Sleep breeds sleep. Daytime sleep is really important and naps during the day at the right time helps babies settle well at bed time and sleep well at night.
Day time sleep helps to:
Prevent overtiredness, which can help them sleep better through the night and setle better at bedtime
Reduce cortisol, if baby doesn’t get the right day sleep to relieve the sleep pressure then the hormone cortisol can be released and this help babies and toddler’s keep going (which isn’t what you want)
Reduce sleep pressure, by this I mean it’s almost like charging your batteries. When babies are awake their pressure and desire to sleep builds and should nap before this gets too high. If it becomes too high they get overtired.
They aren’t like adults and just crash out and sleep all night. An overtired baby or toddler is often very difficult to settle to sleep and can cause frequent wake ups during the night as their body doesn’t fall into a deep sleep.
Improves mood and behaviour
Timing of naps is also important. I usually recommend longer nap after lunch and short nap morning and afternoon (if have more than one nap). When baby gets to 6 months naps often become more predictable and can work on longer stretches of sleep, also good idea to have short morning nap around 9.30 earlier than this and it can encourage early morning wake ups as the body learns it is going to have a sleep early on so doesn’t sleep the last part of the night sleep and can cause babies and toddlers to wake around 5am ish.
A longer nap after lunch helps the body rest before bedtime, if baby is having a long morning nap and short nap after lunch or no nap then it is a long time for them to stay awake until bedtime or can cause them to fall asleep at the wrong time i.e dinner time.
More important babies and toddlers sleep rather than where or how. You may read motion sleep i.e in the pram, sling, car etc isn’t as restorative or good for baby than sleeping in their cot. To some extent this is true especially if you have a baby easily distracted but if your baby or toddler won’t sleep in their cot don’t stress and find another place for them to sleep.
If you don’t have the time and energy to work on two or all naps in the cot then concentrate on nap after lunch as in my opinion it’s the one that should be the longest.
As baby grows they can stay awake for longer periods in between naps but remember awake times refer to the time baby is actually awake so take into account how long it takes for baby to fall asleep or feed (if feeding to sleep) etc
As a guide:
3-5 months, 3-4 naps if baby will sleep for 45-60 minutes will likely have 3 naps if baby only sleeps 20-30 mins then likely to have 4 naps. Shortest length of sleep for first and last nap.
6-7 months 3 naps usually dropping the late afternoon nap around this time, first nap 9.30 for 30-45 mins, second nap around midday aim for 1 ½ - 2 hours, 3rd nap 4.30-5pm 15-30 mins but awake by 5pm.
8 -15 months 2 naps, short one in the morning, this may need to be cut to 30 mins to help sleep longer after lunch, longer afternoon 1 ½-2 hours.
If you find baby is struggling to fall asleep for after lunch nap then need to cut the first nap shorter so if having 60 minutes cut to 45 mins, or having 45 minutes cut to 30 minutes.
15 months + 1 nap aiming for around 2 hours after lunch
Toddler ready to drop a nap?
Consider, could they have the nap every other day? Will they fall asleep easily in the car or pushchair, can child have quiet time, make a den and let them sit and chill out there if they fall asleep great if not at least they’ve rested
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