By five months old, your baby has hopefully passed through the dreaded four-month sleep regression and is well on her way to better nights of sleep. Although every baby is different, of course, babies at this age can start to show more regular sleep patterns. And things like being more active during the day, being curious about new things around him and starting to reach more physical milestones, like rolling over, can certainly help tucker out your little explorer.
However, your five-month-old baby's sleep may not be exactly what you're hoping for just yet. Your baby is still growing (and learning) all about the world around them, including how to sleep.
Here are some things you can expect from your five month old in the sleep department, along with some tips for an ideal sleep schedule to keep you both well-rested.
How much sleep does a five-month-old baby need?
As the American Academy of Sleep Medicine explains, a 5-month-old baby should get between 12-16 hours of sleep per 24 hours. This is generally broken up into nighttime sleep and between 2-4 naps during the day. Rachel Mitchell, a certified pediatric and maternal sleep consultant and founder of My Sweet Sleeper, tells Motherly that you may notice that as your baby reaches five months of age, their daytime and nighttime sleep habits are becoming more consistent.
She notes that most babies have moved through the four-month sleep progression (thank goodness!) and are transitioning from four naps down to three around this stage. "Your baby will still likely be on three to four naps per day, but you may find that the fourth nap is no longer needed if your baby is taking three naps that are one hour or longer," Mitchell explains.
Related: Baby Feeding Guides & Schedules
Sleep at night will be more consistent, but she also adds that it's still very normal for a five-month-old baby to wake up once a night to eat, so if that happens, you should feed your baby and lay them back down. If you're dealing with a lot of nighttime wake-ups, there may be something else going on. "If your baby is waking more frequently than once a night and won't go back down without a feed, it's possible that they need more calories during the day," Mitchell adds. Optimizing sleep at night often starts with the right daytime sleep routine too, so here are Mitchell's suggestions for a sleep schedule for success.
Five-month-old baby sleep schedule
Interestingly enough, the most important part of a sleep schedule for a five-month-old baby is actually when you time putting your baby to bed, says Mitchell. Waiting too long can throw off the whole schedule, but putting your baby to bed too early may also not be ideal. It can be difficult at this age, because babies are still growing and developing and may tucker themselves right out earlier some days. So you can pay attention to your baby's cues and offer them an earlier bedtime on the days they do seem to need it.
"The ideal bedtime in this stage is between 7 pm and 8 p.m., but you may find that some days your baby needs to go to bed between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m.," Mitchell explains. "It is generally better in this stage to offer an early bedtime than it is to offer a late cat nap and push bedtime later."
Wake windows for a five month old
Wake windows are also key at this stage—wake windows are the length of time that your baby is awake between naps. During awake windows, you can play with your baby, let them have tummy time, or eat.
And while awake windows can be packed with activity, it's also important to time them appropriately to help your baby sleep better. Mitchell explains that wake windows start to increase at this age, now that your baby is a little bit older, and they should decrease in length from the start of the day to the end of the day.
Related: 5-month-old baby milestones
For example, the first wake window of the day should be the shortest, while the last of the day should be the longest to promote a deeper sleep at night.
"At this stage, awake windows will start to lengthen to about 1.75 to 2.5 hours, with the first awake window being the shortest and the last awake window before bed being the longest (assuming the last nap is adequate)," she says.
Sleep tips for 5-month-old babies
Along with timing that awake time and bedtime to just the right moments so you can both get the optimum amount of sleep, here are a few more sleep tips for your five month old.
- Assess the swaddle. If your baby is rolling from front-to-back or back-to-front now, it's time to ditch the swaddle. You can switch to a sleep sack for babies who are able to roll, but just be sure their arms are free so they don't get trapped if they roll over in their crib. Some babies may need more time than others adjusting to all of that freedom, but don't worry--we promise they'll get the hang of it eventually!
- Introduce those sleep cues. Five months old is a great time to introduce some more visual sleep cues if you haven't already. Your baby might enjoy looking at pictures in a book with you, or hearing your voice read the same story at nighttime. Establishing clear sleep cues at nap and bedtime can help get you both in a routine for better sleep.
- Nap times are key. It might sound confusing, but an adequate amount of nap time during the day is crucial to your baby's overall sleep success. Mitchell explains that your baby needs between 3.5-4.5 hours of sleep per day. If they aren't getting that, it will interfere with their sleep at night too. "If your baby is getting less than 3.5 hours, you will likely find that night sleep may be disrupted as well," she says.
- Go with the flow. We know there's a lot of talk about schedules and times and not missing those sleep windows. But it's also important to remember that all babies are different and also, life happens! If your sleep schedule gets completely disrupted one day, it doesn't mean all hope is lost. Just try to stick to consistent routines the majority of the time, and those good habits will eventually pay off.
A version of this story was published September 15, 2021. It has been updated.