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Considering the popularity of my blog post for sleep schedules from 4 months to 18 months, I thought it was time to give toddler sleep some love! Read on to learn about different schedules for toddlers from 18 months [or 1 nap] to age 3! I will preface this blog post the same way I did my first schedule post by saying that all children are different and yours might not necessarily fit into this schedule perfectly every single day but it is just meant as a guide to know what is typical at each age and as your child grows.  I intended this to be a helpful guide to see what a day in the life of a toddler on an age-appropriate schedule looks like - meals, naps, and nightsleep. When looking at these schedules, what's important to note is the time awake in between sleep times, not necessarily the time on the clock [unless otherwise indicated]. I generally recommend laying the child down 15 minutes before these targeted 'asleep' times to give them ample time to fall asleep.

18 months [the start of the 2-1 transition]

Children at this age need roughly 13 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period, 1.5-3 hours of that sleep should occur in the daytime with 11-12 hours of sleep at nighttime.

Prior to the transition [age 13-18 months]:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:00am - snack
9:45am - 10:45am - nap#1 [to hold off the transition until this point, it's beneficial to cap this nap at 1 hour]
12:00pm - lunch
2:00pm - snack
2:45pm - 3:45pm - nap#2 [a full 4 hours of awake time between naps 1 and 2]
5:30pm - dinner
6:30pm - bedtime routine [should not include any milk, last milk with dinner!]
7:15pm - bedtime [asleep by this time]

One week into the transition:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:30am - either a big snack OR lunch split in half
10:15am - 12:15pm - nap [we pushed out the first nap by 15 minutes every 3 days. If the nap ends at noon or later, we move to bedtime. If the nap ends before noon, we do a catnap/quiet time around 3:00pm]
12:30pm - either a big snack OR the other half of lunch
2:30pm - small snack
5:00pm - dinner
5:30pm - bedtime routine
6:15pm - bedtime

Two weeks into the transition:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am -  breakfast
10:00am - either a big snack OR lunch split in half
11:00am - 1:00pm - nap [we continued to push the nap out by 15 minutes every 3 days]
1:15pm - either a big snack OR the other half of lunch
3:15pm - small snack
5:30pm - dinner
6:00pm - bedtime routine
6:45pm - bedtime

Four weeks into the transition [transition complete]:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:00am - snack
11:15am - lunch
12:00pm - 2:00pm - nap [nap was pushed out by 15 minutes every 3 days to a 5.5 hour waketime]
2:30pm - snack
5:45pm - dinner
6:15pm - bedtime routine
7:00pm - bedtime


19-23 months 

Children at this age require 12-12.5 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. 1.5-3 hours of that sleep should occur in the daytime and 10-12 hours of sleep at nighttime.

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:00am - snack
11:45am - lunch
12:30pm - 2:30pm - nap [if the child's 1 nap is well-established, we should move to a 'by the clock' nap occurring between 12:30-1:00pm. This nap should be no longer than 3 hours and not past 3:00pm]
3:00pm - snack
5:45pm - dinner
6:45pm - bedtime routine
7:30pm - bedtime

2 years old 

Children at this age require 12-12.5 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. 1-2 hours of that sleep could occur in the daytime and 10-12 hours of sleep at nighttime. After age 2.5, children do not developmentally *need* a nap like they did prior to this age [although the longer you can hang onto it, the better!] Keep in mind that if your child has dropped their nap, they should now be clocking the full 12-12.5 hours of sleep at nighttime, so bedtime should reflect that based on what time they normally wake up in the morning.

A 2 year old who is still taking a nap:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:30am - snack
12:00pm - lunch
1:00pm - 3:00pm - nap [at this age, the 'by the clock' nap should occur between 1:00-1:30pm. This nap should be no longer than 2 hours and not past 3:00pm]
3:30pm - snack
5:45pm - dinner
7:15pm - bedtime routine
8:00pm - bedtime

A 2.5 year old who is no longer napping:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:30am - snack
12:00pm - lunch
1:00pm - 2:00pm - quiet time [a quiet time every single day for a toddler who is not napping is extremely important. Even if they are not sleeping, time to re-charge their batteries for at least 45 minutes mid-day will help avoid major evening crankiness]
2:30pm - snack
5:15pm - dinner
5:45pm - bedtime routine
6:30pm - bedtime

3 years old

Children at this age require 11-12 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. 1-2 hours of that sleep could occur in the daytime and 9-12 hours at nighttime. For children who no longer nap, they should now be clocking the full 11-12 hours of sleep at nighttime, so bedtime should reflect that based on their usual wake-up time.

