Make the most of nap time ... your
baby needs everysinglesecond of
it. Naps help her
through the day in a good mood, allow for optimal development and
health and - yes it is indeed true - improve sleeping through the night.
Let's quickly review why precisely daytime sleep is so important and
then let's see how
to get the most of it.
The importance of naps
Naps are important for more reasons than we usually think of. Please
keep each of them in mind because they will help with understanding and
therefore improving naps.
more daily sleeps are necessary to:
baby content all day long: a young baby needs daytime sleep,
because otherwise she becomes utterly tired, i.e. cranky, fussy,
unpleasantly over-active, ...).
self soothing: in order to wind down peacefully and be ready to
settle independently, a baby must not be over-tired, not even very
tired. Just readily tired,
otherwise we cannot reasonably expect much self soothing ...
sleeping through the night: it may seem a little contradictory
but to have a good quality night (i.e. optimal sleep with the right
amount of light and deep sleep phases and the least unnecessary
awakenings) a baby has to be well-rested. Only regular daytime naps can
optimal brain development: just like at night, the brain does
crucial work while asleep. Recent researchagain
showing that even for preschool children naps still have a unique
functions (for example in memory enhancement). And loss of daytime
sleep is not recovered at night ...
a healthy sleep pattern: this is only possible with a sleep
schedule that is precisely adapted to baby's needs at any particular
time. Imposing a mid-morning
nap (because that's recommended as typical right now) if baby really
needs an early-morning and a noon one.only brings problems. Also your
little one may need a simple Eat-Play-Sleep pattern with no fixed
times, or on the contrary fare best on a fixed-time schedule. See below
for how to get the nap time schedule right.
mom and dad a break: not in the least, it's important to take
some time for yourself. And please, don't use this quiet time to get
chores done, allow yourself some relaxing time! (Trust me, only good
will come of it!).
Best practices for best naps
To most newborns and in the first weeks, naps come naturally. Most
babies sleep all the time
when they are not feeding. But then with increased awake time
needing to settle down for a nap and that's often when the trouble
Or even after napping happily for several months, it often suddenly
becomes a fight ...
Always start with these must-do's to solve existing nap issues and
avoid future ones:
daytime bedtime routine: upcoming naps must always be
recognizable for your baby so make sure you have a simple and pleasant
routine (fixed actions and words you always do and say) in place for
that. It can be the same as for nights, or slightly different, up to
you. This getting-in-the-mood is just crucial as for nights so don't
leave it out on account of being "just a nap".
peace and quiet: use blinding curtains, urge siblings to be
quiet, avoid buzzing activity in & around the house - if needed a
white noise machine can work wonders at nap time! You don't need
absolute silence but a sufficiently relaxed and peaceful atmosphere for
your baby to be able to quiet
down for a rest.
a perfect-fit daytime schedule: to be able to settle and
actually sleep during the day, and get all the benefits from daytime
sleep, you need your baby to go down at times that she needs them most
- not too early not too late.
Observing is key to find out what your
ideal nap schedule is, whether that is an Eat-Play-Sleep or fixed-time
one. Use my Sleepy
Signs Journal (free printable download) to do that and optionally follow the 3-steps in
my Nap in a Snap guide to get it right. Doing the 3-step program
helps you find out not only when to nap, but also how often and when to
skip a nap, how to settle, etc.
self soothing flexibly: being able to settle
independently is always important so if you are both up to practicing
it at nap time that is great. But if it's not working well yet, don't
demand too much. If you are mainly working on getting the schedule
right (after which everything will become easier!) prefer any sleep at
all, and at well-chosen regular times, before demanding independent
everywhere-napping: Yes napping in the stroller or baby carrier
counts, as said above getting any sleep at all is important, and
sleeping on the move at regular times is a great help while
establishing the regular schedule.
about Heidi's award-winning 3-step program for improving naps