Naps are slightly different to night time sleep. Our babies have less sleep pressure and less melatonin (our natural sleep hormone) to support sleep unlike at night time. They also have to contend with more environmental changes throughout the day eg sunlight, noise, fear of missing out (very real especially for older babies and toddlers) and there may be other siblings in the house so you cant focus solely on naps in the cot like you might have been able to do with one child. Bringing all of that together and naps can sometimes seem impossible to manage! Hopefully you would have read my top tips on naps using appropriate wake times and choosing the right sleep environment but here are my tips on how to get into naps in the day:-
- Start as early as possible. Newborns can get into a nap schedule using wake windows from birth. A dummy can be helpful to link sleep cycles and I would suggest to aim for 1-3hrs for a nap at this age.
- Have a quiet area in the house or use the bedroom where baby usually sleeps (most ideal). Keep the room environment dark and use white noise to drown out any background and external noises eg other children, traffic or dog barking etc. The last thing you want is the postman knocking on the door, the dog barking and your baby waking!
- If you need to be on the go consider a snoozeshade over the cot to offer a dark environment for napping. Using a sling can help also.
- Between naps get outdoors and keep the lights on full to signal wake time
- Work on a sleep, feed, play schedule so that your baby goes to sleep wide awake when their nap time is upon them where able
- Use age appropriate wake windows (see my article on naps!)
- Go up to the bedroom 5 minutes prior to nap time. Keep the bedroom lights on, change a nappy, read a book and encourage your baby to settle. At this point I would suggest turning the lights off either as your baby gets themselves to sleep or with you supporting them. This signals the brain to release melatonin to support sleep.
- Try to keep the nap timings at a similar time each day where possible. This will help the body recognise when to release melatonin and support your baby’s circadian rhythm (body clock).
- If your baby wakes up after a short nap (under an hour) then give them some time to see if they can resettle. This can be 5 minutes to 20 minutes or whatever you are comfortable with. Your baby will be tired if they wake up prematurely so give them a chance to resettle.
Naps can seem difficult but be consistent with a naptime routine, use an appropriate wake window or schedule and keep the environment constant to give your baby the best chance to sleep well during their naps. Don’t worry if naps don’t improve straight away…naps will get better in time.
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