A 3 year old who is still taking a nap:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:30am - snack
12:30pm - lunch
1:30pm - 3:00pm - nap [at this age, the 'by the clock' nap should still occur between 1:00-1:30pm. This nap should be no longer than 2 hours [but may need to be closer to 1-1.5 hours to not interfere with nightsleep] and not past 3:00pm
3:30pm - snack
5:45pm - dinner
7:15pm - bedtime routine
8:00pm - bedtime

A 3 year old who is no longer napping:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:30am - snack
12:30pm - lunch
1:30 - 2:30pm - quiet time [a quiet time every single day for a toddler who is not napping is extremely important. Even if they are not sleeping, time to re-charge their batteries for at least 45 minutes mid-day will help avoid major evening crankiness]
3:00pm - snack
5:30pm - dinner
6:15pm - bedtime routine
7:00pm - bedtime

Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

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As October is SIDS Awareness Month, I wanted to write a post not only detailing what an ideal sleep environment for baby would be in terms of helping to promote quality sleep, but also ways that parents can achieve this while also making sure baby is safe. SIDS rates in Canada have fallen in recent decades and awareness and education is key.

Below, I will discuss the 3 main components that make up an ideal sleep environment for baby, and some tips to help ensure we have a safe environment for our little nuggets as well.

Baby Cave Component #1 - Temperature

The temperature in baby's room is an important factor for several different reasons. First and foremost, a cooler room for baby = better quality sleep. Over a 24 hour period, our body temperatures naturally peak and decline. Our internal temperature is usually at its highest in the early afternoon and lowest around 5:00am. When we fall asleep, our bodies naturally cool off. Helping baby's body get to that lower temperature faster can encourage deeper sleep. It can also help baby fall asleep quicker. If we provide an environment for our baby's body to fall asleep more comfortably, it will do so in a faster manner. If it’s too hot or too cold, baby's body will waste energy trying to regulate, making it harder for baby to fall asleep and stay asleep. So what is the ideal temperature for optimal sleep? We are aiming for somewhere in the neighborhood of 68-72°/19-21°. If you live in a house that is difficult to control the temperature and it is tough to achieve a room temperature in this range, dressing baby for the temperature is your next best option. Check out my chart here for what to dress baby in for varying room temperatures.

The next important reason for being aware of the temperature in baby's room is to reduce the risk of overheating. Interestingly enough, the risk of SIDS is higher in the colder months as caregivers tend to bundle baby up excessively by placing extra blankets [try a sleepsack instead!] or clothes to keep them warm. But over bundling may cause infants to overheat, increasing their risk for SIDS. Your baby should never feel hot to the touch - if you feel baby's chest or abdomen and it is hot or sweaty, we need to remove a layer of clothing or lower the room temperature. 

Baby Cave Component #2 - Darkness Level

It's tough to stress how much a dark space for baby can transform their sleep. Many parents fear by creating this ideal sleep environment, we are only conditioning baby to be a finicky sleeper, but it could not be further from the truth. An ideal sleep environment helps cultivate a good sleeper, and good sleepers are adaptable. Parents may report that their children have a bit of a tougher time sleeping in a new sleep environment when it is not dark [say, at daycare] but this is likely more closely related to the fact that it's a new and different sleep environment than the fact that it's not as dark as they are used to at home. While these children may go through a period of adjustment [just like any child would!] they are no worse off than a child who may have become accustomed to sleeping in a bright room at home. Why does a dark room make such a difference?

