Naps are crucial to your baby and should be encouraged and respected. A baby cannot go more than a few hours without needing to go back to sleep for a nap. If a baby does not nap regularly throughout the day you are going to have a tired little one on your hands which is no fun for anyone including your baby.
Naps help to keep your baby content and refreshed, never allowing your baby to become overtired and cranky.
Your baby’s day time sleep and night time sleep work hand in hand, the better your little ones day time sleep the better your little ones night time sleep. Without napping during the day your baby will become overtired. Once your baby becomes overtired it will be harder to get your baby to settle and fall asleep not only at nap times but night times too and staying asleep will be harder to do. When your little one becomes overtired their bodies produce a hormone which helps them fight fatigue so that they can cope. Once that hormone kicks in it will be much harder for your little one to settle down and fall into a lovely long deep restorative sleep.
Your little one may do fabulous at night but come nap times and its a bit of a struggle. How come?Daytime sleep and night time sleep are very different, so different they are actually controlled by two different parts of the brain! Its has to do with biochemical reasons which we wont get into here but lets have a look at a few practical, common sense reasons why nap time is so different to night time.
Having a nap time routine. This is so important! You most likely have a bedtime routine (and if you don’t you really should!) It possibly involves bath time, a massage, reading, lullabies and good night snuggles. Having a bedtime routine is crucial as it helps your baby know whats coming next and prepares their little bodies for sleep. It helps them wind down and signal bedtime is coming.
You should have a nap time routine for your baby too, something which helps to prepare them for sleep and indicate to them whats coming next. Your nap time routine can be just a few minutes long and include closing the blinds, dimming the lights, change of nappy, feed if necessary and a song which helps them to associate to sleep and works as a sleep association (ah the music, ah its sleep time)
A nap schedule is also very important. Putting your little one down for his/her naps at the same/similar times each day will go a long way to helping your baby establish a great naps. If your schedule is consistent you are likely to have fewer issues getting your little one to sleep well. Some babies can handle variations to their schedule but some babies find it much harder. If you are out and about all daylong and your days look nothing alike, it can be hard to get your little one sleeping well.
Falling asleep and staying asleep is a skill babies have to learn and when you provide your baby with consistent, predictable routines each day you give your little one lots of opportunities to practice this new skill. Some babies are highly adaptable but most are not. Babies who are slow to adapt thrive on routine, it is imperative to them. They need to know what comes next. Set aside at least 2 weeks for nap coaching where you can be home for naps and giving your little one the structure he needs to set his naps up.
Naps are not a bonus, they are very important and should be taken seriously and respected. You may be tempted to think that the more your baby sleeps during the day, the less he/she will sleep at night, or that if she’s sleeping well at night then she doesn’t really need naps during the day, but its not true. It is counter intuitive but the better your little ones day time sleep the better the night time sleep.
Remember also that moving sleep, sleep that happens while your little one is moving, is not as restorative as sleep occurring in a cot. Light and noise should be also be considered. Your little one is likely to sleep better in a darkened, quite room than a brightly-lit noisy environment.
When trying to teach your little one these new sleep skills the best thing to do is to invest in some time and stay close to home. While your little one learns and practices his new skill you will need to prioritise his needs over your own taking the time to help him develop his new skill. Accept your child’s temperament and prepare to be patience, its all part of being a parent! Remember these baby days will pass quickly and soon your little one will be down to 2 and then to 1 nap a day, making it much easier to get out and about.
Everyone family is unique and it may be more difficult for some to say home for naps or it may not be possible if you have other children, in this case try and be as predictable as possible. You don’t want your little one crashing from exhaustion but rather learning healthy sleep habits.
How much sleep should your child be getting? Here is a useful guide
At 1 month
8 hrs day time sleep and 8 hrs at night (inconsistent) totalling 16 hrs per day
At 3 months
10 hrs night time sleep and 5 hrs during the day, spread over 3 naps totalling 15 hrs per day
At 6 months
11 hrs per night of sleep and 3 1/4 hrs per day split over 2 naps totalling 14 1/4 per day
At 9 months
11 hrs per night and 3 hrs day time sleep split over 2 naps, aiming to always keep the mid afternoon nap and generally dropping the late afternoon nap, keeping the morning nap. Totalling 14 hrs per day.
At 12 months
11 1/4 per night, 2 1/2 hrs during the day over 2 naps. Totalling 13 3/4 hrs
At 18 months
11 1/4 during the night and 2 1/4 during the day, over one nap mid afternoon 1. Totalling 13 1/2 hrs per day.
At 2 years
11 hrs per night and 1 nap of 2hrs, totalling 13hrs per day.
At 3 years
10 1/2 of night time sleep and 1 1/2 hrs nap mid afternoon. Totalling 12 hrs of sleep per day.
Happy napping 🙂