Simple fact: babies need naps. Another simple fact: they won’t make it easy for you. Here’s how to crack the tiny human Da Vinci code for naptime, and bank that all-important soothing naptime.
At least until your babe reaches his third or fourth birthday, they’ll need to be getting in regular daytime shuteye.
“Small children are so busy learning and growing that they need this extra down-time to rest and replenish,” explains baby sleep consultant Lucy Wolfe. “When they don’t get the daytime sleep they need, it affects their mood, their behaviour and their appetite. Not napping enough can also make it harder for your tot to get to sleep at night because when [they] get overtired, [their] levels of stress hormone cortisol increase.” All sound familiar? Check out the five tips to avoiding Cranky Town:
Know the signs, and check the clock
“When it comes to naps, the clock is your best friend,” says Lucy. Get familiar with your little one’s sleepy cues—glazed eyes, ear pulling, clumsiness and waning interest in games. Then note the time. Your tot will typically show you their tired signals around the same time every day, so you’ll know to be on the lookout, and bundle that babe to bed before the meltdown.
Time that first nap
“As your baby’s circadian rhythms kick in and [they] start to learn the difference between day and night, [they’ll] begin sleeping for longer stretches when it’s dark,” says Lucy. “And until the age of eight months, the first nap of the day is really an extension of your baby’s nighttime sleep, so I recommend getting four- to eight-month-olds down for their first nap less than two hours after they wake up.” Once your baby is sleeping more soundly at night, with minimal wake-ups, you can gradually move that first nap forward.
Routine is everything
Little ones are easily stimulated, and the daytime is loaded with sensory input—which is why routine is necessary to signal naptime. “Babies start to produce melatonin at around six weeks old,” Lucy explains. “This builds up in their body towards the end of the day and helps prompt to go to sleep at night. But [they don’t] have that natural snooze-cue during the day.” Lucy advises using a trimmed-down version of your usual nighttime routine so that there’s little confusion; for example, bum change, story, cuddle, cot.
Time lunch right
Try space lunch and nap 45 minutes apart. This will allow for your baby to be pleasantly full, but not uncomfortable with “heavy-duty digesting” so that he can’t relax and fall asleep.
A nap strike is not the end
Out of nowhere, your once soothing, napping-like-clockwork bubs might refuse to nod off. More often than not, this does not mean naps are officially over; a nap strike, like other strikes, is a temporary (albeit disruptive) situation. “Nap strikes usually happens when your baby is 12 months old and again [at] two years old,’ says Lucy. The reason is usually down to developmental ‘leaps—your baby wants to be awake and working on skill sets. Let it happen, but continue to do the pre-nap routine every day; after around 2 weeks, you’ll likely find your child is ready to slumber on cue again. Whew.