Before I answer that, let me ask, how important is napping for your baby? We all know that babies sleep a lot. What we may not know, is that not all sleep is created equal. Some parents may feel they would rather have most of their baby’s sleep take place at night, but depending on the age, this can be very detrimental for the baby. Babies grow and develop when they nap. Their morning nap is mentally restorative and their afternoon nap is physically restorative. Babies and children who nap, are found to have greater attention spans.
Some parents may also think that if they limit the amount of time their baby sleeps during the day, their baby will then sleep longer and better at night. In most cases this will backfire. We know that “sleep begets sleep,” therefore we also know that the opposite is true-the less your baby sleeps, the less your baby will be able to sleep. Your baby:
- Will become overtired
- May experience trouble falling asleep at night
- May experience several night wakings
- Wake early in the morning
Based on all this information, it’s clear naps are very important for babies. So back to the original question, How Can I Get My Baby to Nap? All of us have circadian rhythms, which is basically our internal clock, that determines when we sleep and we are awake. It is best to sleep when this clock dictates. If we don’t, we end up being overtired, cranky, unfocused, and often unable to fall asleep.
Little babies do not develop these rhythms until they are about 16 weeks old. So up until that time, it’s best to put your baby down for a nap when she is showing sleepy signs, but within 45 minutes to 2 hours of wake time, depending on your baby’s age.
Once your baby is about 16 weeks, you now want to put him on a sleep schedule of a morning, afternoon and late afternoon nap. This is where many nap problems occur, because the timing of these naps is crucial to your baby getting restorative and consolidated sleep.
- Morning nap should begin between 8:15 and 9am and last at least one hour.
- Afternoon nap should begin between 11:30am and 1pm and last at least one hour.
- Late afternoon nap may take place anywhere between 3 and 4pm and last 30 minutes or more, but should not go later than 4:30pm
Additionally babies should have their first two naps of the day in their cribs, making sure their room is cavelike-dark and cool(68-70 degrees.)
It is very important to follow these guidelines to make sure your baby is getting the sleep she needs during the day. Unfortunately, some babies have trouble settling into a good nap schedule, so it’s up to you to be persistent and consistent to see results.
Allowing your baby to get the rest he needs throughout the day, will ensure he sleeps well at night, is happy, healthy and able to learn and grow properly. And as a bonus, you’ll get to sleep too!!
Angela Walsh is a Family Sleep Institute, Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant and the founder of Babes in Sleepland. She helps sleep deprived babies, children and families, get back on track and get the sleep they need and desire. To learn more about Angela and how she can help you, visit her website: babesinsleepland.com. Also get sleep tips, the latest research on baby and child products, and be part of her weekly Q and A at her Facebook page: Babes in Sleepland.