Have a Happy Napper

Be Diligent About Routine

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Like adults, children have a body clock that signals when they are hungry and tired. However, they don't have the power to satisfy these needs on their own. That's why they need you to create and maintain a consistent schedule.

"Naps are so vital that I believe parents should plan their entire day around them," says Lewis J. Kass, M.D., a pediatric sleep specialist in Mount Kisco, New York. And it turns out the old adage that sleep begets sleep is true. Most pediatric sleep specialists agree that if toddlers skip naps, they usually don't make up for lost time by falling asleep earlier or sleeping more deeply. Instead, they tend to sleep poorly at night. "The role of sleep in growth, metabolism, and development is huge," says Dr. Kass. "Growth-hormone secretion from the pituitary gland requires steady, uninterrupted sleep."

So if your 11-month-old had a great day yesterday when she woke at 8 a.m., and napped at 10 a.m. for an hour and again at 2 p.m. for two hours, you want to make that a routine. This means if you have a baby gym class today at 11 a.m., you don't go. And you rethink bringing her back to class at all until she moves to one early afternoon nap. (Ask the gym for a partial refund!)

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