A baby’s daytime sleep and nighttime sleep work hand- in- hand with each other; the better a little one’s daytime sleep the better his nighttime sleep. Without napping during the day, a baby will become overtired. When a baby becomes overtired their bodies produce a hormone called adrenaline which helps them fight fatigue. Once that hormone kicks in, it is much harder for a little one to settle down and fall into a long, deep restorative sleep.
Consistency is key
Putting a little one down for his/her naps at the same each day will go a long way to helping establish great naps. With a consistent schedule, you are likely to have fewer issues getting a little one to sleep well. When settling a little one down for a nap, having a routine is very important. A nap time routine takes just a few minutes and helps indicate that nap time is coming next. Your nap time routine could include closing the blinds, change of nappy and putting little one down in comfy clothes, feed if necessary and a lullaby which works as a sleep association.
Blocking out the outside world
White noise and blackout blinds are also very useful during nap times, as they block out the outside world and noise. This helps little ones stay in their ‘sleep bubble’, ensuring they have the best possible chance of getting a good restorative rest.
Changing sleep needs
Babies’ daytime sleep needs change all the time. During the first few weeks up until around three months old, a baby will need at least four naps throughout the day. At this young age babies should be having no more than 2 hours awake time maximum before being put down to sleep for their next nap again to prevent them from becoming overtired and to give them all the vital sleep that they need in a 24-hour period. Many times, a child who does not get enough sleep during the day can be confused with a colicky baby, when in fact the baby isn’t colicky at all but extremely overtired.
At around 3/4 months old, nap times will begin to consolidate into 3 daytime naps. A morning nap, a lunchtime nap and a late afternoon nap.
Little ones tend to drop their late afternoon catnap anywhere between 7-9 months. You will know this is happening because you may find it takes longer for a little one to fall asleep or that he/she doesn’t sleep for very long.
Little ones will usually drop their morning nap anywhere between 12 months and 18 months.
Rest and repair
While children sleep a growth hormone is released, and children who nap well are ensured of this sleep-assisted growth. Naps provide rejuvenation and repair; they also fuel the dramatic developmental surges that occur when children learn to master major physical and mental milestones, helping to lock in those learning experiences. Naps are filled with physical, emotional and social benefits. Nap times can stabilise a child’s mood over the course of the day, eliminating frustrating highs and lows of mood swings and crankiness.
How much sleep should a child be getting? Here is a useful guide
At 1 month
8 hrs daytime sleep and 8 hrs at night (inconsistent), totalling 16 hrs per day
At 3 months
10 hrs nighttime sleep and 5 hrs during the day, spread over 3 naps totalling 15 hrs per day
At 6 months
11 hrs per night of sleep and 3 1/4 hrs per day split over 2 naps and 1 catnap totalling 14 1/4 per day
At 9 months
11 hrs per night and 3 hrs daytime sleep split over 2 naps, aiming to always keep the mid afternoon nap and generally dropping the late afternoon nap, keeping the morning nap. Totalling 14 hrs per day.
At 12 months
11 1/4 per night, 2 1/2 hrs during the day over 2 naps. Totalling 13 3/4 hrs
At 18 months
11 1/4 during the night and 2 1/4 during the day, over one nap mid afternoon 1. Totalling 13 1/2 hrs per day.
At 2 years
11 hrs per night and 1 nap of 2hrs, totalling 13hrs per day.
At 3 years
10 1/2 of nighttime sleep and 1 1/2 hrs nap mid afternoon. Totalling 12 hrs of sleep per day.
About the author
Tracy Newberry, a baby sleep coach and sleep consultant, is the founder of Happy Baby and Me. She teaches sleep in a gentle reassuring way; never using any of the ‘cry it out methods’. Tracy was passionate about working with children from an early age and began working as a nanny in London when she was 18. A year and a half later, she returned to her home country of South Africa, where she nannied and worked as a nursery school teacher.
Arriving back in London in 2009, Tracy continues to work with families, growing her experience and childcare knowledge. As her passion for teaching sleep grew, she set up her own business Happy Baby and Me. Tracy now helps many babies and young children learn the wonderful skill of falling asleep in a gentle, caring way.