Do I Have to Put My Baby on a Sleep Schedule?

A quick story: When Aubrey and Anne brought home their first baby, they didn’t know all that much about what to expect. Sure, they were aunt and uncle to a few nieces and nephews, but barely any of their friends had kids. So the thought of putting little Milo on any kind of baby sleep schedule had never crossed their minds. Ignorance is bliss, right?

Until it’s not. Once their infant was around six months, the new parents were feeling increasingly frazzled as he’d stopped sleeping through the night and their schedules were completely ruled by his sleep whims. “Well, what’s his sleep schedule?” Aubrey’s sister asked one day. Huh? Maaaybe they’d missed something along the way.

Let’s be honest, a sleep schedule isn’t entirely for your little one—it’s also crucial for parents who have to plan their days around daycare runs, work, and activities. But if we had all the time (and nannies) in the world, would it matter if our babies skipped the schedule completely? How important is a routine for a growing babe? Here’s what the experts have to say.

What is a baby sleep schedule?

Essentially, it’s a predictable routine for when your baby sleeps and when they’re awake, catered to their age and personal preferences. A sleep schedule loosely (or very rigidly, for some parents) defines their nap times, bedtime, and wake time.

Dr. Wendi S. Defrank, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital New Orleans, says, “Infants need between 10-12 hours of sleep per night.” Add to that 2-4 hours of daytime sleep for babies aged 4-12 months, according to The American Academy of Pediatrics, and you’re looking at 12-16 total hours of sleep per 24-hour period. So, with all this sleeping (supposedly) happening, should parents get out their colored pencils and start crafting a naptime flow chart?

Sleep schedules can mean different things to different people, says Deanna Buley, Sleep Guide Manager at Batelle Sleep School. She explains that the most popular options are by-the-clock schedules, those based on age-appropriate wake windows, and parents or caregivers relying on sleep cues. Here’s how they work.

By-the-clock schedule:

This schedule is very predictable as it sticks to the same consistent naptimes and bedtimes every day. The good news is you can plan outings or playdates in advance knowing your baby will have consistent wake and sleep times. The not-so-good news is that this routine can cause some stress when trying to adhere to its strict nature. Unfortunately, babies don’t run quite like clockwork, but the by-the-clock schedule works for some.

Wake window schedule:

“This schedule can be more flexible since it’s based on following your child’s natural rhythm using science and anecdotal evidence to guide parents on the times of day when they should look for sleep cues,” says Buley. A wake window is the amount of time your little one is awake in between naps and between their last nap and bedtime. While there are suggested wake windows, these times vary from baby to baby. On Happiest Baby, pediatrician and bestselling author Dr. Harvey Karp lists wake windows as follows:

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top