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Getting your baby on a schedule is one of the most difficult things to do. It’s hard on everybody because you’re already exhausted. However, pushing for a somewhat regular schedule could mean that everyone gets better sleep a majority of the time.
If you do that early on, you’ll find that by 3 months, you’ve settled into a more predictable routine. At 3 months, your child will follow roughly the same schedule everyday, and you’ll be able to plan things much easier.
The problem is that you may start to notice another set of issues creeping up that you didn’t anticipate. From teething and growth spurts to sleep regression and restless sleep, you should be prepared to sooth your baby back into a schedule that combats these things – all as you’re headed back to work.
Don’t fret. I have some helpful tips as well as a recommended schedule to keep you on track – and better yet, sane.
Sleeping at 3 Months
Your baby may be starting to sleep longer stretches at a time, and if you’re one of the few lucky parents whose baby is already sleeping through the night, count your blessings. If not, that’s fine, too. It won’t be long.
Your baby should also be more alert during the day now, meaning you are interacting with each other more. Their sleep will be concentrated among 2-4 naps per day and 11-12 hours of sleep at night.
At 3 months, your child needs at least 11-12 hours of sleep per night (although it may still be interrupted by feedings, and that’s fine), and at least 1-2 naps per day, hopefully at least 30 minutes to an hour each.
While some babies will take 3-5 short naps, others may take 2-3 longer naps. Both are perfectly normal. As your baby continues to grow, they will consolidate sleep even more.
Feeding at 3 Months
Along with consolidating sleep, there will be consolidated feedings. Your baby’s stomach is growing, too, and it can hold more food at once now. They can go longer stretches between feedings.
In some babies, you’ll notice an uptick in the number of feedings they do during the day so that they can drop feedings at night. Often, there will be cluster feedings right before bedtime and then they’ll sleep longer through the night.
While formula fed babies may have seriously started to pack on the pounds and be sleeping peacefully through the night, breastfed babies may not be as chubby and may still need more frequent night feedings.
Some parents may feel that now is the time to introduce more solid foods to nourish a growing appetite. However, you should be prepared for solid foods to have very little effect on sleep just yet. Check with your pediatrician before beginning any solid foods.
What to Expect
There are plenty of common parenting challenges, but feeding and sleep are some of the biggest. Every baby is different, so you can’t assume your baby will follow the same schedule as someone else’s, but you can prepare for some of the challenges you might expect at 3 months of age.
As your baby needs fewer night feedings these days, they may become a restless sleeper. They’re used to waking up often, so when their tummy doesn’t wake them up, they may have some difficulty understanding how to stay asleep for longer periods.
You can prepare by ensuring they get plenty to eat during the day and gradually reduce the number of night feedings by stretching the time between them. Doing it slowly can ease your child into longer periods of sleep and reduce fits or restlessness.
Negative associations with sleep
By now, you may have transitioned from a bassinet to a full size crib, and your child may even be sleeping alone. This can be hard for infants, so if your child struggles with going to sleep or staying that way, it could be because they don’t want you to leave them alone just yet.
You can prepare for this by being consistent at bedtime and doing things your child looks forward to. Bathing, eating, reading, cuddling, dimming the lights, turning on white noise, and swaddling can all be important parts of your bedtime routine, helping your child relax and learn to be without you.
Irritability, drooling, and biting are all signs that your baby has started the teething process. Some babies get their first teeth around this time, and teething doesn’t take a break for sleep. It’s painful to say the least.
Make sure your child has plenty of teething toys with fun textures. Anytime your child is putting anything in their mouth, you should be supervising. You can also use mild medicine for aching gums or consult your pediatrician if you’re worried.
Many times, sleep regression manifests in frequent waking. While it’s a sign that your baby is maturing, it can be frustrating to go from long stretches of sleep back to waking four or more times per night.
Stick to your schedule during the day, no matter how tired you are. If your baby is overtired, they will have a hard time settling down, so you need to make sure you keep up with sleep training as best you can.