  • Quality of sleep: the quality of sleep is much higher in a room that is cool and the quality of sleep is almost much higher in a room that is dark. Darkness is essential to sleep. The absence of light sends a critical signal to a child's body that it is time to rest. Light exposure at the wrong times alters the body's internal "sleep clock" in ways that interfere with both the quantity and quality of sleep. Melatonin, often known as the "sleepy hormone" or the "vampire hormone" influences sleep by sending a signal to the brain that it is time for rest. This signal helps initiate baby's body's preparations for sleep—muscles begin to relax, feelings of drowsiness increase, body temperature drops - but melatonin is only produced when it is dark. Light exposure inhibits the naturally timed rise of melatonin, which delays the onset of the transition to sleep and sleep itself. So baby may be able to fall asleep eventually, but the onset of sleep is more challenging and the quality of the resulting sleep would be lower.
     
  • Overstimulation: as we all know, babies [and older kids as well!] are very easily overstimulated. Overstimulation happens when a child is swamped by more experiences, sensations, noise, and activity than he or she can cope with. A stimulating environment is important for our children to play in as it helps them learn and grow, but children also need downtime and the opportunity to spend time in a calm and stimulation-free environment. One big source of stimulation is light, but luckily it's also something that we can control especially at sleep times. By blocking out this stimulation when our babies are trying to sleep, we are making it easier for them to fall asleep [especially if your baby is an independent sleeper who falls asleep on their own without parental assistance] and to stay asleep [as all children will wake at the 30-45 minute mark for naps, and a dark room can help promote the transition into that next sleep cycle]. Especially if you are struggling with naps, experiment with getting baby's room darker - sometimes this in of itself can help encourage more quality daytime sleep. How dark are we aiming for? On a scale from 1-10, 1 being bright and sunny and 10 being pitch black, we want to get that room somewhere between an 8-10 day and night. This to me would mean that if you're in baby's room anytime during the day or at night and you were to have your hand outstretched in front of your face, it would be hard to make out your hand. 

A fantastic product to help achieve the proper darkness level [but still keeping it super affordable!] are these window covers. My kids spent a lot of time with tin foil over their windows as I struggled to find something that was equally as effective - until a client sent me a link for these! Life changing! Check 'em out!

Baby Cave Component #3 - Noise

This point goes hand-in-hand with the above point. While a baby can be easily overstimulated by light stimulation, another major source of overstimulation is sound stimulation. It isn't realistic [and oftentimes impossible!] to control all of the sound in our homes - you may live on a busy street or you may have other children at home that don't understand the concept of being quiet while baby sleeps. So while sound outside of the room cannot often be controlled, we can rely on white noise inside of the room to help block out or mask some of that noise. White noise has so many benefits for a child's sleep, including increasing the quality of sleep and helping to reduce stress and avoid overstimulation. While again, parents may be worried about a child becoming dependent on white noise, thankfully it's not addictive or habit-forming [want to get rid of it? Turn it down a notch every day until it's gone]. And even if your child does grow up to be an adult that prefers some sort of ambient sound when they sleep, it's much easier to re-create a sleep environment with a bit of background noise than to re-create a completely silent sleep environment. When baby was in your tummy, there was constant white noise [and it was about as loud as a lawnmower!] Silence is often deafening for babies. 

To use white noise safely and effectively, it's important that we ensure it is not too loud [it should be no louder than 50-60 dB, or about as loud as if you were in the bathroom with someone while they were showering]. The best spot to place the source of white noise in baby's room would be across from the crib, not right next to it. White noise should always play continuously [I'm talking to you, Sleep Sheep] and not on a timer. It should play for the entire duration of nightsleep and for naps as well. We should also be playing a boring, constant, and monotonous sound. No music [too stimulating!] or anything with 'too much' going on - plain white noise is great, or a constant rain/waves/heartbeat noise. White noise is also a great cue for sleep for baby, and especially if you are working on eliminating any sort of props from a child's sleep routine [nursing to sleep, rocking to sleep, bottle, etc.] replacing that with another sleepy cue [like white noise!] can help with that transition.

