Struggling to make routine baby naps a reality? Use these strategies to ensure your little one is getting the rest he or she needs.
How Many Baby Naps Does My Little One Need?
First, it's helpful to know how much sleep a baby needs. According to the Nemour's Foundation, here's how much babies nap, by age:
- Birth to 3 monthsA newborn baby sleeps about 16 hours a day. This means she may nap four or more times during the day.
- 3 to 5 monthsAt this age, a baby needs 13 to 15 hours of sleep a day and a greater portion of sleep occurs overnight. He may need two to three naps per day.
- 6 to 8 monthsBabies in this age group typically take a one to three hour nap in the morning and another in the evening.
- 9 to 11 monthsAt this stage, a baby generally takes two naps a day.
- 12 monthsBabies nearing their first birthday may still nap twice a day, but they are transitioning to a stage where one nap suffices.
When Should My Baby Nap?
Every baby is different. By about 4 months old, babies often wake early and are ready for a nap by mid-morning or before. This nap is followed by a siesta around lunchtime and another at about 3 or 4 p.m. Older babies may settle into a routine of a mid- to late-morning nap, followed by another one mid-afternoon.
How to Get Your Baby into a Napping Routine
Your baby's naps will change in length and frequency as he or she grows and matures. The change may be a gradual one that you can adjust to over a period of days. In other cases, there may be a dramatic shift. The best thing to do is stay flexible and keep working toward the best solution for both of you.
As you adjust the sleep routine over time, don't be surprised if your baby is fussy and unsettled at first. Babies typically adjust to new routines within a few weeks.
Use these ideas to help your baby nap during the day:
- Nap routines become easier to implement when your baby is past the first two or three months of life. Don't worry if you don’t have much success with regulating the sleep routines of your newborn.
- Write up a sleep schedule, and use it as a guide as your baby approaches age two to three months. The sleep schedule will probably need adjustments, so don't be too rigid in following it at first. Once you have established a sleep routine, try to be consistent with it, and stick to the same naptimes every day.
- If possible, try and plan a week at home where you can work on the napping routine without factoring in visits to friends or a shopping trip. Once you establish a routine for home, you can work on settling baby to sleep while you're away.
- Baby naps should follow your baby’s natural cycles of sleepiness. Look for signs of sleepiness in your baby such as irritability, crying and eye rubbing. Don't allow your baby to become overtiredit can actually make falling asleep harder, because she is so agitated.
- You also may want to avoid rocking, walking and providing extended attention when putting your baby down for a nap. Your baby will start to rely on those cues to fall asleep.
- Your baby may tend to fall asleep after being fed. Try and burp him before he naps so that gas does not wake him later on.
- Make sure your baby is wearing a dry diaper and is comfortable before settling her down.
- Don’t stimulate your baby when naptime is approaching. Lower your voice and don’t play peek-a-boo or other games or move too fast. The idea is to provide a peaceful environment for baby to drift off to sleep.
- Don’t ask everyone to tiptoe around either while your baby is napping. White noise in the background may actually help your baby sleep better.
- If your baby cries instead of falling asleep, leave her for a few minutes but not so long that she works herself into frenzy. Then check that she is dry and comfortable before putting her down to rest again. You may have to repeat this process several times.
- Room temperature and humidity should be at comfortable levels so your baby doesn’t feel too warm or too cold.
With repetition and focused planning, your baby likely will reach the point where he starts to nap about the same time each day. Now, with a consistent sleep schedule, you can take a welcome break.
American Academy of Pediatrics. Getting Your Baby to Sleep. http://www.healthychildren.org/english/ages-stages/baby/sleep/pages/Getting-Your-Baby-to-Sleep.aspx Accessed Sept 6, 2011.
Ask Dr Sears. 31 Ways to get Your Baby to Sleep and Stay Asleep. http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/fussy-baby/31-ways-get-your-baby-sleep-and-stay-asleep Accessed: June 2, 2011.
Comer Children’s Hospital – The University of Chicago. Newborn – Sleep Patterns http://www.uchicagokidshospital.org/online-library/content=P02632 Accessed July 9, 2011.
Nemour’s Foundation. HealthyChildren.org. Accessed Sept 6, 2011.