Naps are essential for all babies and toddlers.
They are key to keeping them in a good mood – and imperative for their overall health and wellbeing, too. They also provide much-needed time for busy parents to get a few jobs done or rest themselves!
Nevertheless, naps – just like bedtime – are often met with frustration and struggle.
If this is the case with your little one, you’ll need to step in fast with baby nap training and – if needed – the help of an online pediatric sleep consultant.
Below, we explore how to train your baby to nap longer and on their own.
How Does Sleep Training for Daytime Naps Work?
You’ll often read about sleep training methods for bedtime routines, but what you may not know is some of these methods work for naps, too!
Putting in a bit of time for gentle nap training is a must if your little one is starting to resist and fuss at naptime — and these methods can help baby (and you) get a good night’s sleep as they grow.
First, it’s important to understand the benefits of naps and how many naps your baby should receive daily.
How many daytime naps should a baby take?
According to the Mayo Clinic, a newborn baby’s sleep patterns may change from day to day, as they’re still developing their circadian rhythms.
Typically, a newborn is awake for one or two hours before they sleep for three to four, spending around 16 hours per day asleep in total. However, your baby’s nap schedule should become more consistent and predictable as they get older.
Four months to one year old
Babies aged four months to one year will generally nap twice a day — once in the morning and once in the early afternoon. Some may need a nap later on in the afternoon, but you should try to stop them from doing this when they reach nine months to ensure they’re ready for bedtime.
One year to three years old and beyond
From the age of one onwards, babies tend to stop taking their morning naps. These one- to two-hour naps continue until they’re about three years old.
Ensuring your baby receives enough sleep is imperative for their development and improving the quality of their sleep at night. As babies often don’t sleep through the night until they’re a bit older, they need to replace their sleep debt through the day. This not only helps protect your baby’s health but will help boost your wellbeing, too.
Research suggests that good quality naps can help promote vocabulary growth in childhood, too.
How to Create a Baby Nap Schedule
While sleep training for daytime naps may sound intimidating, it needn’t be!
Rather, you can be teaching your baby to self-soothe in no time at all with these simple baby nap training steps.
Look for those all-important sleepy cues
You’ll no doubt know the signs your baby’s tired, whether they start rubbing their eyes, yawning, or become clingy.
Watch for these cues so you can ensure your baby is ready for sleep when the time comes. For example, you may want to avoid stimulation such as TV or playing games when they begin showing these signs.
Find the right sleep training method for you and your baby
Whether you want to try extinction method naps or Ferber sleep method naps, focus on the method that feels right for you and your baby and stick to it.
For example, the cry-it-out (CIO) method for naps may not be for everyone, but some find it’s the quickest way to teach their baby to self-soothe at bedtime and naptime.
Put your baby down for a nap when they’re drowsy but awake
One of the key elements to sleep training infants is to get your baby ready for sleep when they start showing the aforementioned cues.
Whether you play baby naptime music or swaddle them, do this before your baby starts to get too tired or fussy. That way, your baby will start to associate these routines with naptime.
Create the right sleep environment
Just like for bedtime, a dark, quiet space to sleep in is the perfect environment for your baby.
Look for blackout blinds to help eliminate any light in the room during the day, and consider the use of a white noise machine; this won’t just help create a sleepy environment, but can drown out any background noise, too.
When Should You Start Baby Nap Training?
As much as you may want those daily scheduled naps to start as soon as possible, experts generally recommend that all types of sleep training methods begin when your baby is four to six months old.
You may find that baby nap training isn’t something your infant needs (lucky you!) — but if you do, the simple steps noted above should have you both enjoying those precious moments of peace and calm throughout the day in no time.