Get a group of bleary-eyed new moms together, and you'll hear how sleep habits dominate the conversation. "How long does your baby sleep?" "Is she sleeping through the night?" "How many naps does he take a day?"
Of course, sleep is extremely important for your baby's overall health and wellbeing. Getting adequate rest helps to boost the immune system as well as promote normal childhood growth and development. Here are some tips to help your baby to nap better.
Have Reasonable Napping Expectations
Your baby's age is a big factor in how long or how much sleep you can expect from him or her. During the first few weeks, an infant can sleep up to 18 hours per 24-hour period, basically waking only to be fed, changed, and comforted in this new, strange world. After about 2 months, most parents notice their baby's nighttime periods of sleep will begin to lengthen. And at about a year, your child is better equipped physiologically to sleep longer.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, here is what you can expect in the first two years:
Between 1 and 2 months:
- Babies' sleep cycles can be unpredictable!
- Newborns will sleep anywhere from 10.5 to18 hours per 24 hours, in several-hour stretches throughout the day and night.
- They can have wakeful periods from one to three hours.
Between 3 and 11 months:
- Naps can vary in length: 30 minutes to two hours, two to four times per day.
- By 6 months, most babies are physiologically ready to get rid of nighttime feedings. (Of course, as each child is unique, follow your own baby's individual cues.)
- By 9 months, 70 to 80 percent of babies are "sleeping through the night"—but note that experts consider this to mean between the hours of midnight and 5 AM.
Between 12 and 36 months:
- Children sleep about 12 to 14 hours per day.
- Most children can still benefit from naps, though they will likely decrease from two to one a day.
- Afternoon naps are most common, which can vary in length from one to three hours. Be careful about putting your toddler down too late in the day, as it may interfere with wind-down bedtime rituals.
- A super-consistent bedtime routine is very important for these busy tots. They are becoming more aware of their independence, and find everything around them so darn interesting that they may want to play instead of sleep! Signal it's time for rest by maintaining nightly pre-bed rituals.
Set the Scene
Make sure that whatever room your child is napping in is conducive for sleep, regardless of what time of day it is. Squaring away these environment particulars will encourage longer stretches of sleep:
- Lighting: Dimming or darkening the room will cue your baby that it's time for quiet resting. Install child-safe shades that fully block out the light in whatever rooms your child sleeps in.
- Temperature: The room should feel comfortable and consistent—most experts recommend keeping the house between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Extremes in temperature can make Baby uncomfortable and cause her to wake up sooner that she would otherwise.