    Karen :)

  4. Hi Heather

    My 13 week old baby only naps for one sleep cycle, 30-45 mins tops, then I have to hold her in order for her to get enough rest. I’ve tried waiting to see if she’ll self-sooth back to sleep but she just cries harder. I try to rock her in her room (which has curtains closed and white-noise on like bedtime) and lay her down again but she wakes as soon as she’s put down. How can we stretch out these naps? I have a friend who said her daughter did the same thing, and eventually she just started napping longer on her own…do I just wait it out? We do go see the paedeatrician next week (and we are moving this week, so it’s not a good week to start sleep training – which I think she’s a bit young anyways)

    I’m wondering if even with the curtains closed it’s still not as dark as nighttime, where she usually goes down without a fight and does anywhere from 4-6 hr stretches (sometimes 3) from. 10pm-7am (we usually only have to feed 1-2 times in the night), so Imconcused as to why she can’t sleep longer in the day.

    We try to follow an eat-play-sleep routine, eating every 3.5-4hrs, and she’s usually sleepy by 1.5-2 hrs after waking. The only difference is we let her sleep in the evening when she’s tired and sometimes end up waking her up for her bedtime routine, instead of only letting her sleep an hour in the evening, like your schedule suggests. Should we be waking her to quiet play a bit more in the evening before bed?

    Thanks! Lauren

    Ps – as a side note, Miss H won’t let her daddy settle her to sleep for the last week either! She lets him feed/play with her, but when she’s tired and getting cranky she just cranks harder when he holds her! How can I help with that?

    • There are so many possibilities with a young baby like that, it’s hard for me to give you specific advice without doing a full assessment and working with you one-on-one. The first thing I would want to checkout is any possible medical reasons for the napping issues – like reflux, or a formula struggle, or allergies…all things that can make digestion difficult. I would definitely encourage you to keep at 48-hour feeding/sleeping log, and then show that with your doctor and (if applicable) lactation consultant. This is just to make sure there aren’t any medical reasons for all the wakeups.

      The 2nd thing that I would start working on is helping her go to bed earlier at night. In sleep coaching, we always work on the nighttime sleep first, and THEN the naps. I’ve found that things generally flow better that way. The best “bedtime” for babies is around 7:00-7:30pm.

      She really is too young for sleep coaching at this stage, but you could start doing some sleep shaping that can make a big difference. (Sometimes even making coaching unnecessary. If that interests you at all, drop me an email at heather@incredibleinfant.com and I can give you details.

  5. I have a question about the time check method. I have to do this because I have a 3 yr old and he (17 wks) gets pissed if I stay in the room. In fact I learned this morning me coming in while he is babbling pisses him off too. He has 2 crutches me and the paci. I’m working on the sucking one first. So I rocked him to sleep for the third “nap”. We are talking his normal 45 min naps are down to 20min if I’m lucky, which I’m not today. After we get the paci habit gone and start on the habit on not having me hold him to sleep what do I do for my emergency plan? The emergency plan is to get him asleep no matter what but if I hold him that is defeating the purpose of the rest of the sleep shaping. I’m trying to plan ahead since this has been hell already and I know that “no holding” is going to make him really mad. Thanks so much. I’m getting so much help from your blog to help now and in the future.

    • Becky, I know you emailed me about this and I’m just now getting to my emails/comments – my computer crashed and it’s in the “Computer Hospital” (That’s what Bella calls it. :-) )

      I would keep him on the paci. Sleep crutches are things that YOU have to do to get him to sleep. Things like rocking him, or patting him constantly, or bouncing him, or walking him…they are things that you do to your baby in order for him to fall asleep. Pacifiers are actually a great tool in helping him learn how to fall asleep by himself. Sucking is how babies self-soothe, at this young age, using a pacifier is very helpful in him learning to fall asleep on his own. Start there and see if that helps!

  6. Hi, my baby Nora is 5 months actual age now, but actually 12 weeks corrected as she was born very premature. Poor thing has been suffering from very bad reflux and wanted to be cuddled and held all the time and she has been using me as her daybed for naps. I remember I lost hope and I was feeling so guilty about creating a bad habit and letting her sleep on me..till all of a sudden last week Nora simply decided she wanted to sleep in her moses basket and not be held anymore. (She has been crying in my arms for 1-2 hrs and once I put her down in her bed, she surprisingly settled and feels calm in her bed ever since). She is still far from a good napper, but I am thinking of starting to gently train her using Heather’s tips. I just wanted to tell all parents out there not to worry about giving their babies as much love and closeness as they need when they are very small and not to feel guilty about it like me and worry about sleep traing at such an early stage. Maybe once babies’ needs for comfort and security are met, this could even help them turn into independent sleepers at a later stage.

