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Last week I posted my newborn sleep tips. Today I’ll talk about getting your baby to nap. I am specifically talking about babies older than newborns (i.e. 3+ months old).
A nap is considered to be restorative if the baby is not moving (i.e. such as in a swing or car or stroller) and the nap is one hour or more. I specifically want to mention this because it widely varies what people believe to be a “normal” or “good” nap. Some think babies should sleep 3 hours each time and others seem to think 30 minutes is enough.
It is normal for babies younger than 6 months old to take 3-4 short 30-45 minute catnaps. Around 6 months, they should begin to lengthen to 2-3 longer naps. The 3rd nap is almost always just 30-45 minutes, just to help them get to bedtime. However, some babies don’t have this nap at all and only have 2 longer naps. The average amount of napping is 2-3 hours each day.
With babies younger than 9 months old, short naps are almost always due to too much wake-time between naps. When a baby is overtired, he will have trouble settling down enough to nap well and make it past that first sleep transition around the 30-45 minute mark. If your baby is short-napping you, try to decrease the wake-time between naps. This wake-time should ideally be just 1-2 hours, tops when baby is under 6 months old and 2-3 hours, after. When she isn’t overtired, she is better able to transition to the next sleep phase.
Also, around 6 months of age (some are ready by 5 months and some won’t be ready until 7+ like my first-born), you should nap baby more on a schedule. I have several sample baby schedules on this website (and always working on more). You should always use your baby as a guide, first and foremost, but in general, a schedule works wonders for babies who are having trouble napping (particularly when the problem is short-napping in an older baby). We all have internal clocks and if you get your baby used to sleeping at the same time every day, this will make it easier for her to nap. Remember, our bodies release hormones to fight fatigue, so if she is napping at different times every day, her body will be fighting fatigue and make it even harder for her to nap when you want her to.
Finally, a nice 10 minute nap routine will cue him that a nap is coming up. Change his diaper, read a short book or two, cuddle for a few minutes, and put him down for a nap. If you stay consistent, it will become crystal clear to him what’s coming up and prepare his body for relaxation and a good nap.
If you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 40 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out Help Your Child Sleep, a Step-by-Step Guide. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night. For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations.