Getting a good naptime routine established is very important.
Babies need a lot of sleep, and if they're not getting enough of
it, they get tired and irritable very easily. Unfortunately, the
more tired and irritable they get, the harder it can be to
settle them for a nap.
When a baby is still young, regular sleep patterns are
closely linked to regular eating patterns, so it's good to look
at what is considered "average" for the early stages of a baby's
life. Remember, not all babies will adhere to these averages,
and if your baby is vastly different, it may be worth discussing
with your health professional.
Newborn - your newborn
baby will be asleep for anywhere from 16 to 20 hours in a day.
This includes naps taken between feeds. It's good to try and
keep baby awake for a little while after a feed, so baby doesn't
get into the habit of needing a feed to drop off to sleep. Once
baby has been awake a little while, it's naptime, before baby
gets overstimulated and wide awake.
2 Months Old - now
baby is a little older, it's good to try and give him the
opportunity to self-soothe during nap and bedtimes. It's quite
normal for your baby to cry a little when first put into their
crib or cot, but that's okay. Allow the crying to continue for a
short while, say 10 minutes (unless you can hear baby is getting
hysterical or distressed), then go and check on him. Resist the
temptation to pick baby up, but pat his bottom, stroke his head
and speak soothingly, or lightly rub his back until he is calm
3-6 Months Old - this is the age at which the
amount of sleep required during the day starts to diminish. Baby
will often drop one naptime without any prompting from you.
Usually this is the late afternoon or third nap of the day.
Sometimes baby will be a little grumpy to begin with, and may
still want a short nap, but try to keep him awake and happy.
This will help baby to go to bed at a reasonable time and sleep
through the night.
Over 16 months - by now most infants
have dropped their morning nap as well, and are perhaps having a
longer afternoon nap to compensate. Most babies now sleep 10-12
hours a night, and their afternoon naptime lasts for 2-3 hours.
If you find baby isn't napping very well in the early months of
life, you might need to cut back on awake time by 15 minutes
increments. If baby is getting overstimulated and highly awake,
then he will fight sleep and naptime becomes a struggle. Be
alert for "tired" cues, like rubbing the eyes, and immediately
act on them.
It's also important to give baby a chance to
settle down to sleep by himself. Some people believe that their
baby will be harmed if he cries, but most babies fuss or cry a
little when first put to bed. It's important to give baby the
opportunity to work out for himself how to relax and go to
sleep. Many babies will start thumb sucking or use a dummy;
others find a mobile hanging above the cot fascinating enough to
stop crying and go to sleep. It's vital that baby learns this
skill of self-soothing, or else you and baby will be having
interrupted nights for what will seem like forever to the sleep
deprived parent. Self-soothing is a skill, and like most skills,
it is learned through practice.
Naturally if your baby is
getting very distressed or worked up, you need to enter the room
and help baby relax again. But try to avoid picking baby up or
in any way disturbing the sleep environment. Leave baby in the
bed and pat, stroke, or talk to baby until he settles down.
You need to be alert to baby's cues when setting naptime, but
it's also good to have a routine. So you determine when naptime
needs to start, and stick to the same time as often as you can.
Babies generally relate well to routines, and will settle
When baby is older, too, he may wake up crying
long before naptime is finished. This could be because of a
dirty diaper, being uncomfortable either in position or
temperature, or something disturbed him. Fix the problem and
encourage baby to go back to sleep. Babies that have had enough
sleep usually wake up happy, talking, and generally in a good
Establishing good naptime routines is essential, both for you
as a parent, and for your baby. Use a combination of cues from
your baby and established routines, to make sure both you and
baby get sufficient sleep.
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