When we had our first baby, I read all the sleep-training books. I tried so hard to get my baby to follow an exact schedule. And when baby got “off” from the schedule I’d determined, I felt stressed and like a failure.
In hindsight, I realized rather than aiming for an ultra regimented “schedule,” it was more helpful to think about our baby’s daily routine.
We follow a wholistic parent-led sleep training method that really addresses all the babies needs in terms of eating, sleeping, and wake-time. Figuring out how to get baby on a schedule has to do with how all 3 of these factors (eating, sleeping, wake time) come into play together.
For this post, though, I’ll provide sample baby schedules for various ages from your baby’s first year since it’s helpful to see what most babies need.
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- The 10 principles of infant sleep
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- Naptime problems
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And I’ll help you think through how to get your baby on a schedule… and ASAP! You can truly start our method from the very beginning. We start with the basics of the routine as soon as we get our bearings home from the hospital.
REMINDER… THESE ARE EXAMPLES, NOT HARD AND FAST LAWS!
Every sample baby schedule below is meant to be just that… a sample. These baby sleep schedules are meant to give you an approximate idea of what it might look like to add baby food, drop bottle feedings and naps, etc..
Please, please, please do not take these schedules as militant rules. You’ll end up stressed and frustrated!
Adjust mealtimes and nap-times according to what works for your family and your baby’s needs.
If you’ve laid a good foundation of the eat/play/sleep routine, then it will become increasingly easy to read baby’s cues and use your intuition to do what’s best for your child. (How to establish this eat/play/sleep routine is one of my top 2 tips for happy babies, which you can grab here!)
If you want help laying that foundation, grab my baby sleep guide for free!! My infant sleep ebook walks you through all the details of sleep training (and general rhythms for baby’s first year) in more of a step-by-step process.
Sample baby schedule 4 weeks old – 10 weeks old
It’s helpful to think of your baby’s day in terms of wake time and sleep time. From weeks 4-10 (ish), our newborns’ sleep schedule seemed to follow a pattern of 1 hour awake, 2 hours asleep.
A sample baby schedule for a 4 week old (up to about 10 weeks old) would be:
7:00 am – wake up and eat (bottle or nurse)
8:00 – 10:00 am – nap
10:00 am – wake up and eat
11:00 am – 1:00 pm – nap
1:00 pm – wake up and eat
2:00 pm – 4:00 pm nap
4:00 pm – wake up and eat
5:00 pm – 7:00 pm – nap
7:00 pm – wake up and eat
8:00 pm – “top off” a little more milk and to bed for the night.
This is a “3 hour schedule” because you wake the baby up to eat every 3 hours during the day. This is the super magical secret for how to get baby on a schedule asap… wake them up during the day.
Wait a minute!? A schedule for a 4 week old baby!? Yes!!! We actually try to start working towards a baby routine when the baby is 2 or 3 weeks old! Not only has this process worked for my 4 kiddos, it’s worked for countless others who I’ve connected with over email. Skeptical? Ha I get it! Here are 10 reasons to start a baby schedule sooner than later.
Let them sleep as long as they can at night. Don’t wake the baby overnight, unless you have specific instructions from your doctor to do so.
The last feeding of the day is the only time baby eats right before bed. All the other feedings occur when they wake up.
If you are a night person, you can wake baby for a “dream feed” before you go to sleep around 10 pm, or whatever. Then, ideally, baby wouldn’t wake up to eat for another 3-6 hours after that.
I’m not a night person, and was always exhausted by the time the baby went down around 8 pm. So, I preferred to just go to sleep then, and let baby wake me up to eat around 11 pm or so.
The “dream feed” also seemed to confuse our kids, so we never stuck with it for long. The exception to this was, if we had an outing late at night, I would often sneak a “dream feed” in if I was up late anyway.
Gradually, baby increases the amount of time between each middle of the night feeding.
If baby wakes to eat any time before 7 am, I still consider that middle of the night and put the baby right back to sleep after eating and a diaper change. Or, if it’s between 6 and 7 am, I just treat that time like the start of our day, and adjust the 3 hour feeding schedule accordingly.
The 4 month sleep regression
Sometime between 8 weeks and 5 months old, most babies go through what is commonly called a “4 month sleep regression.” It’s super normal and actually developmentally A REALLY GOOD THING.
Check out my complete guide to the 4 month sleep regression if you’re wondering:
- What the 4 month sleep regression actually is (and why it’s a good thing)
- What the signs of the 4 month sleep regression are
- How to deal with the 4 month sleep regression
SAMPLE BABY SCHEDULE 3 MONTHS – 6 MONTHS (ISH)
Around 10-12 weeks, the baby will likely fall into a cycle of 1.5 hours awake, 1.5 hours asleep, still waking up to eat every 3 hours during the day. My kids tend to follow that 1.5 hours awake, 1.5 hours asleep routine until around 5-6 months (ish).
This is still a “3 hour schedule” with 5 daytime feedings.
7:00 am: wake up and eat (bottle or nurse)
8:30-10:00 am: nap
10:00 am: wake up and eat
11:30am -1:00pm: nap
1:00 pm: wake up and eat
4:00 pm: wake up and eat
5:30 pm: late evening cat nap (notes on when to wake baby here below)
7:00-8:00 pm (ish): eat + bed
At some point during the 3-6 month age range, your child will very likely drop that late evening nap. My kids have all needed it for at least 3-4 months, but dropped it before 6 months old.
