As you move out of the first 4 weeks with your newborn and into month two and beyond, you will start to notice infant sleep trends and routines emerge in your baby’s sleeping patterns both for daytime and nighttime sleep. Being mindful of your baby’s wake window continues to be important and you will start to see a loose schedule emerge for naps that will revolve around this wake window. Now let’s discuss infant sleep trends as your child enters into 4-6 months of age.
Settling Into a “Schedule”
Remember each baby is unique and it is okay to experiment with the wake window as your baby grows. Some babies are ready to be awake a bit longer than two hours before they are 6 months old. However, most babies do not develop a stamina for this longer wake window until after 6 months of age.
Before 6 months, most infants will settle into a nap schedule including 3 – 4 naps daily. Your baby will most likely need a morning nap around 9am, an afternoon nap around 1pm, and a shorter, late afternoon nap around 4 or 5pm. The last nap of the day tends to be the shortest. It’s okay to wake your baby from this nap in order to ensure she is ready for bedtime around 7 or 8pm.
Parents may also notice their baby starting to sleep longer stretches at night, possibly 5 hours or more, before waking to eat. The first sleep stretch of the night tends to be the longest and most restful for your baby. Ideally between 2 and 3 months, a baby will only need 2 or 3 feedings a night to allow for extended infant sleep times. Progress will continue as your baby nears the 4 month mark and she will only need 1 or 2 feedings a night.
Putting Baby Down Drowsy But Awake
Before 4 months of age, you may notice your baby has a hard time napping beyond 40-45 minutes at a time. This is because infant sleep cycles are fairly short at this young age. Infants wake a bit as each sleep cycle ends; so your baby is still learning to stitch her sleep cycles together. Help support your baby to self-soothe more easily and drift into the next sleep cycle. Do this by putting her to sleep in her bassinet or crib drowsy but awake, starting around 2 – 3 months old. Babies prefer their environment to be predictable, so when your baby starts to rouse as her sleep cycle comes to an end, she may open her eyes for a quick check of her environment.
Unknowingly, we check our surroundings between sleep cycles.
If she fell asleep in her crib and is still in her crib with everything as it was when she went to sleep, it is easier for her to close her eyes again and drift back into the next sleep cycle. However, if she fell asleep in your arms but now she is in her crib and you are nowhere to be found, that can be quite alarming for your baby. This will cause her to wake more fully and cry. Think about if you fell asleep on your couch only to wake and find yourself in your bed! It would be much harder to fall back asleep because you are in a different place and want to know how you got there. The same is true for your baby. Making baby aware of you placing her in the crib is important for teaching healthy sleep habits.
Infant Sleep: Fading the 3rd Nap
Between 4 – 6 months, your baby may start to nap more consistently and sleep in longer stretches (almost 2 hours). As this happens more and more frequently, while her wake window is also becoming a bit longer, you will start to see the need to drop the 3rd nap. This often happens around 6 months of age for your little one, but it is perfectly normal if she is still taking 3 naps a day until closer to 9 months. If she is tired, the best plan is to let her sleep until she is really ready to drop that late afternoon nap.
In addition, if your baby is waking multiple times a night after 4 months of age you can consider formal infant sleep coaching. Always consult your pediatrician, as every baby is different. Reach out to Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny for a sleep coaching consult or in home sleep coaching support. We are always happy to help!
About The Author
Courtney Poirier is a veteran Newborn Care Expert with Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny. She has many years of experience with sleep conditioning and coaching in daycare & home settings. Prior to working with babies, she was an elementary school teacher. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and their two sons. One is seven years old and the other is nine years old.