  7. Heather, I have a 2 month old and have been working on naps in her crib. Sometimes when I put her down she wakes up 30 minutes later and I hear her “talking” to the animals on her mobile. She will do that for about 10 minutes then start to cry. Should I wait to go in to get her back to sleep until she cries or go in as soon as she wakes up? What is the best way to help her learn to soothe herself? Thanks

    • My guess is that the mobile is too stimulating. Try taking it down for a few days and see if that helps. It’s amazing how social some babies are! I had a client once whose baby (we discovered) was being stimulated by the elephants printed on the bumper! We flipped the bumper to the “boring side” and it worked wonders. LOL

  8. I have a question. You have helped me since my babies (ID girls) were born, thank you for that. But once they stop the morning naps how long are the afternoon ones? And with the cutting back to the 1 hour in the morning (will be 1 in a few weeks) how long do I keep them awake till afternoon nap and how long is that one? I love you by the way, you are a life saver!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! xo =)

  9. I love your sandman shuffle. We have changed our routine so many times to fit what seems best for the baby. She is 7.5 months and crawling furiously as well as standing up lots. We have NEVER gotten on the 7pm to 7am routine, but instead are more like 9-10pm to 9-10am. She just won’t do it – her most active time is 6-9pm. This also works with our family’s lifestyle and culture.

    Nighttime: We co-slept until 4-6 months, when she started kicking a lot (turns out she was hungry), then successfully had her in the crib with a 2am and 5am waking (I’m breastfeeding, so this is normal and should not be stopped – per lactation consultant). She napped 3 times, 2 hours, 1.5 and 30-45min, just adjusted times for our adjusted schedule. HOWEVER, I was not well and suffered adrenal fatigue from the excessive cortisol of waking up in the middle of the night to her crying and not being able to get back to sleep. She was also on a nursing strike for most of that time, which was incredibly stressful. So, we decided to go back to co-sleeping and we are all much happier and she is full on breast feeding again. So hooray. We get 12 hours of sleep with a few small interruptions for nursing, which are WAY better than the 5 alarm waking up, going down the hall, stressing will she stay asleep, when will she next get up, etc. My relationship with her is much improved.

    Our problem: She has suddenly refused to nap. Maybe a total of 1-2 hours a day, when she used to do 4-5. Sometimes only 30 min stretches a day. AND, she refuses to go in the crib – screams hysterically at contact and for minutes afterwards. I was doing the shuffle, but I can’t even sit beside her – it makes her more and more mad. We did just lower the crib since she can pull on the bars and stand up.

    I believe this is just a weird sleeping month, she is breaking her first tooth and too excited about crawling. However, I can get her to nap if I hold her still and lay with her, but this isn’t safe for me to leave her, even with our bed on the floor. I think this is a trust issue between us and she is still mad about the CIO we did before we found the shuffle.

    We are committed cosleepers with a different schedule that has been working up until now, but really want her in the crib for naps. She napped in the crib up until now, so when we were cosleeping before and all during our 9-9 routine.

    Any advice?

    • Jennifer, it sounds like you’re really in-tune with what your baby may be going through. That’s great! Your instincts may be spot on about the CIO thing, sometimes it takes time to rebuild some of the trust with some kids. Well done on picking up on that! Also, it’s great that you’ve found the schedule that seems to works best for your family. That can look different for each family, and as the mom, you would know that best! The Napping Know-How Webinar goes through (in much detail) how you can stretch naps using different methods. My first suggestion is to have some happy play times in the crib every day. Where she sits and plays with you while she’s inside the crib for a few days. Then have her play inside the crib while you’re sitting down next to her for a few days, etc… The goal is to help her see that the crib/nursery is a happy place to be. The more secure she feels in that, the better she may be as you start to work through the shuffle (or another method) with her. Start with that and see if it helps!

  10. Hi Heather, (sorry I meant to post my comment on this page)

    I think your site is awesome and has offered some really good tips. I have simple question to ask: What do I do if my baby suddenly looks really awake after I put her down “drowsy but awake” and fights to sleep?
    I started to implement a nap/bedtime routine a few weeks ago and it went well. I’d get pretty good at capturing the sleepy window and take her into the room, read a book and sing a song. Her eyes would get droopy and I’ll put her in bassinet and she would doze off just like that and sleep 45min-1.5hr naps.
    But lately, her naps are totally wonky and she’s been waking up tons at night too. Is this the 4month sleep regression that I’ve been dreading? (she’s almost 17weeks).
    It’s gotten so bad that she now will only sleep 35min naps and wake almost every hour at night with us rocking and holding her till she is asleep before putting her down.
    We are so exhausted, how can we continue to put her down “drowsy but awake” so she can learn to self soothe, but not exhaust her from not being able to fall asleep?

