All babies need regular naps. Napping during the day helps babies get the rest that they need for healthy growth and development. How much sleep a baby needs depends on his age.
Newborn babies generally sleep between 16 and 20 hours a day, which is divided between day and night. Until your infant’s weight gain is established, you should wake him up every 3 to 4 hours to nurse or feed. After that, it’s acceptable to allow your baby to sleep for longer periods of time. However, you shouldn’t expect to your newborn to sleep through the night. Babies do get hungry.
Once your baby reaches six months old, he will have a more predictable pattern of sleep. A six-month-old baby generally requires two or three naps during the day, and he may sleep for 9 to 11 hours at night. A typical nap schedule for babies between 6 and 9 months old includes a nap in the morning, one in the early afternoon, and a third nap in the early evening.
When your baby reaches 9 and 12 months old, he only needs two solid naps each day – once in the morning, and once in the afternoon.
Though napping is a healthy part of development, getting babies to nap can be frustrating to say the least. So how can you get your baby to nap? What are some methods of success?
Every baby is different, so there is no one method that will work in all situations. But try a few of these techniques and see if they work for you:
Get Your Baby on a Nap Schedule
Once your baby reaches three or four months old, you will want to develop a regular nap schedule that’s in sync with his natural sleep cycles. The key to successful baby napping is to stick to a schedule.
This schedule doesn’t have to be rigid or inflexible. It should be based on when your infant gets tired during the day. One recommended method, which some parents use, is to choose a morning naptime based on when your baby wakes up each day. Put your baby down to sleep roughly two hours after first he first awakens.
It’s important that you’re consistent with your baby’s nap routine. Make sure the baby naps at the same time, in the same place every day. For example, if you put your baby down in the crib at 10 a.m., you must stick to this time.
Be Attentive to Signs of Sleepiness
No matter how you choose to schedule your baby’s naps, it’s important that you put baby to sleep before he is too exhausted. Overly tired babies don’t sleep as well. Not to mention that they’re cranky and irritable.
Pay attention to the signs of sleepiness in your baby – like eye rubbing, yawning, crying, and jerking movements.
If you’re a first-time mother, you’ll quickly learn when your baby is sleepy and it’s time for a nap. Figuring out the best nap schedule for your baby will take trial and error, but you will figure it out.
Develop a Ritual for Naps
When it’s time for baby’s nap, consider developing a naptime ritual. It doesn’t have to be as involved as your bedtime ritual, but it helps your baby wind down. It also serves as a signal that it’s time for sleep. You might consider reading a picture book, or singing a song to calm your baby down.
Put Baby Down in the Crib When Awake, but Sleepy
Your baby doesn’t have to be sound asleep when you place him down for a nap. After a few weeks of a consistent napping schedule, put your sleepy baby down to sleep in his crib. This helps babies learn how to fall asleep on his own without relying on mom to hold, rock, or feed him.
Learning how to fall asleep on his own will also help your baby fall back to sleep if he awakens in the middle of the night.
Nap Location Matters
Where you put your baby to sleep is important for successful napping. Ideally, you will want to place your baby to sleep in his crib. This will help your baby associate the crib with sleeping. The best place for baby to nap is in a quiet, dark, cool, and comfortable location.
Don’t stress out if your baby is a perpetual catnapper, always napping for less than an hour at a time. If your baby doesn’t seem too fussy, overly tired, or irritable during the waking hours, he or she is getting the sleep that he needs. Not all babies need to sleep for an hour or two during nap time.
Remember that parenting is trial and error. It’s subjective. There is no right and wrong. You have to find what works for you and your baby. Good luck!