Hacking Your Baby's Sleep Schedule: Tips for Restful Nights

By: Dr. Nazeli Gevorgyan - November 10, 2023 - 12 Minute Read

Hacking Your Baby's Sleep Schedule | The Milky Box

Struggling to get a good night’s sleep? If you’re a parent tired of being tired and wondering if there’s a way to help your baby self-soothe for more restful nights, you’re in the right place.

In this article, we’ll show you how to hack your baby’s sleep schedule and introduce self-soothing techniques for those restful nights you’ve been dreaming of.

How Much Sleep Does Your Baby Need?

Similar to adults, babies, and children have varying sleep patterns. Right from birth, the amount of sleep required can differ from one child to another. We’ll provide insights into the average daily sleep requirements for babies. 

Sleep Averages for Babies

Newborns need time to develop a sleep routine due to the development of their circadian rhythms. They sleep more than they are awake, with daily sleep ranging from 8 to 18 hours. 

0–3 months

Typically, newborns wake up for feeding every 3 hours, and their sleep lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. Night awakenings are common as babies need to be fed. Breastmilk provides the calories essential for a growing baby’s brain. Newborns have small stomachs, and breastmilk is digested quickly, so they should eat every 2 to 3 hours to support their growth. 

3–6 months

As your baby grows, they’ll wake up less at night. By 4 months, they might sleep twice as long at night compared to daytime. Some babies can sleep for 8 hours or more at night, but it’s not the case for all babies.

They will typically have two naps a day – one in the morning and one in the early afternoon after the newborn period. Some babies might also benefit from a late-afternoon nap.

6–12 months

At 6 to 12 months, your little one may sleep up to 12 hours at night, and night feeds may not be needed. Teething pain or hunger might cause some babies to wake up during the night. When your baby reaches about 10 months to a year of age, they’ll probably stop taking the morning nap. 

Average Sleep Range | The Milky Box

Breastfed Vs. Formula-Fed Babies

Formula-fed babies often follow a regular feeding schedule, with feeding every 3 to 4 hours in the first month. Typically, around 2 to 4 months of age, or when the baby weighs more than twelve pounds (5.44 kg), most formula-fed babies no longer require nighttime feedings. 

Their sleep patterns become more predictable, and most of them experience longer, uninterrupted stretches of sleep at night, although this varies from one baby to another. Their stomach capacity also increases, allowing them to go longer between daytime feedings, sometimes sleeping up to 4 or 5 hours at a time.

In contrast, breastfed infants tend to wake up and feed more frequently during the night compared to formula-fed babies, which is the normal pattern for human infants.

Understand How a Baby Sleeps

Sleep can be categorized into two types: light sleep and deep sleep. Newborns need a lot of sleep, with approximately 60% of their sleep being in the light sleep phase. This allows their brains to develop and makes it easier for them to wake up for feedings.

Breastfed babies are more likely to wake during active sleep compared to formula-fed babies. As your baby grows, they will gradually spend more time in deep sleep.

Do Babies Need a Schedule?

In the beginning, there’s no fixed schedule, and newborns have their days and nights mixed up, thinking they should be awake at night and sleep during the day. This can be challenging for parents.

Gradually introducing a baby schedule is a promising idea. It offers a sense of order and comfort, which babies appreciate. It’s important to remain flexible and responsive, rather than sticking to a strict schedule, to meet the baby’s changing needs. A schedule with general timings for feeding, sleep, and activities can create a peaceful routine for both the baby and you.

What's a Good Baby Schedule?

Baby schedules aren’t the same for everyone. Babies have unique sleep patterns, and as your baby grows, you’ll get to know their signals for feeding and sleep, so you can create a schedule that suits your family.

When do Babies Start Sleeping Longer at Night? 

Many infants begin sleeping through the night by 6 months, around 5–6 hours without feeding. Some do it even sooner, at 4 months. It’s normal for babies to wake up at night, sometimes as often as 6 times. These patterns change during their first year due to what experts call “sleep regression”, where they might cry more at night, even after sleeping well last week. 

