Baby Day Napping: The Basics
Help your little napper get into a good sleep routine
By Practical Parenting
December 14 2016
Your bubba is growing and developing rapidly and needs a lot more sleep than you do. He can’t manage on one long stretch of sleep at night so it is important for him to have day naps for the first two years. Some little ones continue to need and enjoy day naps until they are four years of age.
Newborns require around 16.5 hours of sleep in 24 hours, broken up with milk feeds. In other words, your newborn needs a sleep between feeds otherwise he may not have the energy and coordination to feed well.
Your newborn should be offered milk at least every three hours during the day, which gives him time for a nap in between. Some newborns feed and sleep for the first six weeks while others have a little more up-time between feeds. During the first three months, most bubs end up having about five or six naps during the day.
While your newborn is awake you will notice him change from relaxed fluid movements to clenched fists, jerky limb movements, grimacing facial expressions, and turning his head away.These are tired signs that tell you he needs a sleep not a feed.
For the first six weeks there’s no need to sleep him in a dimmed room, as exposure to daylight will help to develop his day/night circadian rhythm. The best cues to help your bub sleep mimic the womb environment, a place where he’s previously felt safe and warm. Swaddle him to secure his arms and prevent the startle reflex from waking him. Play white noise to muffle any sharp sudden noises that could wake him. Keep him warm but it’s important not to overheat him – use clothing and swaddles that are made from breathable fabric.
Swaying and rocking movements help calm your newborn before sleep but try to put him in the cot before he is fully asleep. If your bub isn’t asleep after 20 minutes of trying these things give him a quick feed, cuddle, or a dummy until he is asleep.
Awake and alert
Between three and four months of age, your bub is more alert and stimulated by his surroundings. This mental alertness makes it harder for him to fall asleep. But by four months he will understand systems and patterns better and find going off to sleep easier if you have been consistent with giving him sleep cues. He’ll generally be happy with four naps a day at this age.
From four to seven months of age, your bub is usually content with three-day sleeps. Two are around one to two hours long and one around 30 to 50 minutes long. Tired signs at this age are eye rubbing, back arching, yawning, wanting to be picked up, and not wanting to amuse himself with floor play or toys.
Being consistent with sleep cues and routines such as a nappy change, story, cuddles, a cuddly sleep item, and drawing the curtains are important to help your littlie settle and sleep. How well your bub adapts to starting solids, being able to self- settle, and sleep long stretches at night will affect the length of his day naps and when he drops back to two naps a day.
Two a day
By eight months of age, most babies are happy and contented with two-day naps of about one to two hours in length. Bubs who rely on props to get to sleep (dummy, feed, rocking) may only sleep one sleep cycle of 45 minutes or less if they are overtired from frequent night waking. All bubs are individual and some thrive on less sleep than others. Therefore, look at how happy, contented, and alert your little one is.
Babies who are clingy and miserable are generally tired but in case it is something else seek advice from your child health professional when you have a consistently grizzly bubba.
Your older bub may be chronically tired if he is always sleep deprived, but this doesn’t mean he needs to go to bed every time you notice tired signs. Help him by establishing a daytime routine with set sleep times.
Your bub continues to have two naps a day, one in the morning and one after lunch, until 12 to 16 months of age. His temperament, diet, genetic makeup, and the quality and length of his night sleep and day activity influences how much sleep he needs in the day. Bubs who are extremely active can tire themselves out and sleep well but they can also do this on less sleep.
If naps on the go happen on a regular basis this can set up sleep associations that are difficult to break when you want bub to sleep in the cot. But, if your littlie knows how to self-settle in the cot, a nap in the car seat or stroller once or twice a week won’t usually develop an ongoing problem.
As all babies are individual in temperament, you will need to be patient in helping yours develop good sleep habits to prepare him for good sleeping patterns in the months and years to come.