By: Michelle Donaghy, Pediatric Sleep Consultant – Certified Gentle Sleep Coach
Q: My 6 month old resists or refuses to nap. She sleeps great at night, but naps are a complete nightmare. It feels as if trying to get her to nap has taken over my life. What can I do to help the situation?
A: I know from personal experience how incredibly frustrating it is to have a baby who doesn’t nap during the day – both of my children took catnaps until they were approximately 6 months old. You are lucky she sleeps through the night as most children who take short or skipped naps usually have nightwakings. I know it isn’t logical - but sleep, begets sleep!
For babies who aren’t sleeping through the night, I would recommend you solve bedtime and nighttime issues first. It is critical that your child be able to fall asleep on her own at bedtime.
If you put your child down already asleep she misses the opportunity to learn the skill of putting herself to sleep. Bedtime is the easiest time to learn this skill. If you rock your child to sleep at bedtime (or use any sleep crutch) and she sleeps through the night but doesn’t nap well during the day, you first need to make changes at bedtime. “What happens regarding sleep at night will definitely affect sleep at other times.” says Jodi A. Mindell, Ph.D. author of How Infants, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night’s Sleep.
Scheduling and Sleep Windows
The first step is to look at your nap schedule. 6 month old babies need 3 ½ hours of day time sleep spread over two to three naps, says Dr. Ferber and author of Solve Your Child’s sleep Problems. The first two naps should be approximately 1½-2 hours each. The third catnap is optional if she sleeps well during the day, but it is a must if the earlier naps are less than 1 hour each and/or the sleep window is longer than 3 hours from the last nap until bedtime.
Ensure you are watching her sleepy cues and don’t miss her sleep window. If you wait too long, she will get her second wind and will be overtired - making it more difficult for her to fall asleep.
For a 6 month old (sleeping the recommended 11 hours at night) her sleep window is 1½-2 hours for morning nap and no more than 3 hours for afternoon nap(s). For younger babies, the sleep window is no more than 2 hours and no more than 1½ hours for newborns. Once she is about 9 to 12 months, she should nap around the same time every day to help set her internal clock. It is important to remember that the sleep windows are from the end of one sleep to the start of another asleep, so leave plenty of time for a short
Establish a good naptime routine to help her transition from playtime to sleeptime. It can be a shortened version of her bedtime routine, without the bath or pajamas of course. You can read a book, sing
a song, and snuggle. Babies need a dark and quiet sleep environment, therefore I recommend to all my clients that they install room darkening shades and use a white noise machine for all sleep. Your child should be awake when you put her down, just like at bedtime.
Drowsy but awake:
After your baby’s naptime routine put her into her crib‘ drowsy but awake’ so she can learn to do that last part of falling asleep on her own. “Imagine a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being wide awake and 10 being a deep sleep,” says Kim West, LSCW-C and author of The Sleep Lady’s, Good Night Sleep Tight. You want to put her down for all sleep about 7 or 8, says West. You can stay nearby the crib and use soothing techniques such as your physical presence, your voice and your touch to encourage her to fall asleep. For some babies; anyone staying in the room gets them more upset - you may want to use timed checks or soothe from outside the door. The timing of the checks depends on your child’s temperament and your tolerance level for tears.
At this age, try for 1 hour to get her to take a nap. For a younger baby, try for 30 minutes. If she doesn’t sleep, watch her sleep cues as she will be ready much earlier than her usual naptime.
Sometimes your baby may take a 30-45 minute nap, don’t rush to take her out of her crib. Go to her and try to soothe her back to sleep. If she goes back to sleep (even for just 20 minutes), wonderful she did it! If she doesn’t go back to sleep, even after trying for 30-60 minutes (depending on her age), you will need to adjust her schedule and shorten the awake windows until she learns to sleep longer. The skill of falling asleep independently will likely help her to start to take longer naps on her own.
Nap training is time-consuming, usually involves tears and is hard on everyone, but once it falls into place both baby and Mommy will enjoy a much needed rest during the day!
