Let's face it, naps are a godsend—not just for your baby, but also for you. When baby's snoozing, Mom gets to shower, pay bills, and get as much done around the house as humanly possible. All joking aside, that siesta is also key to your little one's health. Studies have shown that babies who nap tend to sleep longer—and better—at night and are less fussy during the day than those who don't nap.
Experts agree that maintaining a consistent daily routine will help cue your child to his appropriate naptimes and help him fall asleep faster. Of course, that's nearly impossible to do in the first three months of your child's life—he'll fall asleep randomly throughout the day, and for varying amounts of time. But according to Marc Weissbluth, MD, author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, a pattern should emerge after that.
Napping through Age Two
- Around the 4-month mark, babies typically take two to three naps. (One in the morning, one midday, and one, which tends to be brief, in the early evening.)
- By 6 months, your baby will likely have two set naps (one in the morning and one in the afternoon), each lasting one to two hours.
- This will continue until your child is 12 to 18 months old, at which point he'll likely drop his morning nap.
Napping Tips (to Use Today)
Follow these steps for stress-free snoozing:
- Put your baby in his crib at the first sign that he's tired. This could mean he's yawning, rubbing his eyes, or starting to get fussy. Try not to rock or nurse him to sleep since he may develop a dependence on you and have a hard time learning to fall asleep on his own.
- Signal to your baby that it's time to nap by closing the shades and turning off the lights. Make the room as dark and quiet as possible.
- Don't keep your baby up too late at night, since this can interfere with his naps the following day. Similarly, don't let your baby nap too late in the afternoon. If he's still snoozing by 5 p.m., try to gently wake him up. Otherwise he's likely to resist bedtime.
- Try to have your baby or toddler nap in the same place—his crib—every time. Of course, it's inevitable that sometimes your schedule won't allow you to be home for that to happen. In those cases, your baby will likely doze off in his stroller or carseat.
- Does your baby or toddler refuse to nap? Remember that babies have to nap regularly—their bodies just can't stay up for more than a few hours without sleep. So while your baby may cry for a while, he will eventually crash and snooze. In the case of toddlers, insist that your child at least spend some quiet time in his crib. He may just play with his toys, but at least he's had a little time to unwind and recharge.