During the transition to drop that nap, you can lie baby down around 5:30pm if he’s tired, and wake him up after 45 minutes and push bedtime back 30 minutes… just watch for baby’s tired cues at bedtime, and put him down after a final nursing session.
Some baby’s cluster feed between 4 and 7. Especially when they’re in the process of dropping that evening nap. That’s okay! Feed a hungry baby 🙂
Eventually, the goal is to have them awake from 4:00-7:00 with 1 feeding at 4:00pm, and another at 7:00 pm right before bed.
Another option for a nap transition is to keep baby awake with low-key activities such as a walk, swing, carrier, reading on your lap. Then, put him to bed earlier than usual. Figure out what works for your family and don’t worry about getting it perfect!
We usually start introducing baby food sometime between 4-6 months. Once baby gets the hang of baby food and it starts to actually go into her tummy (as opposed to just dribble all over her face, outfit, hair, hands, highchair tray…….), her schedule will probably start changing again.
SAMPLE BABY SCHEDULE 6-12 MONTHS (ISH)
Around 6-8 months, our kids have moved to a “4 hour schedule” – meaning they eat every 4 hours instead of every 3 hours, thus dropping 1 of their 5 daytime bottle/breastmilk feedings.
This shift to a 4 hour schedule (and 4 milk feedings a day) usually coincides with an uptick in baby food quantities. As baby eats more solid food, they need less formula/breast milk.
Since baby is eating more at one time and growing in general, they can often stay awake longer by this time too. Thus, drop another nap and shift to two 2-hour long naps.
If baby begins waking up at night again after moving to a 4 hours schedule, he isn’t ready to drop that 5th milk feeding… go back to the 3 hour schedule and try again in a few weeks.
Depending on our family’s schedule and how the baby is eating, sometimes the milk + baby food are fed one after another, and sometimes there is a gap between them. You’ll likely be able to tell when baby is hungry and full.
After a normal nursing session or regular size bottle, if baby is still hungry, you might offer baby food. The same principles of full feedings apply. This will explain WHY FULL FEEDINGS ARE SO IMPORTANT!
7:00 am: milk + baby food
9:00 – 11:00 am: nap
11:00 am: milk + baby food
1:00 – 3:00 pm: nap
3:00 pm: milk
5:00 pm: optional catnap depending on baby’s sleepiness
6:00 pm: baby food
7:00 pm: milk + bed
SAMPLE BABY SCHEDULE 12 MONTHS (ISH) AND OLDER
At some point, your baby will go down to only one afternoon nap. Then, her schedule might look like this: 7:00 am: breakfast
11:00 am: lunch
12:30 – 2:30 pm: nap (this nap can be 1.5-3 ish hours depending on the child)
2:30 pm: snack
5:00 pm: dinner
7:00 pm: bottle/nurse (optional) + bed time
A summary of your baby’s sleep schedules the first year
At the end of the day, the point of a parent-led sleep training method is for YOU, the parent, to determine what your baby needs based on observing your baby.
But the general pattern for a baby sleep routine is as follows:
(Everything is approximate… observe your baby for when their “ideal” wake times are. More details about figuring that out in my baby sleep guide!)
- Newborns (the first few weeks): sleep all the time. Wake them every 3 hours to eat during the day and try to get them full!!
- Weeks 4-10: Probably awake for 1 hour (ish), napping for 2 hours (ish)… keep waking every 2.5-3 hours during the day to eat. Baby will gradually appear able to stay awake happily for longer amounts of time. Baby will probably wake 2-3 times at night, and gradually stretch those middle of the night feedings to be farther and farther apart, resulting in fewer nighttime feedings.
- 2-4 months old: Baby will transition to 1.5 hours of awake time and 1.5 hours of asleep time. Baby will likely be able to sleep past 1.5 hours at naptime, but continue waking baby up at the 3 hours mark. If you don’t wake baby up during the day, he will want to eat at night.
- 4 month sleep regression: It’s common for baby’s to have terrible sleep habits around 4 months old. Who knows why?! But just stick with the basic routines the best you can, adjust on hard sleep days, and don’t worry about it too much. If you’ve laid a good foundation the first few months, baby will bounce back to a predictable routine soon.
- 4-6 months: You’ll likely begin to add baby food sometime in here. At some point, baby will happily stay awake past the 1.5 hour mark. It’ll probably happen gradually. Eventually, baby will be able to stay awake for 2 hours happily, and take a 2 hour nap. This shift will coincide with baby getting more calories from baby food. The shift to a 2 hours awake/ 2 hours asleep schedule (AKA: The 4 hour schedule) means the baby will naturally drop one bottle feeding during the day. If baby begins waking up at night again, he isn’t ready to drop that 5th milk feeding… go back to the 3 hour schedule and try again in a few weeks.
- 6-12 months: Once baby is really settled into his 4 hour schedule and is not waking at night at all, your day becomes quite predictable! Your baby will probably take a 1.5 hour – 2 hour nap in the morning and a 1.5-2 hour nap in the afternoon. Bedtime and wake time will be approximately 12 hours apart.
You can put your baby on a predictable routine
Using these sample baby schedules as guidelines and following the 10 principles of great infant sleep outlined in my baby sleep guide, you can definitely help your baby get on a predictable routine.
We always tell people to start as early as possible. We have always done some version of that 3 hour schedule with our newborns as soon as we got our bearings home from the hospital. If you follow these routines from the beginning, baby’s schedule will be so much easier in general.
I hope these sample baby schedules were helpful – please feel free to leave comments with questions!