Baby naps can be a restful time for you and your little one — but the process of getting your baby to sleep during the day can be just the opposite. Understand the basics of baby naps.
It takes awhile for newborns to develop a sleep schedule. During the first month, babies usually sleep and wake round-the-clock, with relatively equal periods of sleep between feedings.
As babies get older, baby nap times typically lengthen and become more predictable. For example:
- Ages 4 months to 1 year. After the newborn period, your baby will likely nap at least twice a day — once in the morning and once in the early afternoon. Some babies also need a late afternoon nap. Many babies nap a total of three or more hours during the day.
- Age 1 year and older. Around this age your baby will likely drop his or her morning nap and only nap in the afternoon, often for a period of two to three hours. During this transition, consider moving up your baby's naptime and bedtime by a half hour to help him or her adjust. Most children continue taking an afternoon nap until ages 3 to 5.
Remember, however, that every baby is different and baby nap schedules can vary considerably.
To ease your baby into nap time:
- Set the mood. A dark, quiet and comfortably cool environment can help encourage your baby to sleep.
- Put your baby to bed drowsy, but awake. Drooping eyelids, eye rubbing and fussiness might be signs that your baby is tired. The longer you wait, the more overtired and fussy your baby might become — and the harder it might be for him or her to fall asleep.
- Avoid holding, rocking or feeding your baby to sleep. Eventually, this might be the only way your baby is able to fall asleep. If your baby tends to fall asleep in your arms after a feeding, do something gentle right afterward — such as changing his or her diaper or reading a short story.
- Be safe. Place your baby to sleep on his or her back, and clear the crib or bassinet of blankets and other soft items.
- Be consistent. Your baby will get the most out of daytime naps if he or she takes them at the same time each day and for about the same length of time. Occasional exceptions are inevitable, of course, and won't harm your baby.
It's common for babies to cry when put down for sleep, but most will quiet themselves if left alone for a few minutes. If the crying lasts longer than a few minutes, check on your baby and offer comforting words. Then give him or her time to settle again.
If your baby wakes shortly after you put him or her down for a nap and isn't wet, hungry or ill, try to be patient and encourage self-settling. You might gently pat your baby, offer a massage or breast-feed for a short time.
Also, keep in mind that babies are often active during sleep — twitching their arms and legs, smiling, sucking, and generally appearing restless. It's easy to mistake a baby's stirrings as a sign that he or she is waking up or needs to eat. Instead of picking up your baby right away, wait a few minutes to see if your baby falls back to sleep.
It depends on how well your baby is sleeping at night.
Some babies confuse their days and nights — sleeping more during the day than at night. One way to set your baby straight is to limit daytime naps — especially those in the late afternoon — to no more than three or four hours each. If your baby is napping for too long at the end of the day, it can make it harder for him or her to fall asleep at bedtime.
Some babies and older children go through periods during which they refuse to nap — even though they still need the rest. If this happens, try adjusting your baby's bedtime. Making bedtime a little earlier or later can sometimes help a baby nap better during the day.
Helping your baby get the right amount of daytime sleep isn't always easy. Don't feel bad if some days are more challenging than others. Remember to look and listen for the signs that your baby is tired and try to keep his or her nap routine consistent.
If you have questions or concerns about your baby's napping schedule, talk to his or her doctor.
July 09, 2015
- American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The changing concept of sudden infant death syndrome: Diagnostic coding shifts, controversies regarding the sleeping environment, and new variables to consider in reducing risk. Pediatrics. 2005;116:1245.
- Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, et al. SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths: Expansion of recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. Pediatrics. 2011;128:e1341.
- Berkowitz CD. Sleep: Normal patterns and common disorders. In: Berkowitz's Pediatrics: A Primary Care Approach. 5th ed. Elk Grove Village, Ill.: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2014.
- Kliegman RM, et al. Sleep medicine. In: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2016. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed June 21, 2015.
- Shelov SP, et al. Your child's sleep. In: Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5. 6th ed. New York, N.Y.: Bantam Books; 2014.