Table of Contents
- Do Try to Put Baby Down Awake for Naps
- Do Set Up A Sleep Routine
- Do Look Out for Tired Signs
- Do Make Sure Baby is getting in some physical activity
- Do Try To Lengthen Baby's Naps
- Do Add Up the Hours of Sleep
- Do Try To Be Safe & Consistent
- Do Look for Cues From Your Child When Dropping a Nap
- Don't Expect Baby to Nap on the Run
- Don't Rush In When Baby Makes a Noise
- Don't Wake A Sleeping Baby from a Nap
Sleep is a hot topic when it comes to babies. Most parents are just hoping for their baby to sleep through the night. The truth is that the more effort and focus you put into baby naps, the better the night sleep will be. Here are some helpful Do’s and Don’ts to guide you through naps!
Do Try to Put Baby Down Awake for Naps
Once baby is a couple of months old, try to put baby down awake or slightly drowsy. One of the best habits you can teach your baby is to go to bed awake and learn to self settle. At first you might find that baby needs to be a little drowsy to settle. Baby needs to be aware of their surroundings so by placing baby in the cot awake, they will feel more comfortable when they wake up in the same place. If they go to sleep on the breast or in your arms EVERY time they sleep, then they will be accustomed to being put to bed this way.
Babies get a rude shock when they wake up to find that the warm comforting feeling of mum’s body is not there. It is also more likely that if baby wakes mid nap and sees that they are in their room (where they started the sleep), that they might go back to sleep. Just imagine how you would feel drifting off to sleep in a comfy bed with a pillow and soft doona then you wake up to find that you’re no longer in your bed with your pillow or doona!
Do Set Up A Sleep Routine
Set up a sleep routine for baby naps during the day, as well as night time. Try to follow the same steps for napping during the day as you would at night. This includes setting up cues such as reading a book, putting on a baby sleeping bag, drawing the curtains, and speaking quietly are all cues that help your child recognise that it’s time to take a nap.
Working on a sleep routine for both day and night will help you set up good habits for your baby. It’s never too early to introduce routine into nap time. Even after the age of 1 year, when napping patterns begin to change, remember that sleep promotes sleep. Therefore, good day sleeps will often translate into a good night’s sleep.
Do Look Out for Tired Signs
Try to be on the lookout for tired signs after your baby has been awake for a little while. For a 3-6 month old after 2 hours awake without any tired signs, it should be time to begin the bedtime routine. A 6-12 month old baby will most likely be overtired after 2-3 hours awake. For a toddler or generally over 12 months of age, stick to the morning or afternoon sleeps for as long as you need to. Try to factor in the time it takes to bring your baby or toddler to their safe sleep space, draw the curtains and put them in their baby sleeping bag so that baby is not overtired at the time of going to bed.
You want to try to catch tired signs early. It is much easier to deal with a baby that is not overtired – which is what might happen if you miss the tired signs. Some examples of tired signs are:
– pulling at ears
– clenching fists
– arching backwards
– sucking on fingers
– difficulty focusing – staring into space or going cross-eyed
– jerky limb movements
– slower movements
– yawning – potentially a late tired sign
Do Make Sure Baby is getting in some physical activity
Exercise can really help to improve the quality of your baby or toddler’s sleep. By getting more physical activity your child should be able to fall into a deep sleep and potentially sleep longer. Exercise can help children to fall asleep more quickly. Children who fall asleep faster, tend to have better quality sleep than those who take longer to fall asleep.
Exercise can help to regulate your child’s circadian rhythm or “body clock” which works on a 24 hour cycle. Good exercise outdoors can realign your child’s body clock so that they find it easier to go to bed at the appropriate time.
World Health Organisation Guidelines – Sleep & Movement
The World Health Organisation recently announced new guidelines on movement, sleep and sedentary time for children. The World Health Organisation recommends the following amount of sleep/activity for your baby or young child to maximise their health:
14-17 hours sleep for 0-3 months of age with at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day
12-16 hours sleep for 4-11 months of age with at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day
11-14 hours sleep for a 1-2 year old with at least 180 minutes of physical activity per day
Do Try To Lengthen Baby’s Naps
Young babies will often take short naps and that’s okay because they are sleeping a lot. As your baby grows, especially after 6 months, they really do benefit from naps that are longer than 30 minutes at a time. Try to stretch baby naps out. Two bigger naps are better than several small ones throughout the day. To increase nap time you will need to work on many of the tips suggested in this blog for example being consistent, not rushing in, making sure baby is not overtired when they go to sleep and keeping external noises to a minimum. All the points mentioned in this blog can work together to help your baby get the best sleep possible.
