Like nighttime sleep, naps give your child's brain and body a chance to recharge. (And let's face it, a couple of hours of downtime for you doesn't hurt either!) Here, five ways to help your little one nap like a pro.
- Time it right. Just as you do at bedtime, look for cues that your child is sleepy. "The younger the child, the shorter the time he should be awake," says Dr. Weissbluth. "A newborn should be soothed back to sleep after just one or two hours of being up."
- Follow your child's lead. Some babies take three 45-minute naps per day, while others hunker down for two 90-minute naps; either one is fine.
- Aim for the same time, the same place. Siblings' schedules will sometimes get in the way of your baby's nap, but
try to be consistent. "Putting a baby down 30 to 40 minutes later than usual for a nap can throw off his schedule for the day," says Dr. Weissbluth. And while letting your child nap in his car seat or swing is okay on occasion, it's important for a child to identify his crib as the spot where he regularly sleeps.
- Set a pattern. Your child is able to anticipate bedtime because of the routine you've created for her, so do the same for naptime. Read her a story, turn on some music, or sing her some of her favorite songs.
- Make adjustments. Babies and toddlers will skip their naps from time to time. "If your 6-month-old refuses to sleep during her normal morning nap, move her afternoon nap to an earlier time," says pediatrician and Parents advisor
Ari Brown, MD, coauthor of Baby 411: Clear Answers & Smart Advice for Your Baby's First Year.