It’s important to remember that, during the first year, things are often unpredictable, so you’ll need to adjust the schedule when needed. Start with a morning or evening routine and build on that. Incorporate things that your child does naturally, but try to keep a consistent order.
If you find that your child is still sleeping when they should be waking up, it’s fine to wake them in the morning or after a nap so that you can keep the schedule on track – but only if they’re getting enough sleep overall.
For toddlers, it’s a good idea to schedule nap times and playtimes. Frequently remind them what is going to happen next in the day, especially as you lead up to bedtime.
Remember that daily schedules rely on consistency, so that both children and parents know what to expect. You might need to try your new schedule for several weeks before you see signs of improvement.
How Much Sleep Do Babies and Toddlers Need?
Newborns sleep up to twenty hours per day in their first two weeks of life. Trying to establish a napping schedule right away for your little one is a futile effort. This could also interfere with breastfeeding by affecting your milk supply. Once your baby graduates from newborn status, you can start to make naps part of the rhythm of your day. Babies need 12 – 16 hours of sleep daily until they reach their first birthday, so naps are an important part of their life.
Most children aged 2 – 3 need about 12 – 14 hours of sleep per day. Some toddlers may sleep more during the night and have shorter naps, while others may sleep less at night and have a longer nap.
Here’s a basic break down of napping by age:
- 3 – 6 months: three to four naps daily
- 6 – 9 months: two to three naps daily
- 9 – 12 months: one to two naps daily
- 12 months to 3 years: once per day
Is There an Ideal Wake Up Time and Bedtime for A Toddler?
As your toddler needs about 12 – 14 hours of sleep per day, you’ll need to find the best bedtime and wake up time for you. For example, if your toddler needs to wake up at around 6 a.m. to go to day care, then it’s best that you try to get their bedtime as 6.30 p.m. If your toddler can sleep in a bit later in the morning, such as 8 a.m., then their bedtime can be adjusted to 8 p.m.
Respect Routine Bedtime Rituals
A consistent bedtime routine, or setting specific ‘rituals’ before the lights go out, will signal to your child that it’s time to sleep. Just as the daily schedule keeps their body clock on track, your child will learn to associate a bedtime routine with sleepiness.
It’s important that a bedtime routine is calming, and you and your child end up where your child goes to sleep. The routine should end with a favourite part, such as hearing a favourite bedtime story. For example, the routine could begin with a bath, and then changing into pyjamas. You could add in a snack, and then read a bedtime story in bed.
If repeated in the same order every day, the pattern will be recognisable. For toddlers, a routine that includes bath time and books might take up to forty-five minutes. Time the routine well so that it doesn’t have to be rushed; if it’s rushed, it’s not calming.