Do Add Up the Hours of Sleep
The sum of sleep over the course of the day is far more important than how many naps have been had. Fewer but longer sleeps are better than lots of little cat naps. At the end of the day the total amount of time your baby has napped is your best guide. That old saying quality over quantity is best. Perhaps keep a diary of the number of hours slept so that you monitor if baby is actually getting enough sleep throughout the day and night. Here we list the amount of sleep recommended at each age.
Recommended Baby Nap time & Sleep By Age
0-3 months 14-17 hours
A new baby will become tired pretty quickly – everything is stimulating to them. In the early days baby will need a feed, burp, a nappy change and a tiny cuddle and they will be ready to sleep again. Everything is new and stimulating so it doesn’t take much for them to be ready for a nap. Baby is still uncertain of night and day so you will need to try to assist them to figure it out.
4 – 11 months 12-16 hours
Your baby will begin to stay awake for longer periods so may start to take fewer naps throughout the day. There’s a lot going on developmentally at this age so sleep patterns will change. Most babies will nap once in the morning and once in the afternoon with a few needing a third late nap in the afternoon.
Over 12 months 11-14 hours
Many babies will start to drop a sleep after the age of one with most moving to one nap around 15-18 months.
Do Try To Be Safe & Consistent
If you are consistent with your baby, then sleep will become easier. Baby will know what to expect. Always put your baby to bed in a safe sleep environment. This means a smooth sheet on a well fitting mattress. No cot bumpers, toys, mobiles or cords near the cot. Dress your baby in a safe baby sleeping bag and do not overheat the room.
Do Look for Cues From Your Child When Dropping a Nap
Many children will continue to take a nap during the day until the age of 3 to 5 years. Even at this age, good daytime sleep is just as important as night time sleep. Your baby will not sleep as well at night if they are tired and crabby due to lack of sleep during the day!
Missing a nap doesn’t necessarily mean that baby will sleep better at night, in fact the opposite is true. If your baby is overtired, getting them ready for bed at night can literally be a “nightmare”. So take cues from your child and see how they are coping without their nap before you give it up all together. It might just be a phase.
Regardless of whether baby has a nap, they will definitely need to rest and have quiet time. Try leaving them in their room for quiet time and a little lie down anyway. Once your child does permanently drop a nap, you may find that they do need to go down for the night sleep a little earlier.
So now you know what things you should be doing at nap time. Here’s what you should not be doing for naps…
Don’t Expect Baby to Nap on the Run
Try not to expect your baby to sleep on the run. We know that every now and then baby needs to nap on the go. That’s why we introduced the travel system into our Bubbaroo Baby Sleeping Bags. Odd naps in the car or pram are okay and cannot be avoided all the time – hey otherwise you would have no life right? It is more likely that baby will get better quality sleep in their own bed, in their own room and will be easier to get to sleep in their own sleep space. As baby grows and takes fewer naps, you will be able to get out and about more often, working around baby’s sleep times. Consistency means baby knowing that he will sleep in his room most of the time – the place where he knows that he sleeps.
Don’t Rush In When Baby Makes a Noise
Many parents feel that they need to go in as soon as baby makes a noise but quite often baby will resettle if you don’t rush in. Here are two reasons why you should not rush in.
The first is that they might resettle and go for a longer sleep which is ideal. Waiting a few minutes should help you differentiate between just a noise and whether baby is actually awake or not. Babies are noisy little creatures. Possibly they are in between sleep cycles or sometimes a baby in a very deep sleep can make a lot of noise too.
The second reason is that if you rush in baby learns that you will come at his beck and call. Ideally you want baby to wake up happy and comfortable in his own cot and room. Most babies will wake and lie there happily for a few minutes so you can determine if they are really done with sleep for that moment. It is important that baby enjoys his sleep space as this will certainly make life easier when you put baby down for a nap.
We’re definitely not advocating controlled crying or any similar methods abrupt methods. We’re just saying listen first before rushing in if they’re murmuring.
Don’t Wake A Sleeping Baby from a Nap
I know you’ve heard this old chestnut before but no-one wants to be the one to wake a sleeping baby! I don’t even enjoy waking my sleeping teenager these days but a baby asleep – well that’s an awful feeling!
Sometimes the buzz of life can wake a sleeping baby…make sure if your house or neighbour hood is noisy that you take measures to help baby sleep. Maybe consider some white noise on a radio or a little gadget that can help block out startling noises like a dog barking or a door bell. On the other hand if your baby is asleep, don’t wake them to rush to an appointment (unless it’s urgent). If you’re heading to Mother’s group or meeting a friend perhaps just let them know that you’ll be a little late and let baby get a few more zzzs.
These are all tips to help but it really is all about getting to know your child and what their needs are. You are the best judge of sleep for your baby.