Nap time in many homes is the glorious moment when parents get a moment to themselves or to accomplish all the things. In other homes it’s a dreaded occurrence that many parents approach with a “why do I bother?” attitude.
If you have a terrible napper who won’t sleep longer than 30-45 minutes, I have the answers to the very important questions you should be asking yourself…
Before I get into these burning questions we need to discuss when is your baby developmentally ready for nap structure. Prior to 5 months old babies have a very underdeveloped body clock and it is developmentally normal for babies this age to have irregular nap patterns. Once your baby has reached this 5 month milestone they are typically ready to begin to consolidate and lengthen sleep and naps begin to regulate…But when they don’t there are a few things we need to look at:
Expecting your baby to fall into a deep, peaceful sleep after a wild game of peek-a-boo is a bit unfair. Much like adults we have a system, a series of activities that we do prior to sleep. Babies learn to expect sleep when they have a sequence of activities unique to any other part of their day that signal that nap time is here — The Nap Routine. A great nap time routine can be 5-10 minutes long, include a fresh nappy, a story or song and a little snuggle. The magic of The Nap Routine is that it’s consistent and completed in the same order every, single, time.
Overnight sleep typically consolidates first and is a key stepping stone to mastering sleep skills. Developmentally, it is most appropriate for a baby to conquer overnight sleep first as they will utilize their natural body clock to assist them in achieving the sleep that they need. Once that has levelled out we are typically ready to attack naps. In some cases night sleep has not been regulated yet and that’s OK! It is never too late to resolve your sleep challenges, especially with the support of a Sleep Consultant.
The biggest cause of nap struggles is managing your baby's awake time and schedule. Sometimes it can be helpful to push your baby to remain awake just a little bit longer to ensure they are tired enough to get a full restorative nap in. This is what builds sleep pressure; Sleep Pressure is: our body's biological response that makes us want to sleep and having enough of it can be the difference of a nice long nap or a long day of cat napping.
This is where sleep pressure becomes vital! During your baby’s awake time (time spent awake between sleeps) it is possible that certain activities can cause your baby’s sleep pressure to deplete. While your baby may not be falling asleep during these activities it can restore them just enough not to be tired enough at nap time or result in a short nap. Activities such as a stroller walk or a nursing session in a dark room too close to sleep time can really interfere with a successful nap.
And last but not least; If your baby needs someone or something to get them in a particular state before they can fall asleep they may have difficulty staying asleep and connecting sleep cycles that would normally result in a longer more restorative nap. Some common sleep associations are pacifier/soothers, bouncing, rocking and going for a drive.
If you have an older toddler and naps have all of a sudden gone sideways and you think it’s time to drop the nap entirely; here are some bonus questions to ask yourself:
So, If you have answered YES to any of the above questions and are also having struggles with naps please know that you are not alone as 20-30% of babies have true sleep challenges and need support.
To find the solution for your nap struggles it may not jump off the page, but the good news is you can always book a FREE 15-Minute Consultation to learn more.
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