    She is so sleep deprived she yawns already within 5min of waking up only lasts barely 1.5hr before she gets really tired and cranky. Which means I’m putting her down for naps all day. Help!!

    • Thanks Sharon! I’m glad you’re enjoying it! Firstly, it sounds like you’re doing a great job of locating her natural sleep window. That’s wonderful. :-) It sounds like she may not be ready for sleep coaching. I would go back to doing “what works” for a few more weeks. Try the “Drowsy but awake” thing for the morning nap only for a few days, since the morning nap is usually the easiest. When she’s ready to sleep coach (after her 4 month milestones – you’ll notice she’s a lot more alert during the day), then start concentrating on the nighttime sleeping habits first. If you’re still having trouble, sign up for my workshop so we can go over her history form and then talk out a workable and effective coaching plan. :-)

  11. Thanks for your reply Heather! Do you mind elaborating “drowsy but awake”?
    This is what works or what I’ve been doing…If I’m lucky and catch the sleepy window (like you said, easiest in the morning nap), by the time I start singing lullaby her eyes flutter and I start to put her down, which usually she will nod off. Is this “awake” enough?
    Lately the problem is when I put her down and suddenly she startles and ends up wide eyed. I would then avoid taking her back out of crib and shush/pat her till she is asleep. If she screams like mad then I pick her up and shush/pat/rock till she calm and very very drowsy, practically asleep. And even then she only sleeps 30min.

    Is this ok until I make it past the 4month milestones?

  12. Sannetta Marsh says:

    My little guy is only taking two 30 min naps a day? He seems tired at 3 hours up and then again at 3 hours later but only sleeps 30 minutes. Should i be trying to extend his wait time?! You have helped me so much in the past, help me again…..PLEASE: )

    • Danielle Miller says:

      Sannetta,

      How old is your little guy?

      • Sannetta Marsh says:

        I am sorry to leave that out! He is 15 mos. old.

      • Danielle Miller says:

        Sannetta,

        Just saw your reply to my question. Yes, it would be great if you could extend those 30 minute naps! Start by reading this article to make sure that you have covered all your bases in helping him sleep longer. There is a possibility, however, that he may be trying to transition to one long nap to take the place of two. This often happens sometime between 12-18 months. Try holding off on his nap until late morning if you can. If this helps him to sleep longer then try alternating between one nap and two nap days. On the days that he only takes one nap you can try putting him to bed a little earlier for the night. Hope these suggestions will help you figure out the next stage of napping for your little guy! :)

  13. Sannetta Marsh says:

    I have actually tried putting his naps of and it backfires every time into one 30 min nap instead! He sleeps through night fine so I don’t feel like it is a disability to transition through sleep cycles but am out if ideas. If I go in and lay him bk down and pat him, sometimes I can walk off and get him to go another 15 min more. Do u think gradually putting off his morning nap over the course of a week or two would be beneficial? I feel like the article (which was extremely yelpful a year ago when I read it!) does not apply in this instance. He has a small pillow, stuffed animal and blankie and goes down fine but can’t seem to sleep longer than half hour!! :(

    • Danielle Miller says:

      Sannetta,
      If you can get to him before he wakes and lay next to him that might work better. You are just trying to help him learn to get past that wake window without fully waking up so he can get to a deeper sleep cycle.

      Try it for a couple of days, if it doesn’t work then try for the transition to afternoon naps only. Some kids need less sleep or just do better with one big chunk. (My third born was that way, he slept from 11-2)

  14. My son is 10 weeks and he frequently has a really long nap in the afternoon, today 3.5hrs approx, should I be waking him? He tends to go to bed between 9.30 and 11 pm at the moment and quite often has another nap between 7 and 8 pm. I am trying to start a routine (loosely as I know he’s young for it so far) and I’m not sure if he’s tired later because of all the sleeping in the afternoon and early evening?

    • Danielle Miller says:

      Vicki,
      I think the first question to ask is, is this schedule working for you and your family? If so, I wouldn’t make any changes now. He is still such a little guy and the important thing is that he gets enough sleep. If the late bedtime is not good for your schedule then you could go ahead and try cutting his 3.5 hour nap time short by 30 minutes). This could make the difference!

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