Hi. I’m Kim West, The Sleep Lady, and I have been working with families like yours for 20 years to help them get the sleep they all need. Today I want to address the most common naptime struggles I am asked about.
Does My Baby Really Need This Nap?
Good naps are really essential to babies’ development, temperament, and growth. But they are constantly changing, which might lead you to assume your child isn’t tired or is ready to drop a nap, when in fact they are not.
So, how much sleep does your baby need during the daytime? It all depends on their age.
● Newborn to 5 Months – Newborns need so much sleep that I do not even recommend sleep coaching till about 6 months. Four to five naps a day is not uncommon at this age.
● 6 to 8 Months – This age needs 2 to 3 naps a day comprising 3 hours, often split into two 90 minute naps. You may add an extra late afternoon nap that is no more than an hour to bridge the time till bedtime and avoid resistance due to an overtired baby.
● 9 Months to 12 Months – The morning nap will often shorten and the afternoon nap lengthens. Around 9 months he will drop the third late afternoon nap if he is sleeping well at night.
● 13 Months to 18 Months – During this time most babies go from two naps to one nap. The afternoon nap remains and is usually about 2 hours long.
● 18 Months and Beyond – The nap pattern continues until a gradual transition to quiet time begins around 3 or 4 years old. Your child may drop a nap one day and need it the next. Some days he may only need quiet time and an earlier bedtime instead. Offer a sleep-inducing environment each time in case he needs to nod off.
My Child Fights Against Taking A Nap
It is common for a growing child to test boundaries by seeing what happens when they don’t nap. Don’t quit providing a solid nap routine even when you get this resistance! Children need to nap into their 3rd or 4th year.
If your child is near a transition age (see the age ranges above) and is resisting naps, try adjusting the nap start times. A flexible schedule is adaptable to a changing baby’s needs as the months progress.
Oops! I Missed His Naptime Window
As a child gets overtired he also gets more wired. This makes it even harder for him to go to and stay asleep. When we miss that sleep window for our child or a sign that says “I am ready to slow down and get ready for sleep,” it makes it more difficult to go to sleep and stay asleep.
Watch for your baby’s sleepy cues. Be a student of your baby in order to learn what signs he gives that he is getting tired. Look for eye-rubbing, ear-tugging, staring eyes, and acting disinterested or distracted. A baby will act disinterested because he simply does not have the energy left to pay close attention anymore. Time for a nap!
How Do I Set The Stage For A Nap?
- Use your bedtime routine, only shorter. For example: a fresh diaper, a short book, a quick snuggle and in bed for sleep. This routine signals the child for what is coming.
- Make the room sleep-inducing. Consider blackout curtains and a white noise machine or a fan. Keep the room a degree cooler than normal to encourage sleep. Also, try to keep outside noise to a minimum as much as possible.
- Nap at home. Plan your errands around naptime and you and your baby will enjoy this stage a lot more! Children thrive on a consistent routine because it is easier on them and provides security.
It’s So Hard To Keep At It!
Naptime sleep is different than nighttime sleep, and the differences can make it more of a challenge. Sticking to a naptime routine at home interferes with activities you may want to do outside the home.
Once you are at home, the light is peeking in through the blinds, a sibling is making noise in another room, and cars and other daytime noises like the doorbell and telephone are unpredictable.
Some babies just simply don’t want to miss anything. They are sure that mom is secretly having a ball without them in the next room (even though you are scraping food off of a high chair)!
All kidding aside, it will take extra perseverance to stick to your flexible nap schedule when you get some resistance. Don’t give up! Stay consistent and your baby should adapt.
Just recognizing that it can be very difficult to stay consistent with your nap plan will help you when the going gets rough. Write out your plan and post it where it is easily visible. Keep a nap journal to see how closely you are sticking to your plan (as much as it depends on you!). That little bit of self-accountability is helpful especially if you are feeling sleep-deprived.
You are welcome to visit me at www.sleeplady.com to learn more of my tips for dealing with naptime struggles and other common sleep problems.
KIM WEST is a mother of two now teenage girls and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than twenty years. Known as The Sleep Lady® by her clients, over the past seventeen years she has helped tens of thousands of tired parents all over the world get a good night’s sleep without letting their children cry it out alone.
Kim has appeared on the Dr. Phil, Today Show, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America, TLC’s Bringing Home Baby and CNN, and has been written about in a number of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Baby Talk, Parenting, The Baltimore Sun, USA Today, The Telegraph, The Irish Independent and the Washington Post.
Kim is the author of three books: “GOOD NIGHT, SLEEP TIGHT: The Sleep Lady’s Gentle Guide to Helping Your Child Go to Sleep, Stay Asleep and Wake Up Happy”, the “Good Night, Sleep Tight Workbook” and “52 Sleep Secrets for Babies”.
Dedicated to providing tired parents with excellent sleep advice and coaching, she started training Gentle Sleep Coaches® all over the world in 2010.