Newborn Soothing 

When your baby wakes up, they might require you to rock or hold them to help them get back to sleep. Babies under 3 months rely on your comfort because they haven’t yet learned to manage their emotions. To discover effective soothing methods for your newborn, consider using the ‘’4S’s and 5S’s techniques’. 

The Four S’s and Five S’s Methods

Dr. Harvey Karp designed these techniques to replicate the womb environment, soothe babies, and help them sleep more easily and soundly.

The 4S’s stand for:

1. Swaddling: Wrapping the baby snugly in a blanket to provide a secure feeling.

2. Side or Stomach Position: Holding the baby on their side or stomach while supporting their head, which can help soothe them.

3. Shushing: Making a rhythmic “shushing” sound to mimic the noise they heard in the womb, which can be calming.

4. Swinging: Gently rocking or swinging the baby, which mimics the motion they experienced in the womb.

The doctor later added a 5th S:

5. Sucking: Offering a pacifier or allowing the baby to nurse, as sucking can provide comfort and relaxation.

A study showed that using the “4S’s technique” helped babies learn to regulate their feeding, sleep, and crying. It was more effective during the 7th and 11th weeks of a baby’s development in shaping their self-regulation behaviors.

Soothing Your Newborn | The Milky Box

Self-Soothing for Your Baby

However, once your baby reaches around 3–4 months of age, you can start teaching them how to self-soothe. Babies who can self-soothe can calm themselves with minimal or no assistance from you. This process may take some time, but it’s beneficial for both the baby and you in the long term.

When your baby can self-soothe, they:

1. Fall asleep on their own.

2. Get back to sleep if they wake up during a nap or at night.

To support your baby in gaining these self-soothing abilities, consider these tips.

Meet Your Baby’s Needs

Take care of your baby’s needs first, as self-soothing won’t work when these aren’t met. Check for a wet diaper, suitable clothing for the room temperature, distractions in the room, gas, hunger, and thirst.

Follow the Eat, Wake, Sleep Cycle 

Pay attention to your baby’s natural sleep and feeding patterns. Babies often provide cues when they’re hungry or tired.

Create a routine of feeding, playtime, and then bedtime for your baby. This helps them understand when it’s time to eat and when it’s time to sleep.

Offer your baby plenty of attention when they’re awake. Try to put your baby to bed at the same time each day, and make sure they don’t miss naps or stay up too late. Having a regular schedule prevents them from getting too tired, which can make it harder for them to self-soothe.

Get Your Baby Used to Night and Day

Help your baby develop a circadian rhythm by exposing them to bright, sunny spaces during the day and reducing light exposure at night. When attending to your baby at night, maintain a calm and quiet atmosphere without engaging in conversation or play. The aim is for your baby to understand that nighttime is for sleep, while daytime involves activities like opening curtains, playing games, and responding to everyday noise.

Use White Noise

A fan’s sound or the white noise from a machine can be comforting for your baby. It also helps to mask sudden noises. Turning on a white noise machine at bedtime can signal to your baby that it’s time to sleep.

Start Weaning the Night Feedings 

Night weaning can be safe for your baby if they are in good health and have reached an appropriate weight. Gradually reduce nighttime feedings to encourage longer stretches of sleep. Consult your pediatrician to determine when it’s suitable to start night weaning your baby. 

A Bedtime Routine to Complement Your Baby Schedule 

Create a bedtime routine lasting about 20 to 30 minutes to help your baby wind down and understand it’s time for sleep. This routine is an excellent opportunity for one-on-one bonding with your baby.

