The bain of our lives right! Naps…!
Here in this week’s blog I will explain to you the importance of naps, why the lunch time nap is best to be the longest and how to achieve appropriate nap lengths and what to do when a nap goes pear shaped!
So, who has a cat napper out there? 10-20 minutes at a time or perhaps your little papoose is napping for one sleep cycle of 30-40 minutes only or maybe you have a child that just won’t nap unless they are in the buggy, being held, fed to sleep or will only sleep in their cot restricting you not going out on a day trip because you know on the way home in the car your baby will fall asleep and boom…bedtime is a nightmare.
This is very normal and developmentally appropriate for very young babies under the age of 5-6 months or so. Some young babies at this age are still grabbing 4 short naps a day.
But, what if your baby is older than 5 months, perhaps 10 months or even 16 months? Let’s find out…
Some babies wake early from a nap and are super fine with this and if you can carry on your day with no effects or repercussions, then great! No need to change anything. It works for you!
But, if you are not that lucky and your child simply does not nap or wakes early from a nap, the lack of sleep will make them grumpy and intolerable and by dinner time a crazed animal, by bath time a scary crying monster and at bedtime they just crash out in a few minutes only to wake lots during the night or at 5 am in the morning ready for breakfast and acrobatics around the living room..!. I bet this sounds familiar to you?
Possible reasons for a short nap…
Effects of poor naps…
A child who is not linking sleep cycles will not be able to consolidate their learning skills, they lose the ability to concentrate, take in information and learning new skills is very hard for them. Also the immune system is compromised, hence very sleep deprived children do get ill often and seem to catch any colds and bugs going around.
Also you have a grumpy overtired child who may fall asleep late in day and put bedtime off track.
Achieving the age appropriate nap time and nap lengths during the day will help with overtiredness.
Ideally we want our babies to start sleeping longer periods of time at naps and at night time for sure. The rule of thumb for naps is SHORT – LONG – SHORT.
And to do this they need to learn how to connect their sleep cycles together. This can be hard to teach but with a little love, consistency and perseverance it can and will happen. If you would like help and support in how to do this get in touch via email or phone and we can discuss the best way to do this for your family in a loving, responsive way.
So how do you do it?
How do we get babies to sleep longer periods and achieve optimum nap lengths for their age and stage that they need for healthy growth and development?
Make sure you have set up the perfect sleep environment for your baby with a pitch dark room, white noise, optimum temperature (18.c-20.c) and correct clothing for room temp. And do be aware of your baby’s awake windows. Put them down too soon and they won’t be tired and will resist the nap, too late and overtired baby will find it hard to settle and fall asleep unaided.
If they rely on you to help them go to sleep or get back to sleep when they wake this skill will take longer. Your help may be you feeding them to sleep, doing the dummy/pacifier run, rocking, held, or pushed in a pram... A parent led sleep association. If you remove this sleep association your baby will soon learn to self-settle independently and connect their sleep cycles together easier.
Babies will be ready to learn this new skill of connecting sleep cycles together once they have come through the 4 month sleep regression but many of you know I call regressions “progressions”!
This milestone, the “4 month sleep progression” is when their brain has matured, not regressed, and ready to learn new skills and has matured in a way of more adult like sleep. This is usually around the 18-20 week mark. Some babies may be ready a little later
What to do when baby wakes early from a nap…
You may wonder what to do, do you get them up, leave them a few minutes to see if they fall asleep again, feed them, just go in and check they don’t need a nappy change... there are a few possible options that may cross your mind!
1. If you are following a schedule say 7-7 and your baby has woken early doors at 5am, you can offer them a “rescue nap” This would be a short 10 minute nap around 7.30/8am. And it may need to be an assisted nap, in sling or a cuddle perhaps. This will help get on track for the rest of the days nap times. It works best with babies around 5 - 10 months.
Then when these naps start to be on track a little more, ideally you would look for your child to nap 2 hours or at least 1.5+ hours during the lunch time nap.
This again reduces the level of cortisol in the body, reduces that sleep debt and your child will be more rested for the afternoon after a longer nap than just a short 30-60 minute nap.
And when that happens - amazing things happen inside their little body….
If you would like more help with nap times or information on how to resettle do get in touch with me and I can talk to you in more detail about this subject and what is most suitable and normal expectations for your child depending on their age and stage of development.
Don’t forget to share this blog with a friend you think may find it helpful!
Take care, and happy napping!