Putting Scout on a sleep schedule

We decided to put Scout on a sleep schedule in December of 2020. She was eleven months old at the time so it was near her first birthday. The decision was made while I was on school holiday; I was exhausted from what had been a tough year and was looking forward to resting over the break but found it very difficult to plan my days or have downtime because we were at her mercy when it came to playing and nap time. At the time we were living with my mother-in-law because our home was still being renovated. I had returned to work in June so I had very little insight into what the day looked like with a child that would not sleep; weekends, I feel, are short enough for me to have escaped the reality of the daily madness of looking after an almost toddler so it was only when I was faced with daily crying, irritation, over-tiredness (on Scout’s part) and general unpredictability that I felt I needed some consistency in our lives. The final straw was the night when I got up at 2am and spent  more than an hour pacing the lounge to help her fall asleep. That very night I put her to bed (around 4am) and decided at that hour that I was going to implement a schedule the following day. Yes, at 4am I sat with my pen and notepad and pieced together what would become a saviour of sorts; I was determined to make a go of it and was insistent that everyone followed my lead. It was the best decision I’d made and so I would like to share her schedule as well as the benefits with you in this post. 

The schedule: 

Time:Activity: 
5:30 – 7:00Wake up & bottle feed
8:00 Breakfast 
8:30 – 10:00Morning play (usually sensory/ outside)
10:00 – 10:30 Wind down and bottle feed
10:30 – 11:45Morning nap 
11:45 Wake up and morning snack 
12:15 – 13:30Midday play (usually with educational toys/ reading/ songs/ some screen time on occasion – cocomelon moms will know!)
13:30 Lunch 
14:00 – 15:00Child-led play
15:00 – 15:30Wind down and bottle feed
15:30 – 16:45Afternoon nap
16:45Afternoon snack
17:00-18:00Quality time with mom or dad (reading, playing)
18:00(ish)Supper 
18:30-19:30Family time (outdoor walks/ trike rides/ ball games/ peekaboo, etc.)
19:30Bathtime 
20:00Wind down & bottle feed/ bible story/ family prayer
20:30Bedtime (although she is usually asleep before)

Factors that influenced the schedule

I had to realistically look at what was possible for our family and our lives. In comparison to many families, Scout’s bath and bedtime is quite ‘late’ in the evening but since I’ve returned to work this year I find that the schedule allows for me to have some quality time with her in the evening. The later bedtime also amounts to her either sleeping through or waking for one bottle feed at night, which I feel is quite manageable. 

We needed to consider our daily routine and see whether the nap times we had chosen are times when we are actually at home which, in most cases, we are. I also thought about whether there was enough time for activity in between nap times and found that the average of four hours between each nap was the sweet spot for Scout as she would literally become cranky and start yawning around the time of her pre-nap bottle feed. 

Does the schedule work?

Like a charm! The greatest benefit for me is the fact that we get to spend time with a child that is sufficiently engaged and adequately rested. Since introducing the schedule Scout throws very few tantrums and seldom cries. The schedule not only amounted to her being a pleasant child but it also gave us, as her parents are caregivers, a routine that we could keep to. I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy structure so the predictability of her nap times means that I am able to plan some time for myself or for house chores that need my attention. 

I often take the afternoon nap with her, an added benefit for someone like me who loves napping! It’s the one thing that I’m glad to have continued since I was pregnant as it gives me the energy to push through when there are moments of unpredictability – like a sleepless night when a tooth pushes through. 

How strict are we about keeping to the schedule? 

I’d say that we are pretty strict about keeping to the schedule as we have seen the benefits of it. There will always be odd days and circumstances that one cannot control but as far as possible we try to keep visits, trips to the shop, appointments and commitments scheduled around her nap times. I’ve also learnt how important it is to keep her occupied between those nap times or we risk her being too awake to sleep when it is time to so we limit sedentary car travel time as much as possible (although I wonder how this would really work in a non-covid world!). 

When should one start a sleep/ daily schedule? 

I think the answer to this question is dependent on the individual and their child as we all feel that we and our children ready for things at different stages. It’s also okay to never have a schedule and to move at your child’s rhythm, which many moms do successfully; I just felt that I was so exhausted when Scout was at her busiest so the schedule has helped me to save energy for the ‘right’ moments in the day. 

Before December I was uncertain whether a schedule would work and, to be honest, I was nervous to start one as I was afraid I’d fail at it. But it’s been a wonderful thing to have introduced and we have only considered adjusting the schedule now that she is 15 months old and is showing signs of sleep regression. Yup! Just when you get it all correct they go through a leap and you have to reassess and adapt (oh, the joys of parenting!) but I’d say that we have had a good four month run on the schedule I’ve shared in this post. 

I’d also like to share that we have family members who have insisted on having their children on a sleep schedule from as early as three months of age and it has worked really well for them. 

A Final word: 

Moms, dads and children are different because they are made up of unique individuals. I believe that information is valuable but that it is worthwhile considering what may and may not work for your family. I think that the most important part about having a sleep schedule is having everyone buy into it; we’ve done so well because Wes, his mom (Scout’s day mother) and I have all agreed on the importance of it. As mentioned, we have seen the benefits for her, too so it is a decision we are happy to have made. 

I’d love to hear from other parents about their experiences with sleep and routines for their young children, so please leave a comment if you’ve got something to add to the conversation. 

Also, let me know if you’d like me to share our transition from two naps to one (as we have begun doing). 

As always, thank you for your readership. 

Until my next post, 

Bronny

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