We’ve talked about how hard newborn sleep can be (see here for our post all about newborn sleep, the fundamentals of baby sleep, and a sample daily newborn schedule). The next set of developmental months I’ll cover – from two to four months of age – can be both easier and harder.
Babies at this age are changing at such a fast rate and starting to move into the “not-quite-newborn” phase. Some babies this age start to fall into a groove and are just naturally good sleepers. They’re eating more during the day and starting to wake up less at night. Hallelujah!
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Other babies are tougher and may have a harder time connecting their sleep cycles, which can lead to the dreaded short nap. Some struggle to stay awake during feeds, or they may just naturally eat less during the day and continue to wake up hungry at night. All of this is, honestly, pretty normal!
Since they are changing so much, this period also proves difficult when it comes to maintaining and adjusting their sleep schedule. But of course, there a few base guidelines you can follow.
1. A good waketime for this age is somewhere between 1.5 to 2 hours.
This waketime should lead to a solid three naps a day. Try to schedule feedings for every 3 to 3.5 hours max.
2. If naps are short, baby may be overtired, so try shortening waketime.
I like to drop waketime by 20-30 minutes depending on just how short the nap was, and adjust up or down as needed from there.
3. If baby is taking more than 15 minutes or so to fall asleep, waketime may be too short.
Try the opposite and start lengthening waketime by 10 minutes at a time. A small change can make a huge difference here.
Baby Sleep FAQs: What Do I Do If…?
1. My baby is consistently napping for only 45 minutes?
Ahhh, the dreaded 45 minute nap, also known as the 45 minute intruder. This is unfortunately very common at this age, and it happened with both of my children. They would go to sleep fine, and at 45 minutes on the dot, they would wake up wailing (in the case of my son), or just talking (in the case of my daughter). Nothing I tried worked — and in the end, it was simply a developmental thing – they didn’t know how to connect their sleep cycles, so when cycle one ended at 45 minutes, they woke up. This is very common, and they WILL grow out of it, I promise!
After accepting that this was something I couldn’t change, I decided to follow the most frequent advice I found; continue building good sleep habits, and try to keep to a routine of eat, wake, sleep.
A few tips to tackle the 45-minute intruder: If they wake up after 45 minutes, you can leave them for 10 minutes or so to see if they go back to sleep. If that doesn’t work, or if they’re crying hysterically (you know the cry), you can also go in and rock them. I would do this with my son frequently, because he was a chronic 45-minute napper for months. If he fell asleep, I would wait 20 minutes or so, and then try to put him back in his crib. If that didn’t work, or if I didn’t want to chance him waking up, I would just hold him and take a catnap myself!
I don’t recommend doing this for too long, as they can quickly grow accustomed to this and you then run the risk of building a bad habit that you can’t get them to break (and who has time to hold their baby for every nap?). But until that point, enjoy those snuggles.
If nothing gets your little one back to sleep, go ahead and feed them and continue on with your day. Keep waketime to an appropriate length, adjust the schedule, and start heading for that next nap.
Last piece of advice: wine. Lots and lots of wine.
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2. Baby wants to sleep more than two hours?
Hooray – you have a beast sleeper! Talk to your pediatrician about how many feedings you’re doing per day, but it’s best at this age to have baby feed every 3 to 3.5 hours. I would wake my kids up at the two hour mark, unless they had a spectacularly bad nap earlier in the day and needed to catch up on some sleep. In general, I wouldn’t let them nap for more than 2.5 hours at a time.
3. My child just won’t nap/sleep in their crib.
Don’t fret. Keep trying to put them down in their crib. We also used the bassinet that came with our pack ‘n play as an alternative safe sleep space for the first few months. It was slightly inclined (to a safe level), and definitely helped both of my kids sleep better.
A good swaddle is also key. Swaddles help keep the startle reflex from waking baby, and helps them keep that cozy, womb-like feeling going.
I tried what felt like every swaddle brand, and in the end, loved Halo swaddles the most, because they allow so many different configurations to suit baby’s personality, and to grow with them. You can check out this post to get more info on the Halo swaddles and some of my other favorite baby items.
Sample 2-4 Month Old Sleep Schedule
On to the schedule! This is just one possibility. Change the “Daily Wake Time” you’re aiming for to whatever time fits your family best, and remember to be flexible. Watch how your baby reacts to certain waketimes and try your best to adjust to their needs.
An app is also a great way to track your baby’s sleeping and eating patterns. We used the “Glow Baby” app for the first year for both kids. It’s free, gives you a great visual of their sleeping and eating habits, and is super user-friendly.
What are your best tips for getting babies to sleep better?