When it comes to your baby sleeping well you are going to face many hurdles in keeping things on track. Milestones, teething, sleep regressions are only some of the factors involved in the first few years. As they develop their sleep needs evolve and change and naps form a huge part of that.
In this article we are going to look at how naps change and adjust over the first 3 years of your child’s life and importantly how to recognise when change needs to be made in their napping routine to keep their sleep in check.
If you are experiencing some of the following factors in your child’s napping routine over the course of a few days then it may be time to look at making some adjustments;
- Taking a long time to settle at a nap time that normally is very settled
- Settling at a normal nap time but waking much earlier than they normally do from the nap
- Settling well at one nap but then refusing or not settling well at the next nap
- Suddenly waking during the night where night waking had been eliminated
- Sleeping well at naps but suddenly starting to resist bedtime or take a long time to settle
- Starting to wake earlier and earlier in the morning – eeeekkkk, early morning waking!
There are age ranges that these transitions generally start to happen and its important to watch out for them and be prepared for them so that you can stay on top of the healthy sleep that you have created;
4 – 6 Months
At this stage you should be seeing a patter of 3 naps a day for your little one. I recommend that the morning nap is the shortest nap of the day (45 minutes) and the 2nd nap is a longer nap. This creates a balance that will take you long into the future of napping for your child. There is normally then a 3rd nap later in the afternoon that acts as a refresher before bedtime – this is a cat nap and should be approx 30-45 mins long & it is one that I support to be in the buggy out walking to get fresh air for all.
6 – 9 Months
Within this age range your child will start to resist that 3rd nap or start to resist bedtime after having the 3rd nap. This is a sign that adjustment is needed. Start to shave back that 3rd nap until you find the sweet spot or drop it totally and bring bedtime forward for a time until your child adjusts to the change.
You may also find that you need to give longer wake periods between naps in this age range to keep things balanced. A child of 6 months may only be able to stay awake for 2 hours between naps however a child of 9 months, who is sleeping well at night, may be able to stretch to 3 hours. If you start to see some of the factors listed above in your little ones napping routine then adjust things until you find the right balance.
By the end of this phase your baby should be sleeping 2 naps a day – a morning nap of 45 minutes and a 2nd longer nap of up to 2 or 2.5 hours.
14 – 16 Months
If you have maintained the recommended napping structure of one short nap in the morning and one long nap in the afternoon what you are probably going to see in this range is that your child starts to resist that 2nd nap or that it has to be pushed out and out for them to be tired enough to take it. This is a sign that you may need to start transitioning to 1 nap a day. It might be easier to simply allow your child to take one long nap in the morning but this is not supportive of their sleep phases and may result in an overtired little one by bedtime and perhaps some early morning waking could sneak in.
As such I recommend that you shorten the morning nap by 10 minutes every 3 days until your little one is only having a quick 10-15 minute cat nap while simultaneously bringing the 2nd nap closer and closer to a 12 noon start. Once you have gotten to this then drop the first nap and try to move to one nap a day. This may mean that your 1 nap is a little earlier than 12 noon but allow your little one to sleep up for up to 2.5 hours to get the sleep they need. You may need to implement an early bedtime during this transition as it can take children a little while to get used to the change. I recommend that once you move to 1 nap a day you stick to it and resist having a flip flop between a 1 nap and a 2 nap schedule. It will take time for your child to adjust but it will come with consistency.
2.5 – 3 Years
At this stage in the game you should have that one nap a day down. However, in this age range you are going to see some nap resistance going on. Your child will either no longer want to nap – the drive for sleep has dropped – or they will be resisting bedtime or waking early in the morning. These are all signs that their regular nap needs to be shortened or dropped.
This can be a hard stage for everyone however I combat this with early bedtimes. Don’t be afraid to put your tired child to bed a little earlier during this transition. It is not going to mean they wake up early – it will mean they will get the sleep they need but at night rather than during the day which then has a negative impact on their nights sleep.
Happy Sleeping Everyone!
Erica Hargaden is a certified Child Sleep Consultant, mum to 3 children and runs Babogue Paediatric Sleep Solutions to help bring the gift of sleep to as many families as possible. For more information check out her active Instagram @babogue_sleep or see www.babogue.ie, email email@example.com or call +353 86 8260887