Fact: little ones need naps. Until your youngster is aged somewhere between three and four years old, it’s vital to top up his night-time sleep with during-the-day snoozes.
‘Small children are so busy learning and growing that they need this extra down-time to rest and replenish,’ says baby sleep consultant Lucy Wolfe. ‘When they don’t get the daytime sleep they need, it affects their mood, their behaviour and their appetite.’ Not napping enough can also make it harder for your tot to get to sleep at night because when he gets overtired, his levels of stress hormone cortisol increase.'
Cortisol is stimulating so, however, tired your baby is, with that in his system they’ll be too alert to nod off easily. So, getting their naps right will make everything else much, much easier. And here are the secrets you need to know to help your tot into an age-appropriate sleeping pattern that will help them feel their best, no matter how old they are…
6 tips to ace your little one's daytime naps:
‘When it comes to naps, the clock is your best friend,’ says Lucy. The early signs that your baby is ready for a kip can be fleeting and very easy-to-miss: a momentary eye-glaze, a quick ear pull or a brief eye-run. And then, all-of-a-sudden, your baby tips from playing happily to screaming with tiredness.
1) Know when to watch for pre-sleep signs
The cortisol kicks in and he’s too agitated to snooze, and you haven’t even got upstairs yet! But put your tot down for his nap before he gets too tired, and he’ll settle much, much more easily. Tricky to judge? That’s where the clock come in. ‘Use it along with plus the nap chart below to see when your baby is likely to need to sleep,’ says Lucy.
Make a mental note of the time your youngster wakes up from his nap and work out when his sleep window will be for his next nap – that’s when you need to start watching for those early signs that he’s nearly ready for some more zzz’s. ‘You’ll find it particularly useful on the days when your baby tries fighting off his need to sleep, simply because it’s more exciting to stay awake!’ says Lucy.
‘As your baby’s circadian rhythms kick in and he starts to learn the difference between day and night, he’ll begin sleeping for longer stretches when it’s dark,’ says Lucy. ‘And until the age of eight months, the first nap of the day is really an extension of your baby’s nighttime sleep, so I recommend getting four- to eight-month-olds down for their first nap less than two hours after they wake up.’
2) Time the first nap right
But once your baby is eight months plus, nudging that first nap forwards will help you build well-spaced naps through the day. ‘Wait until he’s been routinely sleeping well at night, with minimal parental input, for a good two-and-a-half weeks, before you start to work on his nap schedule,’ says Lucy. ‘But then nudge your nap timings so that his first snooze of the day doesn’t start any earlier than 9.30am. Now, that’s easy if you’ve got a youngster whose internal alarm clock wakes him at 7am, but what do you do if your eight-month-old is ready to start his day at 5am? ‘Take it really slowly,’ says Lucy. ‘Everyday, move his first nap-time later by just five minutes, until you eventually reach the time you want. The time he naps will gradually start to affect the time he wakes up in the morning, so you will create a positive cycle of later waking and later naps.’
Check out Mother&Baby's nap chart to work out how many naps your baby should be having, plus how long to wait between them.
||Length of awake time between sleeps
||Number of naps in a day
||30 minutes to one hour
||1 to 2 hours
||2 to 3 hours
||2 to 4 hours
||3 to 5 hours
|18 months to 2.5 years
||5 5o 5.5 hours
||1 long nap, lasting 2-3 hours
|2.5 to 3 years
|| 5 to 7 hours
||1 long nap lasting 1-2 hours
Meet the Expert: Lucy Wolfe is a baby sleep consultant, a mum of four and the author of The Baby Sleep Solution: The stay-and-support method to help your baby sleep through the night. (£14.99; Gill Books).
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