Think about what it's like being a baby -- your body and your mind are developing at a dizzying pace, and every day brings lots of new things to see, hear, and stick into your mouth. So getting enough rest is crucial. Naps provide much-needed recharging (not to mention a break for Mom and Dad). They're important for development too -- babies do much of their growing while they snooze. But how many naps should your baby take, and when and how do you convince him to sleep in the first place? We've got answers to your most common questions.
Should I stick to a daily schedule of naps or just follow my baby's cues as to when he seems tired?
Don't worry about a schedule for the first couple of months. During that time, your baby's daytime sleep is utterly unpredictable, coming at random intervals and lasting anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours. (Newborns typically sleep 15 to 16 hours per day.) But at around 3 months, most babies start to develop a more predictable cycle of sleepiness and wakefulness. Setting a more-or-less regular regimen of naptimes keyed to this rhythm will help your baby get the rest he needs. "You have to take into account his temperament, how active he is, and your family's lifestyle," says Judy Owens,M.D., a Parents advisor and director of the pediatric sleep-disorders clinic at Hasbro Children's Hospital, in Providence.
Look for signs like eye rubbing, yawning, and fussiness to tell when it's time to hit the crib. Most infants are ready for their first rest about two hours after waking up in the morning. That one-to-two-hour nap should be followed by another in the early afternoon.