Want to know how to get your newborn to sleep well? You CAN have a 3 month old nap schedule! Get tips to help your baby stick to a routine.
Everyone told me, “Don’t worry about a schedule,” or “Newborns don’t follow a schedule.” But three months in, and I was noticing a few not-so-easy changes in my baby’s sleep.
For one thing, he was having a harder time staying asleep (30-40 minutes tops, but 15-minute catnaps were the norm). He also napped at random, so any kind of “schedule” seemed silly. And while I tried to put him on a sleep schedule, it didn’t work with my feeding schedule.
Trying to manage naps or even plan my day seemed impossible.
I was never super strict about schedules, but it would’ve been nice to find some sort of rhythm. Should I put him down at certain times? Am I supposed to wake him up from naps? After all, in a few weeks, he’d graduate past the “newborn” stage—at what point was I supposed to start a schedule?
The key to creating a successful 3 month old nap schedule
By three months, we’ve been through enough to get a sense of our babies’ rhythms and patterns. But you worry your baby is still too young for any formal schedules, especially those that go by the clock. How can you start giving him a sense of schedule and routine without forcing him into one so strict?
Here’s what I learned: follow a rhythm, not necessarily the clock.
Because at this stage, he isn’t exactly napping the same amount each time. You might get lucky with a three-hour nap one time, only to get a measly 10 minutes the next. Going by the clock—for instance, putting him down at 9am for the first nap every day—just doesn’t cut it.
Instead, follow a rhythm to your day, a rhythm made up of three patterns:
- being awake
- and sleeping.
For instance, offer his first feeding right after he wakes up for the day. Then, allow him to be awake long enough to play, but not so long that he’s overtired. After his awake time, put him down for the first nap.
Then, repeat the cycle after that first nap: feed him after he wakes up, give him time to play, and then put him back to sleep.
This rhythm allows you to make sure his needs are met without feeling forced to do them at certain times of the day. Whether he takes a 45-minute nap or one that stretches to two hours, you’re still following the same rhythm.
And the only time you’re “watching the clock” is when you’re making sure he isn’t awake too long.
Best practices for your 3 month old nap schedule
- Have a consistent bedtime. As varied as your baby’s nap times may be, the one time you should be consistent with is the time he goes to sleep. Let’s say he tends to sleep around 8pm—make that his “official” bedtime, so much so that you’d fiddle with his last nap so that he can hit that 8pm bedtime. If he’s been sleeping too long for that last nap, cut it short so he has enough awake time to fall asleep by 8pm.
- Eating counts as awake time. Those 20 minutes it takes for him to feed counts as awake time! If you’re watching the clock to see how long he’s been awake, start from when he woke up, including while he eats.
- Don’t keep your baby awake too long. Since you’re basing his next nap time on how long he’s been awake, don’t get tempted to keep him awake too long (or, for that matter, too short). At 3 months old, the most he should be awake is an hour and 45 minutes.
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What schedule? you might’ve scoffed each time someone brought up your 3 month old’s napping routine. But as you can see, you can follow a schedule, one based on the rhythm and flow of your baby’s eating, playing, and sleeping patterns.
Simply feed him after he wakes up, and give him time to be awake for no longer than an hour and 45 minutes. Then, put him down for a nap, stretching it out as long as you can. But regardless of how long he actually slept, his next feeding session falls on when he eventually wakes up.
Then repeat, for however many naps he happens to take that day.
By following his rhythm, he can begin to learn what to expect next, even at this age. You’re making sure his needs are met, from feeding to sleeping. And while you won’t always know the exact time he’ll take his naps, at least you know he’s getting quality sleep as best he can.
Sure, newborns don’t always follow a schedule, but they can certainly eat, play, and sleep several cycles a day.
Get more tips:
- What to Do When Your 3 Month Old Won’t Nap
- Top 5 Reasons Your Newborn Wakes Up Screaming
- How to Get Your Baby to Nap in the Crib
- Watch Out for These 7 Baby Tired Signs You Might Be Missing
- 5 Ideas to Try with Your Catnapping Baby (They Really Work!)
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I have been trying to follow this eat, awake, sleep routine to help my baby sleep better at night. But what happens when they take a short nap and aren’t quite hungry yet since they just ate 2 hours ago? Do you still try to feed them directly after waking up from short naps?
Nina Garcia says
Hi Jessy! Typically yes, you would still feed them even after a short nap 🙂 Don’t force it though, or feel like they have to drink a full serving, but yup, try feeding even after short naps.