As babies grow, their sleep patterns change, and it’s all completely natural. But if they’re experiencing growing pains, it can interfere with sleep even more, and they may begin to exhibit signs of restless sleep, waking in pain, or waking more frequently.
As babies go through growth spurts, it’s also common for them to have an increase in appetite, meaning they could begin waking more often for additional feedings again.
It’s also important that they get the food and the rest they need during the day to help them grow. The growth spurt will pass quickly and they should very soon be their normal, restful, happy self.
Getting on a Schedule
If you’re gearing up for big changes at 3 months, you can follow a sample schedule or create one that will work for you. Beginning at about 2 months, 2-3 weeks, you can begin migrating to this schedule to prepare for a more defined pattern.
The schedule that works for you will be different than what works for others, and a breastfeeding baby will have a different schedule than a formula fed baby. It’s up to you to establish the right schedule for you and your baby, especially in light of going to daycare or returning to work.
There’s no wrong answer, as long as you and your baby are comfortable with the schedule. In any schedule, there should be fixed points that don’t change during the day. You can decide which fixed points these are, but this will give your schedule more stability and help your child learn the routine.
It’s recommended that these fixed points happen at least twice a day in the morning and at bedtime. You can add a third or fourth fixed point in the middle of the day at naptime or feeding time if you wish.
Sample schedule for a breastfed 3 month old baby
7:00am – Wake and feed*
9:00am – Nap
9:30am – Wake and feed
11:30am – Feed and nap
1:30pm – Wake and feed
2:30pm – Nap
3:00pm – Wake and feed
5:00pm – Feed and nap
7:00pm – Feed
7:30pm – Nap
9:00pm – Feed and bed*
10:30pm – Fill-up feed before Mom’s bedtime
*Suggested fixed point
Sample schedule for a formula fed 3 month old baby
7:30am – Wake and feed*
9:00am – Nap
10:30am – Wake and feed
12:00pm – Nap
1:30pm – Wake and feed
3:00pm – Nap
5:00pm – Wake and feed
8:00pm – Feed and bedtime*
10:00pm – Fill-up feed before Mom’s bedtime
*Suggested fixed points
It can be hard to maintain these schedules exactly when your child isn’t awake for very long between naps or when a nap gets interrupted because of a feeding. However, keeping two fixed points when waking up and when going to bed will help maintain the beginning of a good routine.
How to Put Your Baby to Sleep
It’s important to put your baby to sleep safely when it’s time for a nap or bedtime. It can reduce the risk of SIDS and ensure your baby gets more restful sleep. Here are a few tips you should continue to follow at 3 months old:
- Never put your baby in bed with you
- Always put your baby to sleep on their back
- Make sure you have a firm crib mattress with no loose bedding
- With a pacifier if desired
- Dressed comfortably for the room’s temperature
Tips for Ensuring a Good Night’s Sleep
Being consistent is the key to making sure your baby gets a good night’s sleep. That’s why fixed points in your schedule are so important. It’s also important to establish a bedtime routine and stick to it.
Try these tips to see if they work for you:
- Give your baby a massage. It can be relaxing, even for babies. They are growing rapidly, which can lead to muscle aches and pains, just like adults get.
- Read a story. Engaging with your child through books and pictures is a great way to bond and relax.
- Sing a lullaby. Babies love music, and hearing your voice ring in their ears softly will help soothe them at bedtime.
- Turn on some white noise. There are plenty of great noise makers for babies on the market. Some include lullabies, some have rain or ocean sounds, and some will even sound like a fan humming.
- Let your baby squirm. It may take a few minutes for them to wind down, and it’s fine if they wiggle, babble to themselves, or even fuss for a little bit before going to sleep.
- Eliminate stimulation. You shouldn’t be doing things to keep your baby alert. Remove distractions like loud noises, bright lights, or lots of movement. Sit calmly, read, sing, cuddle, dim the lights, and then put them down.
If you have a 3 month old, or you will shortly, you should be prepared for your schedule to begin to change. For better or for worse, your baby is growing quickly and you’ll be hitting this exciting milestone soon enough.