Day Time Naps
Babies need day time naps because their bodies are constantly growing and developing. It's important that your baby gets enough rest to help his/her body regenerate, and so they wake up feeling rested and ready for more playtime!
How Many Naps Should My Baby Have?
Newborn babies need 16-18 hours of sleep every 24 hours, on average. Don't try to establish a nap schedule until your baby is 3 months old; just let your newborn sleep when they need to. Most babies aged 3-4 months have 3 naps a day, one in the morning, one in the early afternoon, and one late afternoon. By the time babies reach 6 months, they usually drop a nap, and by 12 months, will have one or two naps a day. However, babies, like adults, differ in their sleep patterns. Some babies have several, short 'catnaps' throughout the day, while others consolidate their sleep and have one long sleep during the day. Other babies have very little sleep during the day, but have most of their sleep at night. Don't worry if your baby's napping habits differ from other babies you know. The important thing is that your baby is getting enough sleep for him/her.
How Long Should My Baby Sleep For?
As a rough guide to how many hours sleep babies need, newborn babies usually have around 17 hours sleep every 24 hours. 3 month old babies need 15 hours on average, while 6 month old babies need 14 hours sleep, and 12 month old babies need 12-15 hours sleep a day. Some babies need more sleep than others however, so follow your baby's lead as to how much sleep they need.
When Should I Put My Baby Down For a Nap?
Put your baby down for a nap at the first signs of tiredness. Telltale signs are yawning, rubbing his/her eyes, crying (if you've excluded other reasons for crying such as hunger) and becoming fussy or irritable. Try keeping a sleep diary to help you recognise a pattern to your baby's napping, if it seems erratic. If you notice your baby gets tired after, for example, 4 hours of being awake, you can start to pre-empt his tiredness and start the naptime routine 15 minutes before he gets to the 'sleepy' stage. By the time you put him in his cot, he will be ready to fall asleep by himself. An example of a naptime routine is nappy change, feed, cuddle, and song/story. On average, a newborn naps every 45 minutes, a 3 month old baby sleeps every 2 hours, a 6 month old baby sleeps every 3 hours, and a 12 month old baby every 5 hours. Try not to let your baby nap less than three hours before bedtime, as this will interfere with bedtime.
Establishing a Naptime Routine
To help your baby get to sleep when he needs to, try to keep naptimes consistent. Once you've established a pattern to your baby's naps, put your baby to sleep at the same time everyday. Your baby needs to know it's time to go to sleep, so stick to a naptime routine. Some parents like to have the same routine for naptime as they do for bedtime, to signal to their baby it is time to go to sleep, while others prefer not to dim the lights etc, for daytime naps. This is a personal decision, and you may have to see which method works best for you and your baby. NHS guidelines however suggest not keeping the house silent as your baby naps so that they can get used to sleeping through noise.
Once your baby is asleep, try not to wake him up unless you have to. If your baby is in daycare and has scheduled naptimes, try to stick to these at home so your baby doesn't skip naps and become overtired. It can take a while to establish your baby's sleeping pattern, and you may feel that once you've mastered it, it changes again! This will happen as babies need less sleep as they get older, and will nap for less in the day, eventually dropping their daytime naps altogether between the ages of 2 and a half to 4.