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Some experts suspect that children may be genetically programmed to take short or long naps. In fact, studies have found that twins raised in the same environment often nap for varying lengths of time. So it's unlikely that a child who is a naturally short napper can be transformed into one who takes three-hour siestas every day. But there are some things you can do to encourage good napping habits: Avoid keeping a child up too late at night, which can prevent him from sleeping well during the day, and don't wait too long to begin his nap. Also, rocking or nursing a child to sleep at naptime is a mistake -- it may lead him to refuse to fall asleep on his own or to wake up as soon as the comforting stops. Generally, it's best to put your child down when he's awake. If he fusses, check on him and reassure him as often as you feel is necessary, but don't take him out of his crib. Eventually, he'll learn to fall asleep on his own. --Rebecca R. Kahlenberg
Originally published in Parents magazine, November 2004. Updated 2009
The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.