Cat naps, sleep regression, fighting sleep… Sounds like a 5-month-old sleep schedule!
From wake windows to nap schedules, here’s the low-down.
At 5 months old, your baby is going through a real transitional phase, so trying to stick to a strict 5-month-old sleep schedule won’t work for a lot of babies.
Maybe learning to roll is playing havoc with overnight sleep, or the four-month developmental progression (or sleep regression as it’s often referred to) is lingering on.
In any case, it’s a good time to try to go with the flow and remember that every day can be different.
For some mamas, there won’t be much predictability at this age, but for others, you might start seeing the newborn-sleep-fog clearing.
Here, we’ll look at some tips for laying the groundwork for a 5-month-old sleep schedule and how to approach the very random world of baby sleep.
In this article: 📝
- How much sleep does a 5-month-old need?
- How long should a 5-month-old’s wake window be?
- 5-month-old nap schedule
- How to get 5-month-old on a sleep schedule
- What is the best bedtime for a 5-month-old?
- How can I get my 5-month-old baby to sleep through the night?
- Is it too late to sleep train a 5-month-old?
How much sleep does a 5-month-old need?
So how much sleep are we aiming for overall?
In a 24-hour period, sleep totals can really vary baby to baby.
Similar to an adult, some babies have lower sleep needs and some have higher needs.
Just to give you an idea of how much this can vary with each unique child, the sleep foundation recommends babies 4 to 11 months get between 12-15 hours of total sleep over a 24-hour period.
Generally speaking, this will be split across 10-12 hours of overnight sleep and 2.5-3.5 hours of daytime naps for most 5-month-olds.
But this is suuuper general for a 5-month-old sleep schedule ‒ every baby is different, and you know your babe better than anyone.
Baby sleep expert, Alicia Dyshon, recommends going based off how your baby seems mood-wise during the day as opposed to following strict “age-appropriate” schedules.
How long should a 5-month-old’s wake window be?
As we said, this is a transitional period for your little one.
The amount of time they can happily stay awake between naps might vary depending on the time of day, how well they slept the night before, or just the mood they’re in.
Most 5-month-old sleep routines will work around an awake period of between 1.5 and 2.5 hours, depending on how many naps your baby is taking.
5-month-old nap schedule
When it comes to naps, what’s normal for a 5-month-old?
Well, this is where things can get a bit tricky!
Around this age, it’s common for your baby to need either 3 or 4 naps per day, and it may be that they have three naps one day, but four the next depending on the length of the naps.
If your baby gets tired after about an hour and a half of awake time, they will likely need a 4-nap routine.
If your baby seems to be able to happily stay awake for 2-2.5 hours, a three-nap schedule will likely work better for you,
Short naps are very common at this age (generally we don’t see a ton of consolidation prior to 6 months old unless you’re in the extra sleepy newborn stage).
If possible, Alicia Dyshon recommends aiming for one contact nap a day in order to get at least one consolidated nap.
While contact naps tend to get a bit of a bad rap, Alicia insists they are perfectly normal and a great way to get in some extra contact and connection time with your babe.
Focusing on more connection time during the day can allow your baby to feel okay with a bit more independent sleep at night.
How long should naps be at 5 months?
First, a quick terminology recap: sleep is overnight sleeping, naps are daytime mini-sleeps.
So how long should naps be for a 5-month-old?
Anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours long each.
So they could need 2-4 naps throughout the day depending on whether or not they are consolidating their naps and how long they are able to happily stay awake between naps.
Should I let my 5-month-old nap as long as he wants?
There are two schools of thought on this ‒ some advocate for waking a sleeping baby to help with nighttime consolidation and get into a routine early on.
But others say to let your 5-month-old choose how long they sleep for ‒ if they’re tired, let them sleep!
Neither opinion is wrong, it really depends on what your goals are around your infant’s sleep as well as how you are coping with your own sleep.
There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to baby sleep ‒ some babies need more naps, others prefer more nighttime sleep ‒ and some seem to get on fine with less sleep than others!
Whether or not you are on a 3 nap routine or a 4 nap routine, Alicia says you usually want the last nap of the day to be shorter (45 minutes or less) to help with nighttime sleep pressure and hopefully allow for a bit more nighttime sleep consolidation.
Is 2 naps a day OK for 5-month-old?
Although it’s rare, 2 naps during the day is absolutely fine for a 5-month-old if they are consolidating naps.
When should the last nap end for a 5-month-old?
Well, there’s no hard-and-fast rule on this, since all babies and all households are different, but very generally speaking, most 5-month-olds have their last nap finished by 5pm.
Then the idea is that bedtime would be about 2-2.5 hours after the last nap ends (so about 7-7:30pm).
Should I let my 5-month-old nap after 5pm?
That’s totally up to you, mama.
If a later bedtime works for your family you can opt to have the last nap end later, maybe between 6-7pm.
You know your baby best and what works for them.
Some babies will do better with an earlier bedtime, while others will do better with a later bedtime.
Specifically, babies that tend to sleep closer to 10-11 hours overnight (not consecutively yet usually).
Are 30-minute naps OK for 5-month-old?
Yes, 30-minute naps can be totally OK for a 5-month-old.
This age can be prime time for catnapping, where your baby wakes after just one frustratingly short sleep cycle.
It’s all part of the progression in sleep cycles that commonly crops up between 3 and 4 months, often referred to as the 4-month sleep regression.
This is a permanent change in sleep cycles as your baby’s sleep cycles are starting to look more adult-like.
