How to create a Nap Superstar 🌟
Part I: Establishing a healthy foundation for naps
Naps, a.k.a. mom and/or dad time, is one of the most coveted aspects of sleep, second only to those magical 12hr nights everyone talks about. Why do we obsess about our child’s naps?
- because naps are an essential part of our child’s overall sleep health
- because when our littles don’t nap well, they don’t feel well
- because it represents a period of our day in which we are free to fill our starving bellies, bathe, tackle that mountainous to-do list, catch-up on social media, and perhaps even catch a little shut-eye ourselves
That’s an important list, so it’s even more crucial that our babies are napping as often and for as long as they can.
There’s a lot to know about naps, and I know you’re tired. I’ve tried to explain it in digestible chunks:
- How much day sleep does my baby need? For babies between 4-12 months, the average* range is 3-5hrs
- Total nap time accumulation looks different for each baby, and will change as babies grow. For a 4 month old, it might be four one-hour naps; for a 10 month old, it may be two 1.5 hour naps.
- When should babies and toddlers nap? There are two key elements to consider: wake time (the amount of time baby is awake between sleep periods) and biological sleep times (the times of day baby’s body is ready for sleep based on their circadian rhythms)
- For babies 0-4 months, pay attention to the wake time (their bodies have yet to develop circadian rhythms, or scheduled release of cortisol and melatonin)
- Starting around 4 months, circadian rhythms develop, so you should start paying attention to their biological sleep times (usually naps beginning at 8:30-9 AM and 12-1 PM).
- How many naps should my baby be taking? 0-3 months – a lot! Anywhere from 4-8 depending on the length
- 4-7 months – 4 ➡️ 3
- 8-13 months – 2
- 14-18 months – 2 ➡️ 1
- 19 months-4 years – 1 ➡️ 0
- Where should they be sleeping? Both the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) and the PHAC (Public Health Agency of Canada) recommend room sharing for a minimum of 6 months
- 0-6 months – In a bassinet or crib, in parent’s room
- 6 months + – In a crib, in their own room (we sleep best undisturbed by other people’s movements and sounds)
- In a room that is both dark and cool and quiet (add white noise if quiet is an issue)
- Am I destined to never leave the house again? No! I ask parents to be home for nap 1 and 2 while they are working on naps, but nap 3 can be on the go.
- Once good nap habits are in place (after 2-4 weeks of work), your baby becomes very portable again thanks to one important tool: the portable crib. Having a play date? Bring your portable crib. Having dinner at the grandparents? Bring your portable crib.
- The beauty of a baby who naps well is that they will sleep well anywhere, given the right environment. Recreate their sleep space as best you can and baby will be showing off their nap skills all over town!
Now that we’ve laid down a healthy foundation for naps, it’s time to help baby learn how to take lovely, long restorative naps. Stay tuned for Part II: Practice makes perfect, coming soon!
* The majority of babies sleep needs fall into this range, but a small % may need more or less sleep.