The day nap is one of the biggest things I get asked about in relation to baby sleep. How much should each baby be napping, and when do they transition to fewer day naps and sleeping through? Today’s blog will put all those questions to bed, literally.
All babies need day naps. Without a day nap we have a very unhappy, cranky baby and this leads to poor quality night sleeps.
1. Sleep is controlled by melatonin, the neurotransmitter that helps babies get to sleep and stay asleep.
To trigger it we need darkness. Even during the day babies should sleep in a dark room. When they’re awake it’s important to expose them to daylight to set their circadian rhythm.
Options for creating darkness are – aluminium foil, block out blinds and the gro anywhere blind by the Gro Company – https://gro-store.com.au/products/gro-anywhere-blind
2. Babies need a cool room to get to sleep, 16-20°C (60-68°F) is ideal
On a hot day, close all the curtains and blinds in your home, close the doors and either use fans or air conditioning to cool down baby’s room. If it’s too hot they’re not going to sleep. Watch the above YouTube video for my favourite way to keep a room cool in summer.
3. Teaching your baby how to self-settle before 4 months is the key to great daytime naps and begone catnaps!
If you leave teaching this skill after 4 months it is a little trickier. I’m a fan of helping babies learn to self settle very young i.e. two to eight weeks. I have many clients seeing me early with their second baby and they are having AMAZING day sleeps – up to two hours each time and a lot of them are sleeping through naturally – and are breastfed – because of how we manage the day.
- Here’s a blog on the reasons why it’s so much easier before 4 months and how you can help baby learn: https://nurtureparenting.com.au/the-dreaded-4-month-baby-sleep-regression/
- Here’s a blog I’ve written on catnapping: https://www.nurtureparenting.com.au/baby-sleep-and-catnapping/
4. Getting baby down for their nap in their sweet spot is so important.
It’s knowing the right time to put them down for a sleep. Timing is everything.
It’s good to keep an eye on the clock but what is more important is what are the tired signs you are seeing. I like babies to ask for their cot. By this I mean I want to see a few tired signs, not just one yawn. If we put them down too early it creates stress for the baby, likewise if we put them down too late.
A newborn baby is often ready for a nap an hour to an hour and a quarter from the start of the feed whereas a three to four-month-old baby will be ready at 1.5-2 hours of uptime and from the start of the feed. I’m working on something at the moment to help you with the day naps and how to read babies. I’m very excited!!
5. Putting your baby down for a nap AWAKE is key to self-settling and that is the key to a great day nap.
And by awake I mean no sleep crutches and these are – patting to sleep, rocking to sleep, dummies getting replaced a lot, feeding to sleep, etc. you get the picture. It isn’t as hard as what you think to do this and we can teach this at any age.
6. We need to move our babies on with development.
If they’re not doing tummy time, rolling over and crawling at the right ages then sleep and day naps can and do come undone. Lots of floor time is key and doing this little and often to tolerance. Teaching rolling over at three to four months is vital.
Once they can roll remove the wrap and allow them to move into a tummy sleep position, do not stop what they naturally want to do. It is not a SIDS risk. I’ve seen many families rolling babies back onto their back and then we’re going to have an unhappy baby and create a sleep problem. As long as you follow the SIDS guidelines your baby will be safe.
7. Last but not least! Babies need 3-4 naps a day until 6 months when these naps become 2.
A shorter morning nap (40 mins to an hour) and a longer afternoon one (1.5 to 2 hours). Doing 3 naps after 6 months will not be your friend for a stress-free bedtime. A long sleep is important to mop up the stress hormone cortisol. Avoid a nap past 4pm as this will impact on bedtime and getting them down easily.
If you have more questions, why not ask me to answer them during my next Facebook live which I usually broadcast every week on Wednesday at 2.00pm Sydney time (AEDT).
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