Quick question about my little Alice—at what point should I start enforcing a strict sleep schedule? Currently, she gets up between 6:30 and 7:30 and throughout the day, goes down for a nap about 2 hours after waking up from her last nap. This has her napping 3 to 4 times before going to bed around 9 p.m. She just turned 9 months old and luckily, goes down pretty easily. I am just not sure when to start waking her up in the am if she 'oversleeps' like she is today (it is 8 a.m. and she isn't up yet but she has been sick so I am not surprised she needs to catch up a bit).
First, I never advocate strict schedules for babies, young children—or really, anyone. I’m not much of a strict scheduler, myself. I am, however, a fan of flexible routines that bend when you need them to, and more importantly, bend back.
At 9 months, Alice is old enough to be taking 2 daily naps (one in the a.m., one after lunch), not 3 or 4 . Many babies take a third nap, a short late afternoon/early evening nap (30-45 minutes at most) that they drop around 9 months.
To get her routine started, I suggest waking her up by 7:30 at the latest—setting a consistent a.m. wake-up time is the single most important thing you can do to encourage a consistent, healthy sleep routine. Because she still takes multiple daytime naps, letting her snooze later in the a.m. results in a late bedtime and a routine that varies widely from day to day.
In the morning, try a nap around 10 a.m., and another nap around 1:30 or 2 p.m. If she can't make it to bedtime without a third nap, a short nap around dinnertime is OK--no more than30- 45 minutes, just to get her through. Since this nap is so brief, it can be in a swing, carrier, or carseat if needed. Then she can go to bed around 7 or 7:30 p.m.
So instead of 3 to 4 naps, it's more like 2.5. You're still not keeping her awake for much longer than 2 to 2.5 hours at a time (though at her age many babies can go 3 hours or more, so it wouldn't hurt to gently stretch her awake periods if she's ready). But with fewer naps, her naps should be longer, and she can go to bed earlier (yay!).
Good luck, and let me know how it goes!