1. Starting with feeding is a helpful idea to prevent them from relying on feeding to fall asleep.

2. Give your baby a soothing bath.

3. If applicable, brush your baby’s teeth.

4. Change your baby into night clothes and provide a fresh diaper.

5. Put your baby to bed in a peaceful, dimly lit room.

6. Sing a lullaby or play calming music.

7. Share a goodnight kiss and cuddle.

8. Avoid engaging in overly exciting activities just before bedtime.

As your baby grows, you can adapt and modify the bedtime routine to suit their changing needs.

Sleep Training

Sleep training methods play a vital role in helping both babies and parents establish healthier sleep routines. They help babies to self-soothe and sleep through the night, providing a well-deserved rest for everyone in the family. Let’s explore some popular sleep training methods. 

Creating a Sleep Schedule | The Milky Box

What is the Core Night Method?

The core night method is a strategy to help your baby sleep longer at night, particularly when they’re gradually showing readiness to sleep for longer periods without requiring nighttime feedings. When your baby sleeps for a certain duration through the night (known as the “core night”) for 3-4 consecutive nights, you can stop feeding them during this time. So, this method is also one approach to achieve night weaning.

Before you try this method, consider the following:

1. Your baby should be at least 6 weeks old, weigh 10 pounds (4.54 kg), and demonstrate steady weight gain.

2. Your baby should have a well-established daytime routine.

3. Ensure that the last feeding of the night provides enough nourishment to support your baby’s desired sleep duration.

This method is most effective when your baby wakes up at night for a feed but doesn’t feed well during this time or in the morning. If your baby wakes during the core night hours, you can let them settle on their own for a few minutes. If self-setting isn’t effective, you can try non-feeding methods, such as a pacifier, a sip of water, gentle comforting like shush-pat, or pick up/ pick down to help them sleep. In case these methods don’t soothe your baby, then offer the shortest feed necessary to help them settle down.

Core Night Method | The Milky Box

Cry It Out Method (CIO)

Cry it out method is a well-known, but controversial, sleep training technique where you put your baby to bed while they’re tired but still awake. This helps them learn to fall asleep on their own, and they may cry during this process.

Before bedtime, make sure your baby is clean and fed and the crib is safe. Once you say goodnight, avoid picking them up until morning or their next scheduled feeding. While this method can be tough for parents, it often yields quick results, with the roughest nights typically at the start.

What is The French Method of Putting Babies to Sleep? 

“Le Pause” is a parenting technique used by some French parents, where they wait a moment before immediately responding to their baby’s cries or needs and picking them up. The idea is to give the baby a chance to self-soothe and learn to sleep through the night more independently. 

Are Le Pause and Crying It Out the same? 

The methods are different from each other, although they both involve allowing a baby to self-soothe to some extent.

In the gentler “Le Pause’ method, parents wait for a few minutes before picking up their baby when they cry or fuss. In contrast, the “cry it out” method involves allowing the baby to cry for longer periods before intervening.

Ferber Method (“Check and Console”)

The Ferber method involves timed interval visits after placing your infant in the crib while they’re tired but still awake. You re-enter the room at set intervals, such as three minutes, five minutes, or 10 minutes, and offer brief words of comfort. However, you should avoid picking up your baby. 

The time between each check-in gradually increases to reassure your baby that you’re there to support them and make them feel safe. Many caregivers combine elements of the CIO and Ferber methods based on their baby’s specific needs. 

Different Sleep Methods | The Milky Box

Pick Up, Put Down

The “Pick up, put down” method requires patience and more time, but is often gentler for parents during sleep training. The approach involves offering direct physical comfort to your baby when they cry or fuss at night by briefly picking them up, soothing them until they calm down, and then putting them back down. It’s essential not to extend the interaction when you pick them up. Many parents combine this with the Ferber method. 

The Chair Method

The “Chair method’ is a gradual approach, similar to the Ferber method, and requires a chair, a lot of patience, and time. Here’s how it works: Place your sleepy baby in the crib and sit in a chair next to them. Once they’re asleep, leave the room. If your baby cries, return to the chair nearby. 

