In our post “How to Help Baby Nap” I shared some tips for encouraging healthy sleep habits in babies. As a FTM, hearing other moms’ stories and watching them parent helped me navigate the ever-changing waters of motherhood. In that spirit, today I’m sharing a glimpse at my experience with baby sleep schedules. As I said in the “How to Nap Post,” most of what I know about sleep comes from personal experience, watching other moms, and above all Dr. Marc Weissbluth’s book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.
To set the stage, my kiddos are average sleepers. They didn’t really struggle with sleep, but they also needed some help settling into healthy sleep habits. It’s important to note that these are my babies’ sleep schedules. While their nap times follow a common pattern of baby sleep schedules please remember that every baby is unique. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s sleep, or lack of it, seek out your pediatrician. With all that out of the way here’s our story…
Nurturing Independent Sleepers From the start my husband and I set the precedent of putting our babies down drowsy but awake. Naturally there were several times, especially during the newborn days, when we simply did whatever we needed to help them sleep. That’s what newborns need, immediate attention and LOTS of sleep. You cannot spoil a newborn or teach them bad habits. At the beginning my daughter needed a lot of help sleeping. Eventually she was diagnosed with reflux. Once we addressed her discomfort she was fine falling asleep on her own when we put her down drowsy and not overtired.
Babies who are overtired struggle with falling asleep independently. To prevent this we carefully watched for drowsy cues and kept track of how long our babies were awake. Dr. Weissbluth explains that newborns need short periods of wakefulness, two hours maximum. Now I believe nurturing with the goal of age appropriate sleep independence is crucial. We did not make our babies “cry it out.” We simply respected their need for sleep and gave them the opportunity to practice falling asleep independently.
Settling into a Schedule When my son, Triple A, was just over four months old he consistently took three naps: morning, mid-day, and late afternoon. Although his naps happened at roughly the same times every day, at first his naps were unpredictable in length. Sometimes he napped for roughly 40 minutes, while other times he surprised me a an hour or even two hour nap! Dr. Weissbluth would say that sleep is developmental and so it’s normal for younger babies to have somewhat inconsistent nap lengths. From months four to five Triple A’s bedtime was between 7:00 and 7:30. He nursed two or three times at night and usually work up around 6:45am.
My second child, Little Girl, didn’t have a consistent sleep schedule until she was almost five months. Before settling into a schedule she followed the newborn sleep pattern of staying awake no more than two hours at a time. This translated to about four naps during the day. Consequently Little Girl did not have a predictable bedtime for awhile. I simply watched for her drowsy cues and followed her lead.
Little Girl finally settled into a schedule at five months. She followed the same pattern as her brother: three naps a day and bedtime around 7:00. Unlike her brother, Little Girl went through almost a month of waking every two hours to nurse at night. Her reflux caused her to drop on the growth charts so I wasn’t surprised by all the feedings. In fact I was exhausted but grateful because she needed to gain weight.
Dropping the Late Afternoon Nap As my son got older his naps became longer and more predictable. When Triple A was about six months old he stayed awake longer between his first and second nap and dropped his late afternoon nap. After dropping the third nap we made his bedtime earlier to prevent him from becoming overtired. For several months Triple A went to bed at 6:00 or 6:30pm. At first this seemed crazy but it was what he needed. This is difficult for my husband who sometimes couldn’t get home to see his boy before bedtime. Just an example of putting your little one’s needs above your own. A typical night’s sleep was in bed at 6:00 or 6:30pm, up to nurse once or twice during the night, and awake in the morning around 7:00.
Currently Little Girl is six and a half months old. She is starting the transition of dropping the third nap. Some days she takes three naps and goes to bed around 7:00. Other days she only takes two naps and needs to go to bed closer to 6:00. She typically nurses once or twice and then is usually awake by 7:30am. Getting Little Girl up from her crib is one of my favorite things. She is so delighted to see me smiling from ear to ear and happily waving her arms. Gets me right in the feels every time!
Sleeping Through the Night By the time Triple A was nine months old he took solid morning and mid afternoon naps averaging an hour and a half to two hours long. He also stayed up a bit later, 6:30pm. When he was ten months old Triple A’s went to bed at 7:00 and consistently slept through the night. He woke up some time between 6:30 and 7:00am. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to have a predictable schedule and full nights of sleep. All that time practicing falling asleep independently helped him sleep through the night once he no longer needed to nurse after bedtime.
Transitioning to One Nap Just after Triple A’s first birthday he started toying with transitioning from two naps a day to one. Transitioning from two naps to one was the longest and most challenging sleep transition for me to navigate as a first time mom. It took FOREVER! Well, not really, but two or three months of limbo seems like forever. If I let Triple A take a long morning nap like he wanted he would not take a second nap and be a HOT mess at the end of the day. Keeping Triple A distracted and busy in the morning enabled me to push nap closer to lunchtime. When that didn’t work limiting the morning nap to just 45 minutes helped get him through the morning without ruining the afternoon nap. Once Triple A made the transition to only one nap it was great having a more open schedule. Triple A is two and a half now. He takes one nap in the afternoon. Bedtime is around 7:30 and he still sleeps through the night and wakes up around 7:30 or 8:00am.
Baby sleep schedules are bound to change. That is simply a part of growing up. In the next year or so Triple A will no long need to nap, GASP! (I’ll still have him do quiet time when that day comes.) Little Girl will eventually drop her third nap and be a two nap kid. Someday, yes someday we will sleep all through the night. I hope this look into my babies sleep schedules is helpful to you FTMers. Remember everything has its season and you are loving you littles by nurturing their need for sleep.
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Wife, work at home mom, and bassoonist, Laura Ankrum lives in Iowa City, Iowa. Prior to the arrival of her two children Laura taught elementary music and band in the Boston area. Now her home is her classroom and music studio. Laura is passionate about education, encouraging other moms, and eco-friendly living. She is the social media coordinator at Thirsties Inc.