Have you heard the theory that how your child sleeps during the day, will affect how well they sleep at night? It’s actually very true.
Overtiredness, can lead to frequent night waking and early morning wake-ups. Therefore, making sure your child gets the sleep they need during the day is key!
During the newborn stage, your baby might not sleep for more than 45 minutes at a time and have up to 4-5 naps a day. That’s quite normal at the beginning. However, at around 3-4 months of age, we want to slowly establish a good nap routine and aim for three good naps a day, to ensure your child is getting the right amount of restorative daytime sleep.
Here’s what you need to know about these all-important 3 naps:
The morning nap
The morning nap is often the nap that falls into place first. Many parents find it relatively easy to stay consistent with this nap (provided they are sticking to a regular morning wake-up time).
It is also one of the naps that can easily be achieved on the go. This is useful for parents with older children, who need to do nursery or school runs around that time.
For the first few months the morning nap can be up to 90 minutes long. It will start getting progressively shorter from around 3-4 months and by the time a child is between 6-7 months old, the morning nap should have reduced to around 30 minutes.
If it continues to be longer than that, it can reinforce early morning wake-ups, because children will feel like the morning nap is a continuation of their night-time sleep. Furthermore, a long morning nap can also create problems when trying to achieve a long lunch nap. The importance of which I will explain below.
When should I drop the morning nap?
Children should drop from 2 naps to 1 somewhere between 15-18 months. The easiest way to transition is to gradually start reducing the morning nap down to a short catnap of 15 minutes before dropping it completely.
Signs that your child is ready to drop to 1 nap include refusing the morning nap for more than 2 weeks or struggling with the lunch nap as a result of a long morning nap at that age.
The lunch time nap
This is the most important nap of the day and the one that will stick around the longest (until about 3 years of age).
A good lunch nap helps your baby manage their energy for the day and means they won’t need too much sleep in the afternoon and won’t be under or overtired at bedtime.
The ideal time for the lunch nap is between 12-2pm, which coincides with a child’s natural sleep window. This means that their body will experience a rise in the sleep hormone melatonin and a drop in cortisol.
The lunch nap should be around 2 hours long in order for a child to get the restful sleep they need at that time of the day. A longer consolidated nap is more restorative than two shorter ones. This quality time allows for memories to be transferred from short to long-term, the immune system to repair and recover, cells to grow, as well as to improve appetite and emotional regulation.
The afternoon nap
The afternoon nap is often the most difficult one. This is partly due to the fact that it doesn’t fall into a natural sleep window.
However, especially for smaller babies, this nap is very important in order to ensure they are not overtired before bedtime and have a bad night as a result. If you’ve had a bad day and the previous naps have gone awry, then this nap is your chance to get your baby back on track before bedtime. That’s why I recommend helping your child achieve this nap whichever way works best for you. Whether that is at home in their cot or in the pram or sling.
When should I drop the afternoon nap?
The afternoon nap can usually be dropped between 6-8 months (assuming your baby sleeps well for their morning and lunch naps).
If your baby starts naturally reducing this nap and suddenly refuses it altogether, then this can be a sign that they are ready to drop it. However, before dropping the nap, make sure your baby can happily stay awake until bedtime.
Too much sleep in the afternoon much past 6 months old will affect a child’s ability to consolidate their lunch nap and can also cause problems at bedtime and during the night.
If you need more information about naps or sleep in general, please book one of my consultations for more tailored advice on your nap schedule.