Over several nights, move the chair further from the crib until you’re out of the room. This method can be challenging for parents who must sit with their baby until they fall asleep. It can also sometimes confuse the baby to see the parent present during the process.

Tailored Sleep Approaches

What is effective for one baby in terms of sleep training might not be suitable for your baby. Also, what used to help your baby sleep a few months ago might not work now. It’s alright to try different things, change your approach, and even use a mix of methods to assist your baby.

Infants with medical issues may require different methods to ensure they sleep properly. Discuss their unique needs with their pediatrician.

Expert Advice for a Restful Journey 

In your journey as a parent, restful nights are within your grasp. By understanding your baby’s needs, staying flexible, and using the right techniques, you can create a sleep schedule that benefits both you and your little one. Remember, every baby is unique.

For additional tips, support, and specific concerns, it’s always wise to consult your pediatrician. You can also check out The Milky Box for valuable resources. Cherish the sweet moments and find joy in watching your baby grow into a well-rested, happy, and healthy child.


1. Amount and Schedule of Baby Formula Feedings - HealthyChildren.org. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/formula-feeding/Pages/Amount-and-Schedule-of-Formula-Feedings.aspx

2. Baby naps: Daytime sleep tips - Mayo Clinic. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/baby-naps/art-20047421

3. Helping babies sleep through the night - Mayo Clinic. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/baby-sleep/art-20045014

4. Helping your baby to sleep - NHS. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/caring-for-a-newborn/helping-your-baby-to-sleep/

5. Infant Sleep - La Leche League International. Available at: https://llli.org/news/infant-sleep/

6. Newborn Sleep Patterns. Available at: https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=newborn-sleep-patterns-90-P02632

7. Öztürk Dönmez, R. and Bayik Temel, A. (2019) ‘Effect of soothing techniques on infants’ self-regulation behaviors (sleeping, crying, feeding): A randomized controlled study’, Japan journal of nursing science: JJNS, 16(4), pp. 407–419. doi: 10.1111/JJNS.12250.

8. Paruthi, S. et al. (2016) ‘Recommended amount of sleep for pediatric populations: A consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’, Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 12(6), pp. 785–786. doi: 10.5664/JCSM.5866.

9. Teaching Your Baby to Self-Soothe – Cleveland Clinic Available at: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/self-soothing-techniques/

10. Understanding baby sleep | Australian Breastfeeding Association. Available at: https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/resources/understanding-baby-sleep

11. When and How to Sleep Train Your Baby – Cleveland Clinic. Available at: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/when-and-how-to-sleep-train-your-baby/?_gl=1*13sy8uf*_ga*MTQwMDQzMTk5OC4xNjkzMzI1MTMy*_ga_


12. When Do Babies Sleep Through the Night? Sleep in Your Baby’s First Year. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14300-sleep-in-your-babys-first-year

13. Harvey Karp, ‘The Happiest Baby on the Block’ book


Please be aware that this information is based on general trends in babies, and it is not medical advice. Your doctor should be your first source of information and advice when considering any changes to your child’s formula and when choosing your child’s formula. Always consult your pediatrician before making any decisions about your child’s diet or if you notice any changes in your child.

Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for your baby because breast milk provides your child with all the essential nutrients they need for growth and development. Please consult your pediatrician if your child requires supplemental feeding.

Nazeli Gevorgyan is a medical doctor from Armenia, and is a researcher in the fields of Obstetrics and Gynecology, among others. Dr. Nazeli is passionate with providing women and parents with reliable and high-quality information on healthy options for infant nutrition, breastfeeding, infant formula, and food. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, traveling, and pottery. 

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Reviewed by Suzanne Renee',

Infant Nutrition Expert

Suzanne Renee' is an accomplished professional with extensive expertise in the area of infant nutrition, dedicated to promoting the health and wellbeing of children. She started this journey as a foster parent.

Suzanne has emerged as a strong proponent of the European baby formula and has become a full-time writer on the subject. 

In her free time, she enjoys camping, hiking, and going to church.