Figuring out your baby’s sleep schedule can be tough!
So if you’ve been following this blog for long enough, you’re probably aware of the fact that putting a baby to sleep when he’s overtired can be a recipe for disaster, right? I mean, overtiredness causes difficulty falling asleep, nightwakings, early rising, and short naps. And if you hit the jackpot, you might end up with all four of these!
This means that your little one must be put down for a nap or bedtime JUST as he’s beginning to get tired, BEFORE he becomes overtired. Fantastic. I know that you know this already 🙂
So how are you supposed to know when your little one is ready for sleep?
Easy- just look out for his sleepy cues, right? The second you see your little one yawn/rub her eyes/pull her ears/etc., it means with 100% certainty that he’s getting tired and is ready to go to sleep…correct?
Ehh- not so much.
Here’s the lowdown with sleepy signs:
By the time your baby is at least 3-4 months of age, sleepy signs can become unreliable. For this reason, sleepy signs SHOULD NOT be used as the primary factor to determine sleep times.
That’s right, you read that correctly. Many of you are probably very confused reading this. I repeat- do not go by your baby’s sleepy cues as the sole factor to determine sleep times.
- Your little one could easily mislead you into thinking that he’s ready for a nap (or bedtime), when he isn’t. This scenario is especially common with babies who are waking frequently at night and/or taking short naps and aren’t getting enough consolidated sleep over a 24 hour period. If this describes your baby, he might be yawning all day! It doesn’t mean he’s always ready for a nap, though. It simply means he needs more uninterrupted sleep over a 24 hour period. There’s a very big difference between a yawn that means “I’m tired because I’m ready for nap” versus a yawn that means “I’m tired because I was up partying 5 times last night”. Getting him down too soon for a nap WILL backfire!
- Your little one could easily mislead you into thinking that he’s NOT ready for a nap (or bedtime), when he really is. This scenario is especially common with babies who are always happy and smiling, no matter what. Anyone here blessed with one of those babies? My older daughter had a permanent smile on her face as a baby- it’s wonderful! The “problem” here is that these babies often don’t show clear sleepy signs until they’re already overtired. Getting him down too late for a nap WILL backfire as well!
So what should you be using instead to determine sleep times?
My advice is ALWAYS to use wake periods for this purpose. The amount of time your baby is awake for in between sleep should be the primary factor used to determine nap times and bedtime. And sleepy signs, on the other hand, should always be used as a secondary factor.
If you’re not sure what your baby’s wake windows should be, download my FREE sleep chart HERE that outlines my suggested wake windows, sleep totals, and number of naps for little ones ages up to 5 years!