It’s such a joy to look at your sleeping child. But when his sleep is getting longer, you can’t help but ask, “Should I wake baby up from a nap?”
Baby naps can be a restful time for the baby as well as for you. But the process of getting your baby to sleep during the day is a challenge. ‘One pill for all’ is not an applicable concept here since every baby is different when it comes to how much sleep they need.
While some babies need more than two hours of uninterrupted sleep after every four hours, others sleep for just an hour. So before you force your baby to sleep for a few hours to get some shut-eye, understand how their sleep patterns work.
How many naps a day does your baby need?
It will take a while for your baby to develop a routine sleep schedule. During their first month, they sleep and wake up round-the-clock with intervals for feeding. As they grow older, this pattern changes and their nap-time increases, acquires a pattern and becomes more periodical.
- Ages 4 months to 1 year: Babies who fall under this age bracket are likely to nap at least twice a day- once in the morning and then during the afternoon. Usually, such babies also sleep for three or more hours during the day.
- Ages 1 year and above: Babies who fall under this age bracket often sleep once during the day for two to three hours. They develop a routine sleeping schedule and continue taking afternoon naps way until their fourth or fifth year.
Here is a Baby Nap Chart that shows baby naps by age from the website Baby Sleep Site, a consultancy company run by renowned sleeping consultant Nicole Johnson.
||# of Naps
||Total Amount of Daytime Sleep
||Length of Each Nap
||Awake Time Between Naps
|0 – 11 Weeks
||10 or 15 minutes – 4 hours
||30 mins – 1 hour
||30 minutes-2 hours
||about 1-2 hours
||30/45 minutes-2 hours
||about 2 hours
||about 3-4 hours
While this nap schedule for babies is just a reference, it is backed by Johnson’s 10 years of experience as a sleep consultant for babies.
As you will notice in the chart, a newborn can nap 6 to 8 times during the day. However, their naps are shorter, spanning from 15 minutes to 4 hours. It is because, for the first few weeks, your baby sleeps for 16 to 18 hours in a day, only waking up to feed.
But as your little one grows, his nap time schedule adjusts to his needs. This is why you will notice that although his naps become less frequent, the length of each one gets longer. At 4 to 5 months, most babies sleep longer at night, but they still get 2 to 3 long naps (at least an hour or 2) during the day.
Having a nap schedule for babies can help you determine if your child is getting enough sleep during the day. As they grow, the goal is for them to have longer naps that can also put them in a better disposition when they are awake.
Things to remember when it comes to baby naps
A baby’s nap schedule vary by age, but regardless of how many months your baby is, there are certain dos and don’t that you must keep in mind when it comes to baby naps.
1. Spotting sleepiness
Don’t you love those cute videos of yawning babies who fall down for a quick nap? We do too. But making a video of a sleepy baby is probably not the most ideal thing to do, especially if you are trying to develop a sleeping schedule.
As indicated in the chart, your newborn can already feel tired after spending 30 to 45 minutes awake. It’s important to recognize the tiredness or sleepiness cues in your newborn, to prevent fussy episodes when it’s even harder to get him to fall asleep.
If you notice these signs, maybe it’s time for you to create an inviting sleeping environment for your newborn to lull him to sleep:
- tugging at ears
- closing fists
- fluttering eyelids or difficulty focusing – your baby might even go cross-eyed or seem to be staring into space
- making jerky arm and leg movements, or arching backwards
- frowning or looking worried
- sucking on fingers – this could be a good sign and might mean that your baby is trying to find ways to settle to sleep.
As your little one grows, the time he is awake becomes longer, but it’s still best to check for tiredness cues if your 3 to 6-month old baby has been awake for 2 to 3 hours.
If your baby or toddler is tired, you might spot some of the following tiredness cues:
- demands for attention
- boredom with toys
- fussiness with food
Remember, parents: just like with hunger cues, crying is usually the last sign that a baby is sleepy or tired. So try your best to look for other cues instead of waiting for her to cry before you put her on a nap.
2. On waking a sleeping baby
“Should I wake baby up from a nap?” This is one of the most common questions new parents ask.
While it’s too tempting to just let your baby nap peacefully so that you can also have a few moments of quiet time, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends waking your baby to feed if he sleeps more than four hours at a time for the first two weeks to make sure that you can establish a feeding routine and to help baby gain his birth weight back.
Try nudging your little one gently to wake up and feed. You can try gently touching his cheek or putting him close to your breasts to wake him up. If he breastfeeds and goes back to sleep again, it’s okay. It would be helpful if you can keep track of his feeding schedule (at least during the first couple of weeks) to know when it’s time to encourage him to feed.
However, the rules don’t apply to babies older than 2 months. So if you just strapped your baby in a car seat and he slept off, do not wake him up. Simply pick up the car seat, and let him be buckled in for a bit before you take him to his crib.
The idea is to let the baby finish his nap. Waking up a sleeping baby would make him extremely irritable. However, do take note that you can still wake up your baby if you feel that his nap is too long (like over 4 hours) and it would affect his bedtime later on.
3. Know that your baby would sleep a lot
It may come as a surprise to a new mother that her newborn sleeps for 16 hours a day, waking up only to be fed and changed. But it is true. As babies get older, they may sleep less and finally develop a habit of sleeping through the night. For this reason, having a nap schedule for babies as a reference can help you gauge if your little one is having enough sleep.
However, according to Medical News Today, here are some signs to watch out for if you think your newborn is sleeping too much:
- They seem very lethargic and unresponsive.
- They are 14 days old and have not regained their birth weight.
- They are more than 6 weeks old and are consistently gaining less than 4–6 ounces per week.
- They only produce less than 4 wet diapers during the day.
- They do not seem calmer after feeding.
4. Should I stretch out nap time?
If your baby has been taking short naps throughout the day, encourage him to sleep for a longer duration by keeping him up. Try to stretch the nap time to two to three hours.
However, be wary of doing this because ignoring your baby’s tiredness cues just to stretch out nap time may backfire because your baby will be overstimulated, he will be fussy and it will be harder to calm him down when it is time for a nap.
Another option to help baby nap is to reduce stimulation (soothing baby, playing soft music, dimming the lights) and create a conducive sleeping environment for your little one.
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5. Do not rush in
If you notice your baby sneezing, having hiccups, whimpering, or sighing, do not worry. You don’t have to rush to his side every time he makes a noise. This may just mean that your baby is trying to settle down into his new sleeping schedule.
However, if your child starts crying, ignore all warnings that it will make your baby needy and go to your little one. Because contrary to the popular myth, it is impossible to spoil a newborn. Your baby cries because he is hungry, tired, or plain uncomfortable, and that’s his only way of letting you know.
6. Think safety first
Always remember to put your baby down to sleep on his back to prevent sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS. Regardless if it is “just a nap,” put the baby down in his crib. You might be tempted to let him sleep in your arms or on your chest, but the risk is he might fall and suffer from an accident if you doze off.
It is important for him to sleep in a safe environment, therefore, before putting the baby in his crib, make sure to remove extra blankets, stuffed animals, and other soft things that might cause suffocation.
7. Avoid holding or rocking your baby to sleep
How to get baby to nap without being held?
Experts say that the best time to put a baby down on his crib is when he is sleepy, not asleep.
If the baby falls asleep in your arms right after the feeding, follow it up with a gentle action.
Remember, what works for your baby might not work for somebody else’s. It is all about being patient and observant when it comes to helping your child develop a healthy sleep pattern.
If you have any concerns about your baby’s sleep schedule, don’t hesitate to check in with your child’s paediatrician.
Image courtesy: iStock
Republished with permission from theAsianparent Philippines.