Your Baby’s Ideal Sleep Schedule: 9 months through 15-18 months
The timing of when sleep is offered is one of the most important elements of healthy sleep.
There are certain times of the day, based on your child’s 24 hour body clock, or circadian rhythm, that they are naturally and biologically primed for sleep. This means that at certain times of the day, based on the clock, your child is going through hormonal and temperature changes that will make it very easy for your child to fall asleep, and have deeper sleep that lasts longer and comes with more restorative benefits.
Getting timing right for your child’s sleep is a win, win win. It is truly THAT significant and worth learning more about.
Many parents are stuck relying on “wake windows” or counting hours between sleep periods to identify the timing for their child’s next sleep period. This is a SUPER helpful tool in the newborn phase, but becomes increasingly less helpful as our newborns grow into babies and toddlers.
In fact, an overemphasis on “wake windows” often leads to children actually missing those natural sleep periods that make sleep easier, better, and longer. Instead, we want to be putting our children down for sleep in their most perfectly conducive and safe sleep environments right at the times when their bodies are naturally asking for sleep.
Offering our babies sleep at the right times, when their bodies are naturally preparing for sleep, is the absolute best! It’s one of the most important elements in making sleep come easily for our children, and absolutely pivotal for teaching independent sleep skills to our more sensitive sleepers.
First, it’s important to start the day with a consistent wake time. While sleeping “in” can happen sometimes, babies and toddlers are all biologically primed to be early birds. They do best when their day begins somewhere between 6 and 7am.
If your child is struggling with a sleep issue, I strongly recommend consistently waking them by 7am if they are sleeping later. If your child is an extra early bird and THAT RIGHT THERE is the problem, read more about solving early risings here, or download my free Early Risings Guide right on my website.
Children between the ages of 9 and 15-18 months do well on a two nap schedule.
Day sleep is hugely important for our babies, and both the morning and afternoon naps offer significant restorative value that is different from the value that comes from night sleep. For this reason, I strongly recommend prioritizing naps and creating consistent routines around day sleep that will help your babies soak up all of the rest and recovery their growing brains need to thrive.
The morning nap comes up quickly, and this is because the morning nap is a continuation of night sleep. End the nap routine and have your sweet baby ready to drift off between 8:30am and 9am to catch that natural sleep wave. The exact timing is going to depend on how well they slept the previous night, how late they slept that morning, and their own unique sleepy signs. This nap should last for one to two hours.
The afternoon nap, similarly, is not very far off from the morning nap. Babies really do need a lot of day sleep to counterbalance all of the intense learning they undergo every moment of the day. Have your baby’s nap time routine finished so they are ready to drift back into dreamland between 12pm and 1pm. The exact timing depends on how late they slept for the morning nap and their mood. This nap should last between 1-2 hours.
The morning and afternoon naps are hugely restorative and worth prioritizing even if it means missing activities or leaving events early.
I know, I know. It’s tough turning down activities! The upside is that when your baby is on a predictable nap routine with sleep being offered at the ideal times, you can be confident that your baby will be well rested, cooperative, curious, and pretty fun during wake times. It’s so much easier to plan activities when you don’t have to worry about fussy babies and meltdowns at every turn.
Bedtime is the most important element of any sleep schedule because when timed correctly, this is when the drive to sleep is at its strongest. Remember, babies and young children are biologically primed for an early to bed and early to rise schedule.
A bedtime that is too late is going to backfire because of the dreaded “second wind”. This is when your sweet little baby’s brain is noticing that their sleepy window has been missed, and it responds by producing stimulating hormones to help your baby stay awake! This makes it physically much more difficult for your baby to fall asleep at bedtime and/or sleep through the night.
A perfectly timed bedtime is going to be between 6pm and 8pm depending on the quality and length of your baby’s morning and afternoon naps, their mood, and the strength of their independent sleep skills.
In the presence of a sleep issue or during a sleep transition, shifting bedtime earlier is going to be the most important element in helping your child sleep well.
Here’s a quick glance at the ideal schedule for a baby 9 months though 18 months:
Wake up between 6am and 7am
Morning nap begins between 8:30am and 9am
Afternoon nap begins between 12pm and 1pm
Bedtime begins between 6pm and 8pm
If your child is struggling with sleep, modifying the times you are offering sleep with their natural body clock is going to have a significant and very positive effect on their ability to lean into better sleep more easily.
You might also be interested in learning more about the other meaningful ways you can help to improve your child’s sleep. If so, I recommend reading about my top 5 tips for healthy sleep for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.
If you’re interested in working one on one with me to create a comprehensive and personalized sleep plan to improve sleep for your baby as quickly and kindly as possible, schedule a free 15 minute discovery call to get started.