Sleep… you will never talk about how much your child sleeps, or more likely, doesn’t sleep, as you do in those first few weeks you bring your child home from the hospital. Or when they consolidate down to one nap. Or when they learn to stand up in the crib, and choose to walk around and scream instead of sleep. Or when they start waking up at 5AM no matter what time you put them to bed. Or when they give up napping altogether. Basically, my girlfriends and I have been talking about how much, or how little, our kids sleep since they were born. Part 1 featured tips for getting your baby to sleep during infancy. Part 2 covers the rest of the first year. Part 3 covers early toddlerhood.
4-12 Months Baby Sleep Routine
Around the four month mark, my baby started to stay awake longer between feedings, resulting in a series of super short (20-30 minute) catnaps, or at times, skipping the sleep portion of the routine altogether. I knew it was time for a new schedule – but what? My rigidly, organized-self craved something to follow! One of my fellow mommies sent me the following link right about this time:
Again, something simple that sounded reasonable and seemed to be based on common sense, so we tried it. The 2-3-4 sleep routine became our daily routine for the next 8 months. Like Eat. Play. Sleep, it just worked. My daughter would wake up around 6:30AM, have her morning nap two hours later, from 8:30-10AM, go down for her afternoon nap 3 hours after that, from 1:00-3:00PM, and be ready for bed 4 hours after that, around 7PM. It literally was like clockwork. At first, she couldn’t make it all the way from her afternoon nap to bedtime. She would take her “dinner” feeding and go down for an hour, from 6-7PM; we called it her “pre-rest.” Then she would wake up, nurse one last time, and go right back to sleep for the night.
One day, around 7-8 months, she gave up the pre-rest and replaced it with what we began to call her “insanity hour.” I know some babies have a cranky time of day that parents refer to as the witching hour. The insanity hour was anything but cranky – she laughed, hammed it up, and was the best, most entertaining version of herself all day. Whether she was putting on a show for Daddy, who usually got home around this time, or just giving us her final burst of energy before going down for the night, it was a good time for everyone!
Update: Lessons Learned from Lil’ M
Lil’ M is overall less consistent than Big M… whether that is a function of personality or reality, or some combination of the two, we will never know. She also follows 2-3-4 relatively well, but her morning naps last 45 minutes most days, 90 minutes on a great day, which of course always happens on mornings I have to wake her up to be somewhere. She therefore takes an earlier afternoon nap, but it’s a pretty consistent 2 hours and aligns with big sister’s nap, much to my delight! The shorter nap and earlier afternoon nap result in an earlier bedtime, 6:30PM, and no matter how hard I try, she can’t/won’t stay awake later than that without inducing misery on us all!
The biggest lesson I’ve learned from Lil’ M is that if she doesn’t eat at the precise second she is ‘supposed to’ or go to sleep at precisely 3 hours after she wakes up, the world will not stop turning, she will not instantly turn into a screaming mess (most of the time), and she will still sleep 12 hours at night (most likely). We are still consistent, as much as we can be, but my second child has taught me to appreciate and embrace flexibility.
As with all things kid-related, every child is different… But this is what worked for me during babyhood. You can check out the rest of our sleep series here and here. And don’t let the simplicity of the above tales fool you… there were plenty of “no-nap days,” and sick days with little to no sleep at night, but fortunately, they were not the norm. If you can’t take one more sleepless night, hopefully you find something in all of this that can work for you too! My girlfriends all swear my first is the mellowest, easiest baby in the world and that is why she is such a good sleeper, eater, etc. As an uber Type A personality, I like to hope all my hours of parenting research and implemented practices have played some role, and #2 certainly put it to the test!
Let us know if any of this helped you or if you have your own tips to share and help a fellow sleep-deprived mama out!
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional or a trained sleep therapist. The opinions expressed above are merely my advice based on my experience as a mother with two young children.