Chantal Murphy is a qualified baby and child sleep consultant based in Australia. Her business Baby Sleep Magic offers flexible routines — not ridged schedules! Children thrive on routine and consistency so by following an age-appropriate routine it makes them feel secure knowing what comes next.
Below is a sample sleep guide. However, please understand this just A GUIDE – Your baby is not a programmable device and every baby is different. This guide is based upon your baby’s current age, however, watch your baby’s feeding and sleepy cues and adjust your routine accordingly. This doesn’t mean you need to stay home for every nap. Ensure you pay close attention to your baby’s sleep cues and wake window to avoid overtiredness. When nap time occurs to ensure you are in a position for your baby to fall asleep. If you’re out and about that can be in the car or pram and that’s OK!
As helpful as this sleep guide might be — be mindful day naps at this age can start to become more consolidated. However if your baby hasn’t yet learned to self soothe, day naps will be quite inconsistent until nighttime sleep has been mastered. For information on self-settling refer to the “Self settling methods” article.
Also, try not to feed your baby to sleep. If your little one is due for a feed prior to a nap or you opt for a “top-up” feed, try not to feed your baby to sleep. Wake him up prior to putting him in the cot. Feeding to sleep can actually lead to shorter, less productive naps.
Awake time: Your baby is now capable of staying awake between 2hrs – 2.5hrs. The closer your baby gets to 6 months of age, the closer your little one will get to 2.5hrs of awake time.
Number of naps: 3
Number of feeds during the day: Generally every 2.5 – 3hours, also follow your baby’s hunger cues.
Number of feeds overnight: Aim for 2 feeds 4 hours apart. However, you can start to work towards 0 -1 overnight feeds.
1. Wake Windows:
Nap 1 = 2 hours after wakeup time
Nap 2 = 2 hours after wakeup time
Nap 3 = 2.5 hrs after wakeup time.
The cat nap:
Now your baby is between 5 and 6 months of age, that third nap of the day can be a real struggle. If you’re finding it’s becoming a daily battle, consider napping on the go, whether it’s in the pram, in the car or even in the Baby Bjorn. Get it however you can. Your little one’s bedtime may need to be pushed back or forward depending on the last nap of the day. Bedtime
In some cases, bedtime can be 2.5 – 3 hours after the last catnap.
2. Signs your baby is ready for a longer awake time:
They play when you put them to bed which then escalates to a cry.
You start experience catnapping when you never used to.
How to adjust:
Lengthen your baby’s awake time by 15 minutes
If your baby is still sleeping past 7 am, its probably time to wake bub up. As this will allow you in some kind of order. Open the blinds, turn the white noise off and make some household noise. This should be enough for your little one to wake up themselves.
You baby’s awake time begins when you bring your baby out of bed and into the light environment — not when they open their eyes. Be mindful over-tiredness happens quickly and your baby will become so much harder to settle once he/she is overtired.
What to do if your baby doesn’t sleep for the scheduled time? This is ok — your baby is not a robot. If your baby wakes earlier than expected, start your wake window from the moment your baby comes out of their room and adjust everything back accordingly.
Milk tops ups:
Until your baby is on 3 solid meals a day, you may like to offer your baby a “top-up” of milk before each nap. This will not only help lengthen naps but will increase their calories during the day, which in return will avoid fewer wake-ups overnight due to hunger.
Milk at this age is still your baby’s main source of nutrients. However, if your baby has already started solids and is enjoying it, you may like to increase the portions sizes slightly to compensate for the top-up of milk before nap time.
If you have not yet started solids, chances are your baby will start showing signs soon he/she is ready for food.
What if your baby resists the PM cat nap
Skipping the last nap is common at this age. If this happens, opt for an earlier bedtime…In some instances 5 pm maybe your best option. It’s better to put your baby to bed when their tired rather than try and spend time with an overtired, cranky baby. “Quality time is better than quantity!” at this age.
Going to bed early doesn’t necessarily result in early rising. Sleep = sleep. If your little one does wake early, refer to the “Early Rising” information guide for tips on how to manage this.
You’re baby’s desired bedtime is anywhere between 6 pm-7 pm.
Keeping your baby awake whilst doing the last feed is always a challenge but is paramount for self-settling and a successful nights sleep. My advice is to only dress your baby in a nappy. The purpose of this is you will need to wake/stir your baby up after the feed to dress him/her for the night. Offer the feed with the lights on dim and interact with your little one. Lots of chatting, tickling, etc. After the feed, dress your baby in his/her’s sleeping attire and place him/her into their bassinet/cot awake. If necessary use your settling techniques to comfort your baby until he/she is asleep. If your baby protests when going to bed chances are you could be trying for bed too early.
Other reasons your baby may be resisting bedtime at this age OR waking prematurely (ie: before 10 pm) include:
Possible teething/discomfort – You may like to consider your pain relief options
Hunger – you may like to offer some more milk 40-60mls / 1 side, maybe all they need to be satisfied enough to go to sleep.
Sick, congested or coming down with something
4. Night feeding
Most babies at this age still require night feeds. One common mistake I see especially with night feeding are parents rushing in too fast. Get to know your baby’s cries. If he’s doing”interval crying,” which rises and then descends again, let him be! Chances are he’s trying to settle himself back to sleep and if you interrupt you’ll make him more upset and the opportunity for him to doze back off may be gone. When feeding during the night, keep the light and interaction to a minimum. Make it strictly business…feed, burp (in some cases this isn’t necessary) and straight back to bed, preferably all within 30mins. While you’re here, check out the three-month breastfeeding crisis that is affecting women worldwide.