Babies need 14 to 15 hours of sleep a day, from both naps and night time sleep. Naps are essential as babies get tired easily, but naps have to be managed so that they won’t end up affecting night time sleep.
Here are the basics you NEED to know about your babies’ sleep!
1. Naps are essential rest for your baby, and for you. If you practice attachment parenting, you may want to lie down beside or near your baby to start your baby on a nap routine.
2. Newborns do not have a sleep schedule, therefore don’t expect to put your baby on the clock. Instead as you observe that your baby’s naps get longer and more predictable, you can start to plan naps in the day.
3. The ideal nap times are once in mid-morning and once in early afternoon. Avoid letting your baby nap in the late afternoon as he would be too awake to sleep early at night. Each nap time is about 1 to 2 hours, and should not be longer than 3 hours. A toddler will likely nap a longer nap in the afternoon, for 2 to 3 hours.
However, as you will likely find out soon enough, nap times are not easy to manage. There are times when you have to run an errand and your baby falls asleep in the car (when it is not the nap time), or at other times, your baby just refuses to nap and get cranky.
Here are the 5 common questions parents need to figure out!
#1 How do I get my baby to nap?
Similar to night sleep, nap time also has a sleep routine but shorter – for instance, after a feeding, tone down the type of activities and switch to quieter ones like listening to music or reading a book. Set a dim, quiet and cool environment. Also observe your baby; if he is already looking sleepy, consider starting him on the nap routine. Try it out for a few days to find nap times that work for your baby and can be maintained (i.e. not at the time when you have to run an errand).
#2 How do I get my baby to stop fussing when I put him down in the crib?
Whether nap time or bedtime, your baby has to settle down to sleep. It is usually recommended not to rock your baby as he may wake up more easily once the rocking motion stops. If he cries when you put him down for sleep, you can offer him comfort for a few minutes and see if he quietens. It is a balancing act as you do not want to carry him too soon nor let him cry to sleep. Babies often move about during their sleep or appear restless, so there is no need to carry your baby if he is still asleep.
#3 Should I not let my baby nap too long?
Yes, babies should sleep more at night than during the day. One way to avoid babies getting confused between day and night is to limit day naps, to no more than twice and two hours each. Avoid napping too close to nighttime sleep.
#4 Can my baby nap on the go?
For babies below six months of age, it is better to have them sleep in the crib. Sleeping on the go may make your baby rely on movement to sleep, and also potentially disrupts the nap time routine. Car naps tend to be shorter and your baby might not have enough rest, and waking up earlier than he should would make him cranky. This may also affect sleep time at night. If the routine for the day has to require your baby to nap on the go, try to keep to the usual nap time routine as much as possible by keeping the same time of the day and a dim, quiet environment.
#5 Should I not let my baby take naps or wake him up?
If your baby is napping too long, for instance more than 3 hours, you may want to wake him up. If he wants to nap when it is in early evening, you may want to keep him awake a little longer but move the bedtime slightly earlier. However if your baby is ill, expect the routine to be disrupted. On the other hand, there are no strict rules on this if you are comfortable with a more flexible routine.
Tips for Better Sleep
It may be difficult for you to manage your baby naps, and to have a longer sleep at night. Here are four tips to help your baby sleep better at night!
#1 Make it easy to differentiate day and night
Make day time brighter, and more active, including going out for fresh air (be sure not between 10am to 4pm when the sun is hot). It helps to get your baby aware of the difference between day and night as that would help him sleep better at night.
#2 Schedule consistent nap and bedtime
Try to schedule nap times twice a day (mid-morning and afternoon) and a consistent bedtime around evening. Avoid naps that are too short (for instance, sleeping in the car) or too close to bedtime.
#3 Recognize the signs that your baby is tired
If your baby shows signs that he is tired like rubbing his eyes and being fussy, it may mean that he is sleepy. Start your baby on his nap routine and not let your baby get too tired. It may be harder for him to fall asleep when he is too tired.
#4 Set a nap time and bedtime routine
Set a dim and quiet environment, and tone down activities before a baby’s nap. The night time routine can be longer with a bath, feeding, and a quiet bedtime activity like reading. Try to keep the routine the same to provide consistency and comfort for your baby.
Sometimes the stress of naps also comes from our expectations of how our baby should sleep – if we expect the baby to sleep at the same time, for the same hours daily, it can get very stressful when things don’t go as planned. Enjoy spending time with your baby, and if you can, nap when your baby is napping!