So gone are the days of long naps no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
That magical stimulus barrier that allowed your baby to nap anywhere is gone.
Here are a few different things to try to help your baby consolidate their naps.
- Make sure your baby goes down with a full tummy to ensure they are not waking due to hunger.
- Experiment a bit with lengthening or shortening your wake windows, your baby may be waking because they are over or under-tired.
- Ensure your sleep environment is set up for optimal sleep. Blackout blinds and white noise can help with linking sleep cycles if your baby seems to be struggling.
How to get 5-month-old on a sleep schedule
Although you might prefer to schedule your day with a bit more regularity, it’s still best to work your day around your baby’s wake windows, rather than striving for set nap times.
This can mean nap timings and lengths are different from day to day, which can be frustrating if you’re trying to make plans ‒ or just leave the house.
But it’s totally normal for now.
Even when following these tips, it’s normal for each day to vary, so don’t give up hope if your morning doesn’t go as planned.
To give yourself a bit more consistency day to day, you can try to wake your baby at the same time each morning or at least by the same time each morning.
You can also try to wake your baby from their last nap at the same time each afternoon.
This will allow your morning nap and bedtime to fall around the same time each day & give you a bit more predictability.
What is the best bedtime for a 5-month-old?
With this age still being so variable when it comes to day sleep, a set “bedtime” can be hard to achieve.
Aiming for somewhere between 6pm and 8pm is common, but it comes down to keeping an eye on that last wake window of the day, making sure baby goes to bed before they become overtired.
Although the timing may still be up in the air, maintaining a consistent bedtime routine can help your baby recognize that bedtime is coming and might make it easier to wind down from the day.
How can I get my 5-month-old baby to sleep through the night?
Realistically, at 5 months, it’s probably too early to expect your baby to sleep right through the night, though you might get one or two unbroken nights here and there.
One, two, or three overnight feeds are still common.
Understanding that it is normal for your 5-month-old to be waking at night can help ease a bit of stress you may have around their sleep.
Unfortunately, infant sleep is not linear, it goes up and down a lot in the first year based on what’s going on development-wise with your little one.
If your baby has recently learned to roll, they might be waking more often, confused about how they ended up on their tummy when they fell asleep on their back.
Give them a minute to see if they can turn themselves back over, but if they’re unhappy on their tummy and can’t roll back onto their back, it’s time for you to step in.
Why do babies fight sleep at 5 months?
There’s a whole host of reasons why your 5-month-old may be waking up more at night.
After all, they’ve only had 5 months of being in this world, so there’s still a lot to get used to.
Here are a few reasons why your babe is fighting sleep at 5 months old:
- Overstimulation: If baby’s had a busy day trying new things, seeing new people, traveling, or they’ve been doing tummy time or playing just before bed. A relaxing bedtime routine can help sort this out.
- Separation anxiety: Babies are not wired for separation and going to sleep in a crib or another room is separation to them. Nighttime sleep represents 11-12 hours of separation.
- Overtiredness: One of the worst reasons why your 5-month-old isn’t sleeping ‒ they’re too tired to sleep. Their awake window may have been too long for them and their body has released a rush of cortisol to keep them awake, making sleep difficult to achieve.
- Undertiedness: Your baby may have not built up enough sleep pressure to fall asleep and stay asleep. Their awake windows may be too short or naps too long for their unique sleep needs.
- Teething: Noticed some gnashers peeking through? Teething can cause some discomfort and pain for baby, so don’t be surprised if it keeps them up at night.
- Illness: If baby’s under the weather, like they have a stuffy nose, cough, or tummy ache, that can also keep them up.
- They’re too hot or too cold: Baby sleep temperatures can mean they’re fighting sleep, so it’s worth dressing them right.
- Developmental progression (sleep regression): They may be learning new physical milestones or mental milestones (language development resulting in new sounds and babbling). This can cause some serious FOMO and make sleep difficult to achieve.
Is it too late to sleep train a 5-month-old?
Sleep training is a personal decision but contrary to popular belief it is not a necessary milestone that your baby needs to meet, especially if you are not comfortable with it.
Choosing not to use a sleep training method does not mean that there is nothing you can do to improve your child’s sleep situation.
Your options are not “cry it out” or “wait it out”, there is a middle ground.
The best thing to do to help with your baby’s sleep is to figure out their unique sleep needs for optimal nighttime sleep and naps.
It’s great to know what “age-appropriate” wake windows and sleep routines look like but it’s also important to know that these are just guidelines and may or may not work for your unique baby.
If you’re finding each day is a struggle, aiming to spend a few days at home to learn your baby’s unique wake windows and sleep cues can be helpful if you are looking for more consistency in your day.
However, if you find that you are stressing about your baby’s sleep and obsessing about their wake windows and getting them to sleep while trapped at home, Alicia Dyshon recommends getting out of the house at least once a day.
Babies will actually sleep worse if you’re stressed about their sleep because they co-regulate with us.
If mama is stressed, baby is stressed!
If your baby naps on the go, then that’s great!
Go out, get yourself a coffee or tea annd relax while your baby naps.
Despite popular belief, there is nothing wrong with a baby napping in the car or in a stroller.
Napping outside can actually help set their circadian rhythm and help with their nighttime sleep.
This might help reset your expectations for the coming weeks.
You’ve got this!
And if you want to talk with other moms who have been there (or are there with you, right now), you’re welcome to join them on Peanut.
➡️ Up next: What’s the Best 6-Month-Old Sleep Schedule?