Baby Sleep Boot Camp: Naptimes
Know all of your baby's naptime dos and don'ts? Make sure your baby maximizes those daytime ZZZs.
As I say in my book Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child, nap deprivation is a common occurrence in older babies. But most babies over 5 months old should still be taking two daytime naps. (Younger babies should still be taking 3 naps.)
Between 5 and 8 months, it's natural to want to take your charming new baby out and about. And your baby might seem to prefer playing to sleeping, of course! But if you allow her to skip her nap, then fatigue sets in, and it can ruin healthy sleep patterns, and your happy baby will turn into a fussy, crabby baby.
Between 9 and 12 months of age. Children at this age are fearless, full of grace and self-confidence, and very explorative. Quite simply, doing things is fun! Some parents, unsure of when a child naturally shifts to needing only one nap, will cut out the second nap before their child is ready. But the fatigue from nap deprivation can lead to sleep problems at night. The effects of persistent sleep deficits are cumulative, so you may not notice at first that your child is behaving differently.
So, parents of babies, your challenge is to still respect the sleep schedule. If your baby still needs to take two naps, stick to two naps! Avoid whenever possible, taking your baby on long errands at times when he's supposed to be sleeping. (Napping in a stroller or car seat are not substitutes for real sleep. And if your baby is sleeping when he should be awake, it throws off the remaining sleep/wake schedule).
Afternoon wakeful time is the best time to take your baby on shopping trips or errands. That means after Nap #2. And remember: never wake a sleeping baby except when you are trying to protect a sleep schedule.
Gradually, your baby will begin to associate certain behaviors of yours with certain times of the day, her crib, her sense of tiredness and the process of falling asleep. It only takes a few days for this learning process to set in, so use this week to make those daytime adjustments, so you can start having better nights ahead.