Should Baby Have A Nap Schedule?
Should my baby nap on a schedule, or just whenever he seems tired?
It all depends on the age of baby.
Before four months, baby needs an extraordinary amount of sleep — up to 20 hours per day. Some babies can only stay awake for an hour at a time and the day is more of a sleeping/waking cycle, as opposed to a schedule. At this time, you can start to keep a log of when baby is sleeping and awake. After a week or so, look back on the logs to see if he has some consistent sleep patterns that you can encourage from day to day.
After four months, baby is neurologically capable of differentiating between night and day, sleeping about 11 to 12 hours at night and splitting up his daytime sleep into three naps totaling three to four hours (until about six months) and then two naps totaling two to three-and-a-half hours (until about 12 months). At this point, he can benefit from a more predictable, established sleep schedule.
Ultimately, it's up to you if you want to make a nap schedule — you may find that takes a lot of guess work out of parenting. You don't have to worry that baby is getting too much sleep during the day or that you'll be escorting a cranky, overtired child to a playdate. Some parents who initially dislike schedules say that once they give them a try, they actually find them liberating. Even fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants parents quickly realize the value of guaranteed down time each day to eat lunch, catch up on email or take a much needed shower.