“Sleep when your Baby Sleeps” Everyone knows this classic tip but we all know that is not possible….. your baby, on the other hand, is programmed to take naps.
A babies daytime sleep and nighttime sleep work hand- in- hand with each other; the better a little one’s daytime sleep the better their nighttime sleep. Without napping during the day, a baby will become overtired. When a baby becomes overtired their bodies produce a hormone called adrenaline which helps them fight fatigue. Once that hormone kicks in, it is much harder for a little one to settle down and fall into a long, deep restorative sleep.
Understanding what is age appropriate for your baby to nap during the day is reassuring for parents that their baby will get the sleep they need so as not to be unsettled and overtired at bedtime. Being overtired can cause your baby to wake often throughout the night.
There are many different ways to teach your baby how to sleep better and success is defined differently for each family. Some babies sleeping habits become more consistent and predictable over time and your baby may fall into a fair pattern, however, if that’s not the case, you can gently encourage your babies emerging routine. Babies thrive on consistency and this will assist in them falling into a good sleep pattern.
Our circadian rhythms dictate the times of day that is best for babies to have their naps as their hormones and body temperature are at the optimum level for good sleeps so settling will be easier, there is reduced stress and crying, longer sleeps are more likely and your baby is will be happier.
These nap windows fall 9 – 10am, 12 -2pm and 6 – 7 pm.
The morning nap to begin between 9 – 10 am. Treat this morning nap as a short nap of about 30 – 60 minutes to get them through to the longer lunch time sleep which is more restorative.
We do the longer lunch time sleep because this is where your little one is genetically programmed to get a deeper more restorative sleep. They reduce their sleep deficit in the middle of the day rather than at the beginning so that they are less likely to be over tired by night time. This is the sleep that remains when they finally drop the morning sleep which is around 16 – 18 months.
For a baby up to 6 months of age, they will need a very short power nap between 4 – 5 pm. This is to prevent them from becoming overtired before bedtime.
Ensure your baby has an optimum sleep environment
Their room must be very dark. The reason is because babies start to produce their own melatonin, the sleep hormone, from around 8 – 12 weeks of age and it is far more readily produced in darkness.
White noise is recommended and encouraged to have playing for all their day time naps. This is very effective all the way up until about 12 months old. It needs to be quite loud and a constant sound to be effective, like a vacuum cleaner or heavy rain, and it needs to play continuously for the duration of their naps.
Swaddling is recommended until between 4-6months of age or when your baby is rolling from back to front. The reason for this is your baby has the Moro reflex or startle reflex which is normally present in babies up to 3 or 4 months of age. The baby feels as if they are falling and they fling their arms out and the startle can wake them up.
Be sure to always place your baby on their back to sleep, and clear the bassinet or cot of blankets and other soft items.
Ideally, naps should be taken in the same place every day—consistency will make it easier for your little one fall and stay asleep. Usually, that place is where the baby sleeps at night, either in a bassinet or cot.
Avoid holding, rocking or feeding your baby to sleep.
In the early months of life, this may be the only way your baby is able to fall asleep and it is entirely normal. After around 3 months of age if your baby tends to fall asleep in your arms or while feeding, do something gentle right afterward such as changing their nappy or reading a short story to ensure you put your baby to bed drowsy, but awake. Drooping eyelids, eye rubbing and fussiness might be signs that your baby is tired. The longer you wait the more overtired and fussy your baby may become and the harder it will be for them to fall asleep.
Consistency is key
Putting your little one down for their naps at the same each day will go a long way to helping establish great naps. With a consistent schedule, you are likely to have fewer issues getting your little one to sleep well. When settling them down for a nap, having a routine is very important. A wind down period prior to a nap takes just a few minutes and helps indicate that nap time is coming next.
Don’t feel bad if some days are more challenging than others. Remember to look and listen for the signs that your baby is tired and try to keep their nap routine consistent.
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