‘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.’