While every baby is different, there are some sleep generalities that simply can’t be ignored, and one of those is when to make certain nap transitions.
One of the most common conversations I have with parents is the awkward daytime scheduling that comes along with ages five-to-seven months, and how to decide on two naps or three each day.
Three naps vs. two – does it really make that much of a difference?
It can, yes! The period from about five to seven months is a big transition for your little one when it comes to sleep (and physical development, and teething… the list goes on!). This is when your baby can handle considerably more awake time than when he was, say, just three months old, but not nearly as much awake time as when he will be, say, nine months old. And this is when I often see parents running into difficulties with end-of-day crankiness, because the daytime schedule has left too much awake time leading up to bedtime, but not enough time for a third nap.
The third nap of the day at this transitional age is incredibly helpful to your child’s overall sleep schedule, because even just a 45-minute catnap in the late afternoon can help get your little one to an appropriate bedtime without being incredibly cranky and overtired. (Note: Too much awake time before bed is one of the biggest reasons babies have difficult bedtimes and/or night wakes and/or rise very early the next morning!)
What does a good six-month-old sleep schedule look like?
At this age (again, about five-to-seven months for most babies), most babies can handle around two hours of awake time before their first nap, and then somewhere between two to two-and-a-half hours of awake time leading up to their other naps and bedtime. But, this means this is also an age where mom and dad may need to help coordinate baby’s schedule just a little bit to ensure there is time in the day for all three naps. A great schedule for a six month old would be:
- 7 a.m rise and shine!
- 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Nap One
- 12:45 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. Nap Two
- 4:30 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. Nap Three
- 7:30 p.m. hit the hay!
Of course, this schedule is a sample, a guide; it will not look exactly the same every day. But the keys of: waking by 7am; capping the first couple of naps at around an hour-and-a-half; and, fitting in that third cat-nap each day can be hugely helpful to transitioning your little one through this napping phase and into the seven-to-eight month mark where most babies are ready for a little more awake time and a solid two-nap schedule.