If you are a mother to a new born or an infant, it is more than likely that your baby’s napping habits are your biggest concern.
Before we go any further, let’s take a look at some key napping facts.
Night sleep develops before day sleep. The morning nap starts to develop around 12 weeks followed by the afternoon naps.
Naps improve a child’s mood and reduces the crying. Getting a good quality day sleep helps their brains grow and develop.
Moreover, sleep begets sleep. if daytime sleep is bad night sleep falls apart.
The big challenge here is that naps are constantly changing. This can lead a parent to believe that either their child is not tired or is ready to drop their nap. Parents can feel helpless, but if you know what to expect based on your baby’s age and development then it ceases to be such an issue.
In the early months babies need a LOT OF SLEEP! Sleep cycles in the first five months change on an almost weekly basis. Naps may become unpredictable and this is normal.
So what do we do?
Get them to nap any which way you can at the first sleepy sign. This could in a carrier or a pram. It is OK to do what works and soon the naps will even out.
Between 6 and 8 months babies take 2-3 naps per day – a morning nap, an afternoon nap and a mini late afternoon nap. Between 9 and 12 months, babies drop this mini nap, the morning nap shortens and the afternoon nap gets longer. This nap begins approximately two – three hours after the morning nap.
13-18 months is a tricky time not just for mums but also the children. It is around this time they transition from two naps to one. But before we start the transition we need to look for the following signs-
- a) Does the child sleep 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night
- b) Does he take longer to fall asleep for his morning nap
- c) Or does he sleep longer in the morning and take a long time to fall asleep in the afternoon or refuses the afternoon nap altogether.
These signs are an indication that your child is ready to consolidate his naps. To help him make this transition we start to push the morning nap a little later. Like for instance pushing it till 11 for few days and then 11:30 then noon and so on, with the aim to having them asleep by 12:30 or 1:00. And importantly bring the bedtime closer to 7 pm to make it easy for him.
This nap pattern will continue till he is ready to drop this nap altogether and move to more of a quiet time, which is anywhere from 3- 4 years.
It is important we time the naps based on his age, observe his sleepy cues and are aware of the window of wakefulness – a fancy way of saying a the length of time a baby can stay awake between sleep times. For instance, an eight month old will be able to stay awake for approximately 2-3 hours which increases as they get older.
Follow their lead and don’t be in a hurry to drop their naps. 95% of children still need some form of daytime sleep till the age of 4 even. They will test our boundaries and nap times will become a regular battleground. It’s fine- have an abbreviated nap routine, create a sleep inducing environment and don’t give up.