Are you sick and tired of dealing with overtired children? A sleep consultant breaks down How to Get Baby to Nap Longer
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Nap time is every parent’s preferred day. (If all goes according to plan.) Getting your infant to take regular naps during the day is crucial for their physical and mental development and for supporting sound sleep at night. Not to add that many parents depend on this time of day to get things done!
However, you are not alone if you’ve tried repeatedly in vain to convince your infant to take sound naps. Babies under the age of one frequently struggle with short and irregular naps, and there are several reasons why this might be the case with your child. For both of your sakes, read on to learn what might be happening and how to make your baby slumber longer.
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As described in this article: How long should a baby nap?
Problems with baby naps and solutions
How often should a baby nap?
Most parents are eager to understand how to lengthen their child’s naps, but giving children an infinite supply of sleep isn’t in their best interests. Let’s start with the recommended totals of daytime sleep that we prefer to see based on the kid’s age to give you a sense of what you should truly be striving for.
For infants 0 to 3 months
Even though it may not seem like it, babies sleep a lot when they are little. Between 14 and 17 hours of total sleep should be provided to your infant each day, with four to six hours spent sleeping during the day. Just keep in mind that this stage will see extremely irregular napping.
For infants 3.5 to 6 months
Your child’s naps will become more consistent once they have beyond the newborn stage. The ideal nap time for an infant is three to five hours per day, divided typically into three to four naps.
7-9 months for infants
Your child’s total nap time will drop to roughly two and a half to four hours as they gradually move toward two naps. I advise preserving the third nap until the infant is around 8 or 9 months old or until it is abundantly evident that the third nap is no longer required.
For infants 10 to 14 months
Once the infant is consistently on a two-nap schedule, you might observe that as they grow bigger, their desire for daytime sleep diminishes a little, and their naps may get a little bit shorter. While there’s no need to be alarmed, you should still ensure the baby gets between 2.5 and 3 hours of sleep every day across two naps.
Challenges and Solutions for Baby Napping
What if your child isn’t napping for the required length to obtain the rest they need for their age? Finding out what prevents your infant from taking long naps in the first place is the key to learning how to make them last longer. Babies often have trouble getting enough daytime sleep for various reasons, many of which are not as evident as you might imagine. Here are a handful of the cunning but frequent offenders.
Your kid is exhausted
Your child will be overtired if you underestimate your baby’s awake window, which refers to the time your child can stay awake based on their developmental stage. Despite what it may seem like, being overtired makes it harder for a baby to fall asleep, which makes naptime challenging and usually results in a brief or skipped nap.
What to do: During the first year of life, monitor your baby’s wakefulness to determine when he or she should be sleeping, and watch for signs of sleepiness to ensure you don’t miss your child’s naptime.
The infant’s naptime has changed.
In certain circumstances, ensuring that the baby is truly exhausted is the key to encouraging longer sleep. Your child might need longer awake windows to have enough time to build up more sleep pressure between naps.
What to do: Verify that your child’s naptime is age-appropriate and make necessary adjustments. Here are the age-appropriate naptime suggestions I have for kids.
After one sleep cycle, the infant awakens
The final stage of an infant’s sleep cycle, known as REM sleep, a lighter state of sleep, lasts for about 30 to 45 minutes. Although it’s common for infants to wake up in the middle of their sleep cycles, there are several things that can make it difficult for them to go back to sleep on their own. For instance, kids might want assistance replacing a lost pacifier or settling themselves.
What to do: Replace any misplaced pacifiers, touch your baby’s head, stroke their back, soothe them, or rock them to sleep if you observe them waking up immediately at the end of a sleep cycle. If your kid can comfort themselves, they might not need you, but most newborns will require assistance falling back asleep, and that’s good! While you can assist your baby in developing independent sleep habits at this stage, you shouldn’t push them if they’re having trouble.
Baby’s sleeping environment doesn’t encourage rest.
Your child won’t get the best sleep if they nap in the backseat of the car or the stroller rather than in a regular sleeping space like their cot or bassinet. You’ll need to change the baby’s sleeping arrangement to encourage longer naps.
How to proceed: Adhere to the 80/20 rule. While some naps in the car or while traveling are unavoidable, try to have at least 80% of them in the child’s sleeping area, such as their crib or cot. Use white noise and blackout shades to ensure that the infant isn’t waking up due to outside influences like noise or daylight leaking in.
Your kid is caught in a cycle of excessive fatigue
A baby may be experiencing bad naps and nighttime sleep for several reasons, including being caught in an overtired and overstimulated cycle.
What to do: To stop this pattern, you must ensure that your child gets enough sleep at night and that their awake times aren’t excessively extended. To extend a baby’s nap and stop the cycle of overtiredness, you may occasionally need to undertake an “assisted nap,” essentially holding or wearing the child (depending on their age).
But hold on, didn’t I just say to create a regular sleeping environment in a crib? Yes, and this is only intended to be a short-term fix until you stop the cycle of being overtired. It doesn’t work for all newborns, but it can be very effective when done right. Holding or wearing your baby while sitting in a rocking chair (or standing, if wearing) will allow you to safely put them down for an assisted nap while ensuring their airways are open. It’s crucial to remember that you should never perform this if you’re about to nod off.
Due to hunger, the baby wakes up early from a nap.
Your child might wake up from a nap in search of food if their feeding schedule and nap schedules don’t coincide or if the baby isn’t getting full feedings throughout the day.
What to do: Aim for full feeds during the first year of life, roughly 4 to 5.5 ounces every 2.5 to 3 hours. Make every effort to space out feedings during awake times so that the baby is well-satiated before each nap and isn’t skipping a feeding. If you nurse or feed your child on demand, you might consider adding more structure to their feeding schedule to ensure they’re getting full feeds rather than snacking.
Short naps can be upsetting for both you and the baby, and figuring out what’s causing them and how to make the baby nap longer may require some troubleshooting. Longer naps will soon follow once you’ve taken care of the issues above, giving you more time and better sleep for the baby.
Rachel Mitchell is the founder of My Sweet Sleeper, mother of six children, and specialist in maternity and pediatric sleep. For nearly ten years, she has worked with families from all over the world, assisting them in putting into practice useful strategies and methods with their kids to promote better sleep.