I personally love naps and I love routine! Needless to say, I really wanted to get my children on a good napping schedule! However, learning when to put them down for a nap and how often, was difficult to figure out as they grew.
You may have heard it said, good sleep begins in the morning and sleep begets sleep! What does that mean? In order for your child to have good nighttime sleep, they need to have good naps during the day. Additionally, well rested children sleep longer and better! This can be tricky because nap times don’t necessarily develop routinely for a child until they are about four to six months old. Then children go from three/four naps to none, between 4 months and 5 years old. Knowing when to put them down can be tricky.
Having an idea of how much sleep is recommended by age can be helpful to see if you are within the recommended number of hours.
Importance of naps
Naps provide much needed downtime during the day for children and it aids in the physical and mental development that happens during early childhood. Naps also help children from getting overtired which can affect their mood and naps make it easier for them to fall asleep at night.
Up until 5 years old, anywhere from 90-minutes to five hours of the recommended sleep hours comes during the day, depending on the age. You can support your child’s napping by noticing their sleep cues – how they indicate when they are tired. You may be waiting too long if you are having to do a great deal of bouncing, rocking or feeding to get your child to fall asleep. The goal is to notice when he becomes less interactive and then put him in his sleep space where he can put himself to sleep.
How many naps does my child need?
As mentioned earlier, children transition over the years with how much sleep they need during the day. Here is a simple guide to help you through the transitions. The wake time is the amount of time they should be awake between waking from night sleep or a nap, to the next time they are asleep.
0 to 4 months: Frequent! Wake time around 90-minutes
5 to 8 months: Three naps. Wake time 1½ – 2½ hours (sometimes with one 3-hour span in the afternoon). 5 to 6 month-olds may need four naps if they do catnaps (less than one hour).
9 to 14 months: Two naps. 1 morning nap and 1 afternoon nap up to 3 hours total. Wake time 3-3½ hours
15 to 36 months: One nap. Wake time 4-5 hours (depending on the length of nap)
3 to 5 years: Most children stop napping at some point during these two years. Implementing quiet time for 30-60 minutes is healthy downtime for you and your child!
Monitoring wake times can be helpful to provide a clue as to when it is time to start the naptime routine. Being observant of their sleep cues is essential. Additionally, making naptime a priority by being home and allowing your child to sleep in their sleep space will help create a healthy, lasting routine that will provide restorative sleep during naptime.
The routine should be 10-15 minutes and begins when you see your child begin to be less interactive or mildly fuss. It involves going into their sleep space, changing their diaper and singing a song or reading a book. Then placing them in their sleep space to drift off. Avoid feeding your child to sleep by moving feedings to when they wake up from a nap versus going down for a nap.
There are other elements that factor into good sleep such as the environment and sleep associations. If you would like more details on other factors that help your child sleep better, download Keys to Peaceful Sleep!
Individual coaching can be very helpful to get through sleep challenges. Don’t continue to suffer and think it is going to get better on its own! Contact me for a free 20-minute consultation.