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…
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. Remember this is just a guide, all babies are different and you may find their naps vary from day to day, for example if they've had a busy day at nursery or perhaps if they are feeling unwell.
Can babies sleep too much?
When your baby’s a newborn and snoozing for up to 18 hours in every 24, it can make you worry he’s sleeping a bit too much. Even if you are secretly jealous he can drift off that easily – those were the days, eh?
But, it’s generally nothing to worry about. Some babies are just sleepier than others and in those first few months, there are times when you’ll need to wake him up, even if it’s only for a few minutes and he nods off again soon afterwards.
The main occasion you’ll need to wake your child is for a meal. ‘Never let your newborn go for more than five hours between feeds,’ says paediatric nurse and health visitor Dawn Kelly. ‘If he doesn’t wake by himself, you can stir him by changing his nappy and unwrapping him so he’s a bit cooler and not so snug.’
Don’t worry about daytime naps disrupting your baby’s night as he gets older – he’ll generally sleep and wake when he needs to.
‘I wouldn’t recommend waking from day naps for children over six months unless they’re sleeping beyond 4.30pm and you’re expecting them to have a bedtime of 7pm for example,’ says Dawn. ‘Every child is different but waking a napping child could only make him cranky and overtired.’
6 expert tips for when your toddler won't nap
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. Here are her tips to perfect your baby's nap routine...
1) Know when to watch for pre-sleep signs
‘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.
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.
When do babies drop to one nap?
The average age for the transition to one nap is 15-18-months. Usually your toddler will shift to one lunchtime nap starting between 12:00-1:00pm, in sync with internal biological rhythms, or his internal sleep clock.
Every toddler is different, but you might find that your toddler cuts down the amount of time they nap for between one and two years old. Your toddler has a lot more energy to burn, so that midday nap is often the extra push they need to make it to bedroom with fewer tantrums, but sadly, by the age of four, your toddler will have probably stopped nap time altogether.