Naps are a fundamental aspect of a baby’s growth, but they are super confusing to understand. Here, I will describe nap transition and give you a sort-of “Cole’s Notes” version, a type of calendar to understand naps. This is your baby’s guide to successful naps.
Why do babies and children need scheduled naps ? Why can’t my baby just sleep when she is tired ?
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Babies need scheduled naps because:
a) Babies and children need to get the restorative sleep that is required to grow and make gains, prevent crankiness, and incur a sleep debt . There are certain times of the day that your child will get into a more deep sleep and prevent a sleep debt from occurring.
b) YOU need naps because it gives you a mental break to re-group . (I know that I needed it)
New born babies sleep on demand. They do not have a regulated sleep cycle yet. They eat, sleep, poop, cry . Eventually, they will coo, make eye contact and stay awake for longer periods of time . Though, you are not able to sleep train at this age, it is a great time to start developing an early, calming and positive bedtime routine .
Two Naps,plus a Cat-nap
Between the ages of 3-4 to 8 months, babies will generally have 3 naps per day .
Nap #1 (Mentally Restorative) will happen approximately 1.5 hrs after wake-up .
Nap #2 (Physically Restorative) will happen around lunch .
Nap #3 “Cat-nap” will be the bridge until bedtime; this will be a short nap. Watch for sleepy cues, like eye rubbing, yawning, the “9-mile” stares. These are all clues that your baby is ready to sleep (like NOW) . The #3 “cat-nap” will be the first to go .
When you take away the “cat-nap”, you will need to start extending your baby’s awake time so that he/she can successfully make it to bedtime without accumulating a sleep debt . This may mean having an earlier bedtime to start and slowly making it later at an age appropriate time .
This one is the hardest, tries the most patience, and takes the longest to transition into . Transitioning to one nap can start as early as 15 months; however can be as late as 2 years . It is really dependent on your child’s needs . Some signs to show you that your child may be ready to transition to one nap: 1) playing through the A.M. nap (consistently) or do the complete opposite, 2) sleep great for that first nap, but refuse the second nap, again consistently . Though, if you are noticing that these signs are becoming more frequent – start
mentally preparing . To prepare, if you can, slowly push their A.M. nap closer and closer to the P.M. nap . You will notice that your child will be tired during this transition of eliminating the morning nap, it is completely normal . It is wise to offer an early bedtime until they get used to the change .
One-to- “the dreaded NO NAPS”:
The signs are similar to the 2-1 transitions . Or maybe you need to eliminate naps altogether for school . This can transition happen anywhere from 2.5-5 years old . Whatever your reasons are, to make the transition easier, you can slowly remove the naps and offer an early bedtime . However, when time permits (like weekends or school-breaks), encourage your child to have “quiet-time” . This will offer some rest and they may surprise you and have a short nap . Then offer an early bedtime so they do not accumulate a sleep-debt .
Naps are a process and they definitely take time to organize . You may notice that once you get the hang of a schedule of naps, your child will start to shift on to the next nap-stage . That is completely normal . With this guide, you will have the ability to navigate your baby through the nap calendar and have your child have successful naps.
If you feel that you need more information or guidance with sleep, please connect with me. We can develop a plan together .