How do you get a 4.5 month old on a schedule?
Our daughter is 4.5 months old and still doesn’t have a “typical” sleep pattern. Her biological bedtime appears to be about11pm but never really gets to have a full nights sleep because the rest of us in the house, a three year old included, start our day in the 7 am hour. She is still only napping 30-45 minutes at a time and taking lots if naps thought the day until she finally is down for the night around 11pm. I want to be sure she’s getting all the sleep she needs and I’m unsure of how to help consolidate her sleep and get her to bed earlier so she can get more sleep overnight. She’s so far away from what seems to be typical for her age, is there a way to help get her there?
These are great questions and a lot of parents face this late bedtime problem at your daughter’s age, so know you aren’t alone! There is a strong drive to be awake before the biological bedtime, so if you are trying to make her sleep, then you’re probably fighting a losing battle. The first thing that I would do is to keep it dark from your daughter’s target bedtime on. For example, if you want her to start going to bed around 8:00 or 8:30, then keep it dark from that time until her biological bedtime. I assume she’s probably having a nap around that time anyway, so you can treat it like bedtime, by starting a bedtime routine and putting her down the way you do for the night. Obviously she will probably wake up 30-45 minutes later and that’s ok. If she can’t sleep, then just let her stay awake until 11:00, but keep her in the dark and play quietly. For example, you may have all of the lights off, but have a television or dim light on across the room with her facing away from the television/light in order to avoid having her be exposed to the light. Put her down at 11:00. The next night repeat the entire process, but put her down at 10:30, then the next night put her down at 10:00 etc. Keep edging her bedtime earlier until she is able to go down at the 8:00/8:30 time. In the morning, make sure she is in bright light shortly after she wakes up. This process will drag her circadian drive to sleep earlier, so that it matches the social time that you want her to be asleep and will allow her to get enough sleep through the night. Her naps are actually totally normal at her age (though probably frustrating!). It’s ok for her to take frequent 30-45 minute naps all day until she’s 5.5-6 months when naps start to consolidate into a more predictable pattern (see our ages and stages sleep chart on our blog www.babysleepscience.com). Good luck!