Look for my next blog post where we will talk more about Healthy Sleep Habits for your Children and I will answer more of your questions. If you have a question you would like me to answer please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and
Shifting Schedules – When to Change from Two Naps to One Nap
By Elizabeth Pantley, Author of The No-Cry Nap Solution
During the early years of life, nap schedules are in a continuous state of change. After a newborn period of all-day napping, babies eventually settle into a regular two-nap-a-day routine. Most children switch from these two daily naps to one nap sometime between the ages of 12 and 24 months. However, that year of difference is a very long span of time. This shows that age alone is not the only factor to consider when changing your baby’s nap routine.
Changing your baby from two daily naps to one nap isn’t about what your child thinks he wants, nor is it about the schedule you’d like to have. It’s about the biological need for two naps versus one. Naps at different times of the day serve different purposes in mind and body development at different ages. For example, morning naps have more dreaming, or REM sleep, which makes them important for young babies who require it for early brain development. You don’t want to rush the process if your child is still benefiting from this important sleep time.
There is another consideration when deciding to make a schedule change: The length of time that your child is awake from one sleep period to the next has an effect on his mood and behavior. No matter how well your baby sleeps at night naps are still very important. The older your child is, the longer he can go between sleep breaks without getting cranky. The biology behind this reason dictates that young babies need to divide their day up with two naps, but older babies can handle a full day with only one nap.
Since there is a wide range of what’s normal it’s important to study each child’s behavior to see when he is ready to transition to one nap a day. Use the following lists as a guide.
Signs That your Child Needs TWO NAPS Daily.
• Your child is under 12 months old
• When you put your child down for a nap he plays, resists, or fusses for a while but always ends up sleeping for an hour or more
• When you take your child for car rides during the day he usually falls asleep
• If your child misses a nap he is fussy or acts tired until the next nap or bedtime
• Your child is dealing with a change in his life (such as a new sibling, sickness, or starting daycare) that disrupts his nap schedule
• Your child misses naps when you’re on the go, but when you are at home he takes two good naps
Signs That Your Child Is Ready to Change to ONE DAILY NAP.
• When you put your child down for a nap he plays or fusses before falling asleep, and then takes only a short nap, or never falls asleep at all
• Your child can go for car rides early in the day and not fall asleep in the car
• When your child misses a nap he is cheerful and energetic until the next nap or bedtime
• Your child naps well for one of his naps, but totally resists the other nap
How to Make the Transition When Signs Point to Change
Instead of thinking in terms of dropping a nap it’s better to think in terms of a schedule change. The change from two
naps to one nap is rarely a one-day occurrence. Most often there will be a transition period of several months when your child clearly needs two naps on some days, but one nap on others. You have a number of options during this
complicated transition time:
• Watch for your child’s sleepy signs, and put your child down for a nap when indications first appear.
• Keep two naps, but don’t require that your child sleep at both times, allow quiet resting instead.
• Choose a single naptime that is later than the usual morning nap, but not as late as the afternoon nap. Keep your child active (and outside if possible) until about 30 minutes before the time you have chosen.
• On days when a nap occurs early in the day, move bedtime earlier by 30 minutes to an hour to minimize the length of time between nap and bedtime.
The Danger of Dropping a Nap Too Soon
It’s my belief that the reputation that toddlers have which is known as the “Terrible Twos,” is very likely caused by inappropriate napping schedules. There are a great number of toddlers who switch from two naps a day to one nap, or – heaven forbid! – drop naps altogether, many months before they are biologically ready. This can result in a devastating effect on their mood and behavior: the dreaded and horrible“Terrible Twos.”
For those parents whose children suffer the “Trying Threes” or the “Fearsome Fours,” it’s likely your child is misbehaving for the same reason: an inappropriate nap schedule may be the culprit. The good news is that a modification of your
child’s napping routine can make a wonderful and dramatic difference in his day – and yours.
From The No-Cry Nap Solution: Guaranteed Gentle Ways to Solve All Your Naptime Problems by Elizabeth Pantley (McGraw-Hill, January 2009). Here is the link for information and more excerpts: http://www.pantley.com/elizabeth/
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