As precious and adorable as newborns are, everyone can agree that they keep some unusual hours!
Especially in the early days, every parent or caregiver knows how exhausting it can be as babies may sleep often — but for very short periods and not always when you’re desperate for them to do so.
And don’t get us started on the advice of “nap when they nap”.
But as babies progress, a sort of schedule can emerge naturally, or it can be encouraged with a little planning. If you’re wondering what a 3-month-old’s sleep schedule looks like, we’re breaking down everything you need to know to help create a little order among the newborn chaos.
Most 3-month-old infants should be getting a total of
Of course, your 3-month-old isn’t going to be awake for a full 8 hours at a time. During this stage, it’s not unusual for little ones to wake for a few hours and then sleep for a few hours, around the clock.
However, around 3 months, some babies will start to get on board with the whole days/nights thing and begin to sleep through the night for as many as 6 to 8 hours at a time — a welcome change for sleep-deprived parents.
Keep in mind that all babies are different, and each one reaches sleep milestones at their own pace. So, while one child might magically begin to sleep longer stretches at night, other babies (and their parents) might still be waking every few hours through the night.
Most medical experts don’t recommend trying to force a baby into a sleep schedule at this age. Usually, they’ll recommend waiting until your baby is 4 or 5 months old before you begin sleep training.
That said, there are things you can do now to lay the framework for a sleep schedule as your baby gets older.
One of the most important things you can do is to create a consistent routine as much as possible. This means you should wake your baby up and put them to bed at the same times every day.
Babies crave routines, and by maintaining a standard time, you’ll help naturally adjust your baby’s internal clock to that schedule as they get older.
Also, make sure that your baby’s sleeping space is quiet, dark, cool, and calming. Likewise, put your baby to bed when they’re drowsy rather than waiting until they’re completely asleep to put them down.
There’s no one sleep schedule that all parents must follow. Keep in mind that every baby is different and while some children may nap like champs, others may not. Likewise, at 3 months, most experts warn against attempting to force a sleep schedule.
However, in general, with a 3-month-old baby with a goal of 14 to 17 hours of sleep per day, that often breaks down to 3 to 5 daytime naps that can last between 30 minutes and 2 hours.
And of course, the remaining sleep occurs at night, with some lucky parents experiencing hours long stretches of uninterrupted time as their little ones snooze. If that’s not you just yet, hang in there.
Below are two examples of a sleep schedule for a 3-month-old baby. Remember that babies aren’t robots! While some babies may consistently take predictable naps, not every baby will follow that routine.
Likewise, feeding on demand is preferable to rigidly scheduled feedings, so you’ll need to adjust your expectations to ensure that your baby is getting as much nourishment as they need depending on how their feedings go.
Sample sleep schedule with longer naps
This schedule is ideal for babies that tend to nap for consistently longer periods. Specifically, if you have a baby that sleeps roughly 60 to 90 minutes at a time.
- 7:30 a.m.: Baby wakes up for the day and has first feeding
- 9 a.m.: First nap of the day
- 10 a.m.: Baby wakes up and is fed
- 11:30 a.m.: Second nap of the day
- 12:30 p.m.: Baby wakes up and is fed
- 2 p.m.: Third nap of the day
- 3:30 p.m.: Baby wakes up and is fed
- 5 p.m.: Fourth nap of the day
- 6 p.m.: Baby wakes up and is fed
- 7 p.m.: Start bedtime routine
- 7:30 p.m.: Bedtime (two to three feedings overnight)
Sample sleep schedule with shorter naps
If your little one tends to sleep for less than an hour during nap time, this might be a schedule to consider. Note that total nap times can vary from as short as 30 minutes to as much as 1 hour.
- 7 a.m.: Baby wakes up for the day and has first feeding
- 8 a.m.: First nap of the day
- 8:45 a.m.: Baby wakes and is fed
- 10:15 a.m.: Second nap of the day
- 11 a.m.: Baby wakes and is fed
- 12:30 p.m.: Third nap of the day
- 1 a.m.: Baby wakes and is fed
- 2 p.m.: Fourth nap of the day
- 3 p.m.: Baby wakes and is fed
- 5 p.m.: Fifth nap of the day
- 5:30 p.m.: Baby wakes and is fed
- 7 p.m.: Start bedtime routine
- 7:30 p.m.: Bedtime (two to three overnight feedings)
Of course, every tired parent yearns for the day that their baby sleeps through the night.
While there’s no magical way to make it happen overnight, there are things that you can do that will affect how easily your baby falls asleep and whether they successfully sleep without waking until the morning.
Specifically, infant sleep experts note that consistency, sleeping environments, your interactions with your baby if they wake during the night, and nighttime feeding schedules can have a direct impact on how successfully you’re able to transition your baby into consistently sleeping through the night.
First, consider your bedtime routine. Babies crave consistency, and having a bedtime routine can help your baby recognize that it’s time for little eyes to close.
Whether it’s a bath followed by a bedtime story or lullaby and a quiet cuddle before bed, maintaining a routine helps children understand that when certain activities occur, bedtime will quickly follow.
Likewise, consider your baby’s sleeping environment. Just as with adults, the wrong environment can make it hard for little ones to not only fall asleep but stay asleep.
- Remove any distractions, like televisions or other screens.
- Keep lights dimmed and noise quiet.
- Dress them comfortably for sleep.
- Keep the room cool.
- Make sure that they’re fed and freshly diapered.
- Always place your baby in a safe sleeping space, on their back.
Think about how you interact with your baby if they wake up during the night.
It’s not uncommon for babies to wake up briefly and fuss or squirm before falling back to sleep. If your first instinct is to rush in and tend to them, take a moment to pause because your nurturing instincts may backfire.
Just as with adults, a baby’s sleep cycles through the night. There are times when they’re in a light sleep stage or temporarily awake where they may fuss a bit or move around.
Often, your baby can fall back to a deeper sleep on their own. But seeing you can wake them up, and make it harder to get them back to sleep.
If they do wake completely and need you for a feeding or a diaper change, keep interactions to a minimum.
Avoid playing, turning on lights, or doing anything that would signal it’s time to wake up and be active. Keep the lights low, change their diaper or feed them, and then return them to their sleeping area.
Finally, your feeding schedules can also impact whether your child might wake up overnight. If their last feed before their bedtime is at 7 or 8 p.m., and they wake 6 hours later between 2 and 3 a.m., consider changing things up to give you a more solid block of sleep.
You can opt to wake your child at 11 p.m. for a final feeding before you go to bed instead of waiting for them to wake. With consistency, this can adjust their schedule so that you’ll both be able to sleep better overnight.
Even if you’re able to get your baby on a sleep schedule, some scenarios can arise that may cause changes to their sleep.
It’s not uncommon to experience sleep regression during key moments in a baby’s development such as at 4, 8, 10, and 12 months. Common causes include gaining important gross motor skills like learning to roll over, crawl, or walk, as well as mastering additional language skills.
Additionally, a sick child or life changes can also disrupt regular sleeping patterns. Things like a move, a parent returning to work, or other factors can temporarily affect sleep.
At 3 months into this parenting gig, as much as you may be sleep-deprived and yearning for your little one to sleep on a dependable schedule, it’s not guaranteed that it will happen.
At this stage, try to focus primarily on creating and encouraging a routine whenever possible so that as your child gets older they’re already equipped with good sleep habits.
At the same time, do what you can to ensure that you’re getting the best sleep you can so that you can enjoy spending your waking hours with your growing little one.