Extra Tips to Help Encourage a Safe Sleep Environment 
  • Always place baby to sleep on their back. Even once baby is able to roll, continue to always lay baby down on their back. Once they can roll on their own to their tummy, it is safe for them to sleep in that position, but back to sleep always.
  • Using a fan. The use of a fan has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS by up to 72%. A ceiling fan is great if it's available, but even a table fan can work to help encourage proper air flow.
  • Use a sleepsack. Blankets on a baby are likely to be kicked off within minutes, rendering them quite useless [and unsafe!] but a sleepsack isn't going anywhere. Kids don't often learn to pull blankets onto themselves until about 3-4 years of age, making a sleepsack very useful to keep kids cozy!

    Find more tips and guidelines here!

Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

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Summer is here! Which means lots of sun, lots of fun, and lots of - early morning wake-ups (boo!)  At this time of the year my inbox is flooded with parents desperate for help with children who are waking too darn early. It could be the late evening sun or the early morning sun [get that room dark parents!] that starts the problem, but it's often getting trapped in an early bedtime/early wake-up cycle that perpetuates the problem. I have a few posts here and here that address some other reasons why your child would wake early [and I'd recommend reading those first before proceeding with this article!] but this post is going to focus on one common cause of early wake-ups - a bedtime that is too early.  So if you've troubleshooted all other possible causes of the early wake-up but suspect this is your problem, read on parents!

What do we define as an 'early wake-up'?

You and me both sista!

'Early' is a bit subjective - early to one family might mean 7:00am and early to another family might mean 5:00am. For the purpose of this article, I define 'early' as a) anything earlier than 6:00am and b) a wake-up time that resulted in less than ~10-12 hours of nighttime sleep. 

What do we do first?

The first step when working to eliminate an early wake-up is to ensure that there isn't anything external that could be waking baby at an earlier hour. Is it too bright in baby's room in the evening or early morning? If you think of a scale from 1-10, one being bright and sunny and ten being pitch black, we want that room between an 8-10 for all sleep times. An 8-10, to me, would mean that any time you are in that room [for any sleep periods] and you were to have your hand outstretched in front of your face, it should be hard to make out your hand. Melatonin [the sleepy hormone] is only produced when it's dark [thus why it's called the 'vampire hormone'!] If that room is too bright when baby is trying to settle at night or trying to re-settle in the early morning, we aren't getting help from melatonin and this can lead to early wake-ups. Cheap ways to get that room nice and dark include black garbage bags on the windows, tin foil, a dark blanket, cardboard, etc. [go full ghetto on that room!] For something more long-term, check out these window covers - they work fantastic and are super affordable as well.

Once you've got your baby cave rockin', you've read my other two articles above and eliminated those factors as possibly contributing to your early wake-ups, and you're pretty certain you've got a baby stuck in an early wake-up/early bedtime cycle, your next step is a schedule shift.

What is a 'schedule shift'?

The term is pretty self-explanatory - we are attempting to shift the schedule. We never want to just push baby's bedtime later in hopes of shifting the schedule, as too-long of a stretch before bed will almost always lead to an early wake-up. We need to shift the entire schedule - naps and bedtime. Because we are stretching baby, the schedule shift can cause some overtiredness but we just have to persist - give the schedule shift a full week before deciding if it is working or not. The schedule shift looks differently for different nap schedules so I've broken it down by number of naps:

If your baby is on a 3 nap schedule:
  • Continue to leave your baby in their crib until 6:00am [if you've read the above articles, you'll know leaving them until 6:00am is important as by scooping your baby up earlier than 6:00am and exposing them to light/stimulation of any kind, we are re-setting that internal clock for 'early'!] Now, I don't mean you have to just leave them in their cribs alone, you could be comforting/reassuring during this time or even just sitting in the dark room with them!
     
  • Do not put down for baby's first nap until 8:15am. As baby progresses through the schedule shift, you'll want to push this 'no nap before' rule to 8:45am. Using an extra long wind down routine before sleep times to help calm baby if they are getting a bit overtired is a good strategy to help us make these desired nap times possible.
     
