Friday, November 1, 2013
Getting a good naptime routine established is very important. Babies need a lot of sleep, and if they're not getting enough of it, they get tired and irritable very easily. Unfortunately, the more tired and irritable they get, the harder it can be to settle them for a nap.When a baby is still young, regular sleep patterns are closely linked to regular eating patterns, so it's good to look at what is considered "average" for the early stages of a baby's life. Remember, not all babies will adhere to these averages, and if your baby is vastly different, it may be worth discussing with your health professional.Newborn - your newborn baby will be asleep for anywhere from 16 to 20 hours in a day. This includes naps taken between feeds. It's good to try and keep baby awake for a little while after a feed, so baby doesn't get into the habit of needing a feed to drop off to sleep. Once baby has been awake a little while, it's naptime, before baby gets overstimulated and wide awake.2 Months Old - now baby is a little older, it's good to try and give him the opportunity to self-soothe during nap and bedtimes. It's quite normal for your baby to cry a little when first put into their crib or cot, but that's okay. Allow the crying to continue for a short while, say 10 minutes (unless you can hear baby is getting hysterical or distressed), then go and check on him. Resist the temptation to pick baby up, but pat his bottom, stroke his head and speak soothingly, or lightly rub his back until he is calm again.3-6 Months Old - this is the age at which the amount of sleep required during the day starts to diminish. Baby will often drop one naptime without any prompting from you. Usually this is the late afternoon or third nap of the day. Sometimes baby will be a little grumpy to begin with, and may still want a short nap, but try to keep him awake and happy. This will help baby to go to bed at a reasonable time and sleep through the night.Over 16 months - by now most infants have dropped their morning nap as well, and are perhaps having a longer afternoon nap to compensate. Most babies now sleep 10-12 hours a night, and their afternoon naptime lasts for 2-3 hours.If you find baby isn't napping very well in the early months of life, you might need to cut back on awake time by 15 minutes increments. If baby is getting overstimulated and highly awake, then he will fight sleep and naptime becomes a struggle. Be alert for "tired" cues, like rubbing the eyes, and immediately act on them.It's also important to give baby a chance to settle down to sleep by himself. Some people believe that their baby will be harmed if he cries, but most babies fuss or cry a little when first put to bed. It's important to give baby the opportunity to work out for himself how to relax and go to sleep. Many babies will start thumb sucking or use a dummy; others find a mobile hanging above the cot fascinating enough to stop crying and go to sleep. It's vital that baby learns this skill of self-soothing, or else you and baby will be having interrupted nights for what will seem like forever to the sleep deprived parent. Self-soothing is a skill, and like most skills, it is learned through practice.Naturally if your baby is getting very distressed or worked up, you need to enter the room and help baby relax again. But try to avoid picking baby up or in any way disturbing the sleep environment. Leave baby in the bed and pat, stroke, or talk to baby until he settles down.You need to be alert to baby's cues when setting naptime, but it's also good to have a routine. So you determine when naptime needs to start, and stick to the same time as often as you can. Babies generally relate well to routines, and will settle quickly.When baby is older, too, he may wake up crying long before naptime is finished. This could be because of a dirty diaper, being uncomfortable either in position or temperature, or something disturbed him. Fix the problem and encourage baby to go back to sleep. Babies that have had enough sleep usually wake up happy, talking, and generally in a good mood.Establishing good naptime routines is essential, both for you as a parent, and for your baby. Use a combination of cues from your baby and established routines, to make sure both you and baby get sufficient sleep.