Napping has to be one of the most underrated parts of a child’s routine from birth up to 3 years; babies and toddlers need naps. When and how long they nap for obviously will vary with age but at some point in each day they need to sleep! So many times I hear parents say ‘I keep them up longer, they will sleep longer then in the night.’ This could not be any further from the truth! In fact, longer wake times are likely to lead to more problems in the night! Depending on the age of your child they can need anything from one to three naps a day (excluding newborns.) So, in short no, do not ever restrict your child’s naps.
Sleep is restorative, it helps brain development and it is essential for emotional and physical development. A child that has not fulfilled their required sleep in the day is largely likely to be grumpy, cry and become overtired leading to longer stretches of wake times in the night. It is important in the first instant to understand your child’s sleepy signals, particularly when they are very young. Once you recognise these signs you can monitor what times throughout the day they show them and work towards putting them down fifteen minutes before these signals start, this way you will prevent your child from becoming overtired. When a child becomes overtired your are largely likely to be faced with ‘a second wind’ when we are tricked into thinking they aren’t tired at all, so be careful of this. Be aware of how many hours your child is awake before needing a nap and work with that timescale to put them down each time. For example, a 6 month old typically can have a wakeful window of 3 hours, so be sure to monitor the time rather than waiting for the overtiredness to creep in as this will make putting the baby down much more difficult. Children LOVE routine and will thrive from it, when they know what is coming next they feel more assured. By starting your day at the same time and finishing the day the same way each evening your child will begin to learn what is coming next throughout the day and will expect these routines easily.
The length of time a child naps can be frustrating, particularly if they are only taking half an hour or forty minutes (cat naps.) Work on trying to encourage them to resettle and bring the next nap forward if you know they have not had enough sleep. The key to success with naps is consistency, putting the baby down each day at the same time and if it doesn’t work out, try again at the same time the next day.
My main piece of advice is never go off what another person’s child is doing regardless of whether or not they are the same age. I truly believe that this is why SO many parents end up in such turmoil and their confidence is shattered because they compare what their child should be doing against what internet chat rooms say, news feeds and other people’s children. Every child is unique, every child has their own temperament and personality, every child has the ability to sleep it just needs to be taught to them. How this is done depends upon the individual child. Some children will transition from 3 naps to 2, some will hold on to 3 naps for longer – both are fine! If a child needs to sleep, let them sleep. Remember ‘sleep breeds sleep.
Laura, Babbaboo Sleep.Back to Learn page