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Ask Malia: Nap Routine for Four-Month-Old

Hi Malia!

I have a few sleep questions for you about Casey, who’s 4-and-a-half-months old. I would love for him to sleep for longer periods of time at night. Right now he sleeps about a 4-hour stretch, and is then up every 2 hours after that till morning. We put him to bed at 7 and he is up by 6:30 am.

Next, he is a really bad napper. He doesn’t seem to have any type of nap routine. Some days he sleeps 30 minutes, other days 3 hours. I’m really not sure where to go with his nap routine or when he should be napping during the day. We’re pretty on-the-go during the day, so I think that’s part of why he hasn’t fallen into a nap pattern, but I’m not sure how to fix it.

I welcome any suggestions/advice that you have and thank you so much!!



Hi Jana,

Even though his nighttime sleep isn’t exactly where you’d like it to be yet, it’s not so terrible. It’s normal for babies his age to wake a couple times at night to nurse, and his is a fairly typical nighttime sleep pattern. I imagine that he will drop his 11 pm feeding soon (perhaps with some support from you), and then gradually drop his 1 am feeding as well. For many babies, the feeding between 3-5 am is the last to go.

Another thing about this sleep pattern—it does not suggest to me that Casey is terribly overtired and that overtiredness is causing him to wake at night. (Very overtired children will often wake up shortly after being put to bed at night, so they don’t get the long stretch that Casey is getting from 7-11 pm.) His lack of regular naps might lead to a conclusion that he’s overtired, but I’m not sure that’s the case. He may just be a baby who doesn’t need to nap all that much.

But at his age, he'll benefit for a bit more predictability and being at home for more naps—I know this is tough because you’re so on-the-go, but it comes with the territory of having on older baby. Once babies outgrow the newborn stage, a consistent nap routine and a consistent nap environment are important aspects of daytime rest.

At 4-5 months, most babies are ready to be awake for 2-3 hour stretches during the day. That means every 2-3 hours he needs to be going back down for another nap.  I want to stress that while he will benefit from a more structured routine, don’t allow/encourage him to take overly long naps. This may discourage him from sleeping at night. Because he is taking multiple naps per day, 1.5 hours is long enough for each nap.

Your goal with his naps is to allow him to rest and refresh and get through the day without becoming overtired. Just put him down for a nap every 2.5-3 hours and let his naps be the length that they are, and wake him after an hour or so (1.5 hours max).

So his nap routine would look something like this:

6:30 am wake

Nap 1—8:30 am to 9:30 am

Nap 2—12 pm to 1 pm

Nap 3—4 pm to 4:45 pm

Bedtime 7:30-8 pm

This routine is a starting point for you to experiment and see what works best for Casey. If he fights sleep on this routine and takes short naps, he may be ready to stay awake for longer stretches.

The idea is not to put him on a strict sleep schedule. He’s still a baby and you want to enjoy him, first and foremost. The idea is just to get him down for his nap within a predictable time window before he becomes overtired, so he can rest, refresh and continue his day.

Let me know if you have questions and good luck!

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