Best Sleep Schedules for Infants & Toddlers

In the first year of life, an infant goes through a lot of growth and developmental changes. Developmental changes with sleep are no different. As newborns, babies seem to sleep round the clock. They are actually unable to stay awake for more than an hour at a time and therefore take many “cat naps” throughout the day.

As babies grow older, their awake times increase and they don’t need as much sleep during the day. You may hear people groan about putting baby on a sleep schedule or you might just be against schedules. But if you really take a deep dive, you will discover that we all follow some form of schedule or rhythm throughout our daily lives.

asian baby asleep with arms over head

As an adult, you probably wake up and go to sleep around the same time everyday. Or you tend to eat your meals around the same time each day. So why is it so difficult to get your child on a sleep schedule? It may be the act of adding a new schedule into your internal built in one.

You’ll want to note that children thrive on sleep schedules and general routines, it helps them to feel at ease and safe in their environment. In order to provide the best sleep schedule, let’s break up the sleep advice into age groups because as mentioned previously, sleep changes dramatically in the first year of life.

There’s one window of time that remains constant throughout the changes and that’s the bedtime. Bedtime should be somewhere between 6-8 pm, always.

From a Certified Child Sleep Consultant, here are some sample sleep schedules that work well with the different stages of baby’s life:

Sleep Schedule for Newborns 0-3 Months Old

  • 8:00am Wake up
  • 9:00am Nap 1
  • 12:00pm Nap 2
  • 3:00pm Nap 3
  • 6:00pm Nap 4
  • 8:00pm Bedtime

Please don’t be mistaken that the babies in this age gap WILL wake up frequently throughout the night, so the 8 am wake up is just the time to get baby up to start the day. Naps at this age are sometimes hit or miss, baby may nap for one hour or 20 minutes. Just do the best that you can at putting baby down to sleep once he or she has been awake for one hour.

Please note that the above schedule is an estimate and could potentially be 5 naps if the naps are shorter. For instance, this sample is based on a newborn napping for the entire 1 hour or 1.5 hours. Naps can literally be anywhere from 20 minutes to 1.5 hours. For newborns, we want to get baby used to napping on their own in a crib or bassinet for the best sleep.

Sleep Schedule for Babies 3-6 Months Old

baby learning to sleep on a sleep schedule
  • 6:00am Wake up
  • 9:00am Nap 1
  • 12:00pm Nap 2
  • 3:00pm Nap 3
  • 7:00pm Bedtime

Nap durations begin to lengthen for this age group to up to 2 hours and babies at this age should have longer night stretches. The minimum nap length should be 1 hour, but you should really strive for 1.5 to 2 hours. If baby is still waking every 2 hours during the night, then he or she may be struggling with self-soothing.

Sleep Schedule for Babies 6-18 Months Old

  • 7:00am Wake up
  • 10:00am Nap 1
  • 2:00pm Nap 2
  • 7:00pm Bedtime

Somewhere between 6 and 7 months of age, babies drop from 3 naps to 2 naps. Also, between 12 and 18 months, babies will drop from 2 to 1 nap. By 6 months of age, baby can officially sleep 11-12 hour nights! You will want to encourage your baby to self-soothe so that when they wake up in the night, they will know how to put themselves back to sleep.

Sleep Schedule for Toddlers 18-24 Months Old

baby asleep
  • 7:00am Wake up
  • 1:00pm Nap
  • 7:00pm Bedtime

Now that baby is down to one nap, it will be easier to get out of the house and plan activities or outings. At this stage you may be tempted to transition your child from the crib to a regular bed, but please WAIT! You will want to wait until they are closer to age 3 because they don’t have the cognitive ability before then to understand that they should stay in their room. You’ll end up with a little wanderer and you don’t want that!!

Related Articles:

How long does it take to put baby on a schedule?

happy baby standing in crib

It can take a couple of weeks for a newborn baby (0-3 months) to settle into a sleep schedule that’s been designed for them, so be patient! Sleep is sporadic at this early age.

If you are learning about the best sleep schedules for babies a little later in the game, it’s okay! You can still successfully implement a new routine. For babies ages 3-18 months it typically takes less time; about 3-4 days.

If you’re a parent of an 18-24 month old and haven’t had your child on a sleep schedule up to this point it should only take about 5-7 days for success! That’s not a lot of time for sleep sanity!

Moms and dads can implement a sleep schedule, however, if you’re doing it as a team, make sure you are both consistent!

What are some self-soothing techniques for babies?

baby laying awake in a crib trying to adapt to a sleep schedule

Self-soothing has been mentioned a few times throughout this article. Some simple strategies that you can implement  to help baby self-soothe are:

  1. Lay your baby down awake. In order for your baby to learn to self-soothe, they will need to fall asleep on their own without help.
  2. Eliminate external props. An external prop is something that your baby absolutely needs to fall asleep, i.e. rocking, being held, feeding to sleep, needing to have mom/dad in the room. Keep in mind that during the newborn phase, these can be allowed.
  3. Wait a few minutes when your baby wakes in the night before going in to their room. We all wake up throughout the night, but we don’t remember because we’ve got years of experience putting ourselves back to sleep. A baby doesn’t have those skills yet and is navigating, trying to figure out what needs to happen to go back to sleep. Sometimes waiting a few minutes will allow them figure this out.

Don’t be afraid to put your infant onto a schedule.

baby sleeping peacefully on a sleep schedule

A schedule doesn’t have to be a strict, ironclad schedule, it can very well be flexible. But, if you don’t offer your baby a good sleep schedule, then your baby will put themselves on a schedule themselves and it may not be conducive to their sleep needs…or yours!

Biologically, our bodies fall into a rhythm, a sleep rhythm, a circadian rhythm, feeding rhythm, so it’s only natural to assist your baby into a nice healthy rhythm too. The sample schedules above are just examples, every baby is different so your baby’s sleep schedule can vary, but this is the best starting point!

How do I keep baby in a good sleep pattern while traveling?

remaining consistent with sleep schedules while traveling with babyquip

You don’t have to give up restful nights while traveling or on the go. There are three easy steps to help your baby or toddler sleep restfully at a hotel, airbnb or at a relative’s house.

  1. Travel during nap time. This is easier said than done, but if possible, plan your flight or car ride around baby’s sleep schedule. They will have a better chance of adapting to their normal schedule when at your final location. If this isn’t possible, just remember to get baby back on their routine as soon as you arrive at your destination.
  2. Don’t stray from the schedule you’ve already implemented. It may seem like the nice thing to do to let Aunt Linda keep baby awake through nap time but stay strong! Baby will be awake later for Auntie to play with her and baby needs to remain consistent. This way, when you get home the transition back into baby’s own sleep environment will be easy.
  3. Create a home-away-from-home atmosphere. Think about renting baby gear that is similar to what you have at home. Baby gear rental companies, like BabyQuip, offer full-sized wooden cribs, pack ‘n plays, bassinets, mini cribs, toddler beds, sound machines, humidifiers and lots of other sleep related items. Quality Providers will deliver and set up all the gear for you!

Good luck and feel free to post questions in the comments section below. Have you followed a similar schedule with your babies? How did it go? We want to know!

1 Comment

  1. Laurel Waddell

    November 30, 2019 at 11:51 pm

    As a momma to a 4 month old, I haven’t been doing a good job of tracking his naps at all! I’ll have to pay more attention to see if he’s on a general schedule or if he’s still haphazardly napping.

Leave a Reply