Have you ever seen the kids sleeping in strollers at the mall or even an amusement park, clearly unbothered by the noise or what is going on around them? Before I became a mother, I assumed getting a child to nap was as simple as giving the child a space to rest. A dozen years and six kids later, I have learned the hard way it is rarely that simple. Nap time can be a battle between parent and child that leaves you everyone exhausted rather than rested. And so parents search for suggestions to make things go more smoothly, ultimately resulting in more rest for everyone.
Tips for the newborns
Having their days and nights mixed up is common for newborns.The goal for this age is to help babies sleep more at night and take many short naps in between feedings during the day. Newborns need up to 16 hours of sleep per day, and it’s okay if they rest in their cribs, in the car or in your arms. You cannot spoil a newborn baby with too many snuggles. Play and interact with your baby during daytime hours and create quiet restful times at night to encourage correct sleep patterns.
Tips for infants
At 3 months old, babies can sleep five- or six-hour stretches at night. This is a great time to start introducing a nap schedule. Consistency is key, and parents often have success by creating a routine. Turn down the lights, snuggle in the chair, read a book or sing a song, swaddle Baby and lay him down while still awake but sleepy. Babies learn what to expect by routine, and when they start to recognize the bedtime cues, they will begin to relax and prepare for nap time. During this stage, babies typically take two naps per day. Some parents will set the nap schedule by taking note of when Baby wakes up. Two to three hours later they start their nap time routine, followed by lunch or midday feeding and playtime. Similarly, the afternoon nap would follow two to three hours after the child wakes up from morning nap, followed by dinner or evening feeding, playtime, bath time and bedtime. The bedtime routine should be similar to the pre-nap routine to create consistency. Once the nap time schedule and routine are established, continue to be consistent and nap time will become a positive experience for both of you.
Tips for toddlers
Usually between 12 and 18 months, your child will begin to give up her morning nap. While this may worry some parents, it can be freeing. Moving to one long nap in the afternoon can give parents more freedom to explore activities in the morning with their child. Some parents may find that moving the afternoon nap to an earlier time as they make this transition may be easier for the child. If you prefer a later afternoon nap, begin moving the time by 15 minutes until you reach the time that works for you.
Tips for preschoolers
Most kids will give up naps between the ages of 3 and 5 years old. As parents guide the transition out of naps, providing a quiet time to rest is still very important, as kids of all ages (and their caregivers) need downtime to recharge. Provide a quiet space either in the bedroom or a comfy chair for them to play quietly, read, listen to music or watch a favorite show. Get the whole family to participate, including Mom and Dad. This may be a nap for some, reading a book for others or drawing or journaling for some.
Nap Time Disruptions and Solutions
- Vacation: A strange space, a different bed and a lack of routine can be a big disruption. Try to maintain the nap times and routine as closely as possible. Bring familiar blankets, stuffed animals and books to recreate your child’s routine as closely as possible. When you return home, go back to the typical routine.
- Sickness: When Baby doesn’t feel well, the routine can quickly go out the window. Try to create as much balance as possible with your normal routine and making your child comfortable. When your child is back to normal, return to your normal nap routine and drop any new habits that have developed.
- Busy day: If you have a lot of errands and appointments and you miss your child’s nap time, do your best to give him an opportunity to rest while you are out and also when you get home. Adjust bedtime if needed to allow for additional rest and return to the routine the next day.
- Car nap: When your child falls asleep in the car, even if it’s only for 15 minutes, chances are she will wake up grouchy and not take a nap again. Allow a quiet time for your child to rest, even if she isn’t sleeping. For a little one this may be putting her in her bed for a short time with quiet toys. For an older child, provide a quiet activity for her to work on.
Mom of six Sarah Lyons lives in Olathe with her family.
As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns.