Nap time isn’t just when you get a chance to rest, or get things done. It’s actually really important for your baby’s development. Sleep is when they do most of their growing, which means that they need plenty of it. Here’s everything you need to know on how to be a nap expert for your little one.
Newborns won’t take naps on a schedule. Unlike older children, or adults, they don’t have a circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is what regulates our sleep cycles. As newborns haven’t developed this rhythm, and they need a lot of sleep to grow, they won’t have a very defined sleep or nap schedule. Newborns need around 16 hours of sleep per day. Your baby might sleep in 20 minute bursts, or they might sleep for three hours. At this age, you baby will decide when and for how long to sleep.
At around four months old, your baby will probably need to nap twice per day. One nap in the morning, and one in the early afternoon. Some babies will also need a nap in the late afternoon. You should let your baby nap for as long as they need to, unless it’s impacting on their bedtime routine. Your baby needs around eight to nine hours of sleep at night and will need around six hours of sleep during the day. This means that you could aim for two naps of three hours, or three naps of two hours.
When your baby is around nine or ten months, you can eliminate the late afternoon nap. You may need to bring their bedtime forward by about half an hour to help them adjust to the new routine.
When your baby is between ten months and a year, they will probably not need a morning nap. You might need to move the afternoon nap and their bedtime forward by half an hour as they adjust. Most children continue having an afternoon nap until they turn around three. At three, they may still need a nap, but it may be shorter in length.
At the beginning, your baby will dictate the nap time schedule. When they reach about four months old, you can begin to set specific nap times. These tips can help your baby understand what to expect when it’s naptime.
- Make sure the room is quiet, dark, and warm. You want the environment to encourage your baby to sleep.
- Put your baby in their bed, or cot when they are drowsy but still awake. You can then use a massage, lullabies, or swaddling. Whichever technique you use will become part of the naptime routine.
- Keep the routine consistent. Babies learn and understand through consistency and routine. Make sure that you put your baby down for a nap at the same times each day and keep the same routines as you do so.
- Always place your baby on their back to sleep, and make sure that the cot or bed is clear from any soft items, such as soft toys and loose blankets.
It’s perfectly normal for babies to be fussy and cry. During the first month, you should avoid letting them cry.
At four months, your baby may still have trouble settling. You can soothe by singing, or gently talking to your baby. Then leave the room and give them time to settle themselves. If your little one is fussy often, you may need to put them into their cot ten minutes before nap time.
You should also remember that most babies are active sleepers. It’s normal for them to move, stir, and even smile when they sleep. If you hear your baby moving, try not to go into them straight away. Wait until you’re certain that your little one is actually awake.
While a consistent routine is important, don’t be hard on yourself if some days are much harder than others. As you become more in tune with your baby, you’ll learn the signs of tiredness.