  • Do not put down for baby's second nap until 11:15am. As baby progresses, your goal is no put down before 11:45am [as a note, if your baby is currently not an independent sleeper, your goal would just be for baby to be soothed to sleep by about 15 minutes after these ideal put down times. So, perhaps you'd start rocking them at 11:45am with a goal of them being asleep by 12:00pm].
     
  • Do not put down for baby's third nap until 2:30pm.  As baby progresses, the goal would be no put down before 3:45pm [the variation here is bigger because this awake time is the least sensitive of the day, so we are able to stretch it a bit more without disastrous results].
     
  • Do not put down for baby's bedtime until 6:15pm. Our ultimate goal for put down will be no earlier than 6:45pm. Because bedtime is the most sensitive time of the day, an extra long bedtime routine is a really good idea! If you have a particularly tough day, a put down of 6:00pm would be appropriate, but keep working on it!
If your baby is on a 2 nap schedule:
  • Continue to leave your baby in their crib until 6:00am [if you've read the above articles, you'll know leaving them until 6:00am is important as by scooping your baby up earlier than 6:00am and exposing them to light/stimulation of any kind, we are re-setting that internal clock for 'early'!] Now, I don't mean you have to just leave them in their cribs alone, you could be comforting/reassuring during this time or even just sitting in the dark room with them!
     
  • Do not put down for baby's first nap until 9:00am. As baby progresses through the schedule shift, you'll want to push this 'no nap before' rule to 9:15am. Using an extra long wind down routine before sleep times to help calm baby if they are getting a bit overtired is a good strategy to help us make these desired nap times possible.
     
  • Do not put down for baby's second nap until 1:00pm.  As baby progresses, your goal is no put down before 2:00pm. The variation here is bigger because this awake time is the least sensitive of the day, so we are able to stretch it a bit more without disastrous results [as a note, if your baby is currently not an independent sleeper, your goal would just be for baby to be soothed to sleep by about 15 minutes after these ideal put down times. So, perhaps you'd start rocking them at 2:00pm with a goal of them being asleep by 2:15pm].
     
  • Do not put down for baby's bedtime until 6:15pm. Our ultimate goal for put down will be no earlier than 6:45pm. Because bedtime is the most sensitive time of the day, an extra long bedtime routine is a really good idea! If you have a day with two short naps, a bedtime put down of 5:45-6:00pm would be appropriate, but keep working on it!
If your child is on a 1 nap schedule:
  • Continue to leave your child in their crib/bed until 6:00am [if you've read the above articles, you'll know leaving them until 6:00am is important as by scooping your child up earlier than 6:00am and exposing them to light/stimulation of any kind, we are re-setting that internal clock for 'early'!] Now, I don't mean you have to just leave them in their cribs/beds alone, you could be comforting/reassuring during this time or even just sitting in the dark room with them!
     
  • For a child younger than 2 years of age: you want to slowly shift their nap later and later into the day until you are not putting them down for their nap any earlier than 12:15pm. What time did you put them down for their nap yesterday? Take that time and add 15 minutes. Every few days, add another 15 minutes until you are not laying them down until 12:15pm at the earliest [our ultimate goal is a nap occurring between 12:30-1:00pm].
  • For a child 2 years of age or older: you want to slowly shift their nap later and later into the day until you are not putting them down for their nap any earlier than 12:45pm. What time did you put them down for their nap yesterday? Take that time and add 15 minutes. Every few days, add another 15 minutes until you are not laying them down until 12:45pm at the earliest [our ultimate goal is a nap occurring between 1:00-1:30pm].
     
  • Continue to always be flexible with the timing of bed based on when your child woke up from their nap. For a child under the age of 2, we are aiming for bedtime to occur about 4.5-5 hours after the nap ends. For a child that is age 2 or older, bedtime should occur about 5 hours after the nap ends.
In summary...

Early wake-ups are tricky. The stronger your child's internal clock is, the stickier these early wake-ups will be. It can take time and patience to re-set that internal clock but it is possible! Hopefully the above strategies can help your family and I appreciate you taking the time to read! Have a wonderful summer!

Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

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