Hands down the number one topic I get asked about is naps. The notorious 30-45 minute nap has so many parents stumped and desperate for help. When I work with familes, naps are always a focus not only because parents need that break in the day, but also because proper daytime sleep sets baby up for success for the longest possible stretch of nighttime sleep. When we’re talking about naps, we go through this checklist to be sure baby has everything he or she needs for a restorative daytime rest:
Reasonable Expectations –
If you have a newborn or even a baby under 3 months of age, it’s very reasonable for baby to have naps that last just one sleep cycle (30-45 minutes). As your baby hits the 3-month mark and gets closer to 4 or 5 months, naps will start to lengthen, especially if you’re implementing the elements in this post. Be patient with naps – you will get there. It’s important to give yourself a lot of grace with this one!
Sleep Environment –
Because daytime sleep is very light with Melatonin production down, sleep environment is extra important. You want the room as darks as you can get it to help with Melatonin production. You also want the white noise on for the duration of the nap to help with soothing and also to drown out noise from around the house. Be sure to use the white noise setting or something consistent like rain. A sound that goes in and out (like ocean) will be too stimulating. You also want a nice, cool room with an empty and safe crib or bassinet. Be sure baby is swaddled or in a sleep sack – ideally from Dreamland!
Full Tummy –
A full tummy is one of the most important pieces to the puzzle. It’s crucial baby is getting full feeds every 3 hours to ensure they’re able to make it through the nap. Small feeds can encourage snacking, which makes it harder to get through that nap without being hungry. Really try and fill baby up and keep baby awake during each feed. This will stretch their little tummies so their able to consume more and make it through the entire nap and go longer stretches at night. These feeds should ideally not be right before naps for two reasons: 1. Your baby is less likely to take the full feeding if eating while sleepy, and 2. Baby can start to depend on feeding to fall asleep.
Wake Window –
A wake window is the amount of time that’s ideal for your baby to be awake before a nap or bedtime. It ensures that baby’s sleep pressure is high enough to make it through the nap, but not so long that they go down overly tired. Your baby’s wake window will be as short as just an hour at 1 month of age and extend up to 4-5 hours by 12 months. Being aware of this wake window is a key element to teaching independent sleep. If your baby is going down overly tired, it will be much harder for he or she to fall asleep on their own. Learn your baby’s sleep cues as well – every baby is a little different!
Down Awake –
You’ve probably heard the term “drowsy but awake.” This is the term many use for the ideal way to put your baby down in the crib. What I’ve found is that most are putting baby down too drowsy. If your baby’s eyelids are drooping or fluttering, they are technically in the first stage of sleep. You want your baby to enter this first stage of sleep once they are already in bed. When I’m working with families, I tell them it’s actually better to lay baby down too awake than too tired. A happy baby is more likely to fall asleep on its own. Once you hit that overly tired point, it can be more difficult. Laying your baby down awake will teach them to fall asleep independently, which will ensure they can transition between sleep cycles and end the pattern of the 30-45 minute naps. The stronger this skill gets, the better naps will be!
Once you’ve checked everything off the list, you can feel confident knowing you’ve provided your baby with everything he or she needs to have a great nap. A great nap looks different at each age. Here’s how I typically break it down:
0-3 months: 30-45 minutes or even shorter is normal, feel free to extend it in your arms!
3-6 months: ideally stretch that nap to at least an hour so it’s restorative sleep – but be patient – naps are getting better and better during this time with consistency.
6-12 months: 1-1.5 hour naps after a proper wake window should be pretty dependable unless your baby is sick or going through a regression/leap.
Be patient and know all the work you put into implementing this checklist will pay off!
For more on naps and so much more, please visit me on Instagram: @sleepshopjess
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By Jess Hudson from SleepShop Consulting