4 Months to 8 Months
Now that we have established a good sleep ritual we are a bit more comfortable putting our babies to sleep for day and night. What we want to focus on now is getting our baby down to sleep at fairly regular times during the day so that we keep our child rested throughout the day until bedtime.
At four months we were focusing on working with naptimes around the clock like the: 9,12,3 schedule (these times are just guidelines to work with and most likely based on a 7am wake time, depending on the wake time the first nap can occur anywhere from 8-9:30am). You might sometimes find that these naps are short and maybe only lasting about 30 minutes which is very common. In this instance you would apply the hour rule of trying not to go to your baby for the last 30 minutes to see if she would put herself back to sleep (if the nap is 20 minutes you would try to wait out the remaining 40 minutes). The more you consistently do this the more likely your child will fall back asleep unassisted and create longer napping.
Being that 4-5 months is still the beginning stages of your baby's ability to have organized day sleep you have to be: patient with it, consistent about the times you are putting your child down, and leaving your child if she wakes up prematurely from a nap. The reason I give an hour is that since daytime is so short you have to limit the time you leave them to go back to sleep somewhat, and let's be realistic in that you can't spend your whole day trying to get her to sleep. The hour seems to work well with most of my families. Remember, this is up to the individual family, if you are not comfortable with your baby fussing at all, then try staying with your baby and rubbing her back and shushing her to sleep for the rest of the hour. On the other hand, if you feel your baby is okay and is not fussing hard, you may choose to leave your baby longer than the hour. You know your baby so you have to go with what you think is right.
At about 6 months your baby will probably be taking 3 naps a day for about an hour or more (3rd nap may be shorter) pretty consistently. However, some babies at this time are taking two longer naps and are not able to take a third nap because it starts too late in the afternoon. The times for these naps may be around 9am and 1pm. For babies who were colicky as infants or premature, day sleep still might not be as organized and naps can be short and inconsistent. For these babies it is important to keep pushing the schedule and keeping with an early bedtime.
At about 8 months those babies who already were taking 2 longer naps a day are continuing their sleep routine. Some though who previously were taking 3 naps a day are starting to take a longer morning and afternoon nap which occurs closer to 1pm. The child is not sleeping for the third nap and/or the nap can only occur late in the afternoon which pushes the bedtime too late.(a third nap starting past 4pm could be too late). Babies who are premature or post-colicky might now be taking 3 naps a day somewhat regularly and might still need to continue the third nap for a couple of more months.
If your baby has created a schedule of naptimes around the clock, bedtime would occur anywhere from 6-8pm depending on the schedule and how the naps were for any particular day. You have established a fairly regular bedtime and your baby might have 1-2 feedings a night. In the 4th-5th month your baby still might not be on a consistent day sleep schedule so it is important at this time to have the extra early bedtime even if it's 6pm. The more you keep her rested when naps are not good the quicker the naps will become longer and more consistent. If your child's second nap is ending before 3pm then a 6:30am bedtime might be late enough to avoid an overtired state. On the other hand, if the second nap is ending past 3pm, bedtime could occur around 7pm or later without becoming overtired. If your child is still taking three naps a day bedtime could occur anywhere from 6-7pm depending on how the naps went in general and when the last nap ended.
As I said previously, your child still might need night feedings. You have to be the judge of this of whether or not your child really needs a feeding during the night anymore. For example, if your child has been sleeping 6 hours and wakes up and you go to your child and she nurses or takes a bottle like she is hungry then you probably assume she needs the feeding. However, if you find your child waking up only within a short amount of time after the last feeding of the night, she is not taking to nursing or bottle feeding as she would if she was truly hungry then you might decide your child doesn't need this feeding. What you do with these unnecessary wakenings is up to you. You might decide not to assist and let her put herself back to sleep or you might go in and re-soothe your child. If you see a consistent pattern of this unnecessary nightwaking, it might be an indication that your child is either overtired because she is not getting enough sleep during the day and/or her bedtime might be a little bit too late. You might want to adjust the bedtime for a week or so to see if this unnecessary nightwaking goes away. If it does not it could be a nightwaking habit. In this case you would either stop going in for those nightwakings cold-turkey or do a gradual approach.
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See also: Soothing Routine