Nap Time

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Does it matter where my child naps?

In the first six weeks or so of life, children will fall asleep anywhere, but once a baby is about 2 months old, the external stimulation in a mall, park, or supermarket can keep her from getting the sound, restful sleep she needs. Many kids doze off easily in the car but generally wake up once the ride is over.

Ideally, older babies and toddlers should nap in the same place where they sleep at night. This will help them associate the crib or bed with slumber, which is important in helping them sleep through the night. And, of course, you should try to have your child nap in a quiet environment. If you can't prevent noise, you can try blocking it out by turning on some gentle music, such as classical guitar, or by using a white-noise machine.

Will an afternoon nap keep a child up later at night?

Probably not. A one- to two-hour midafternoon nap won't interfere with bedtime for most preschoolers, Dr. Lewin says. In fact, the opposite often occurs: Young kids who don't nap get overstimulated, then have a tough time settling down in the evenings.

That changes when a child gets a bit older, usually around 4 or 5. By then, an afternoon nap can, in fact, make him less tired at his normal bedtime. In that case, it's best to move the nap earlier in the day or eliminate it altogether rather than allowing him to stay up later at night. But you don't have to give up those peaceful afternoon interludes completely. Encourage your child to replace his nap with "quiet time," an hour or so when he looks at a storybook, listens to soft music, or colors.

Happy Napping

Do: Aim to stick to the same nap routine each day, but be flexible on special occasions.

Don't: Wait until your child is asleep to put him down in his crib or bed.

Do: Encourage your baby to sleep in her own crib or bed for naps after she's 2 months old.

Don't: Keep your child up too late at night, which will interfere with his daytime sleep.

Do: Keep her room as quiet and dark as possible.

Age: 3 mos.

# of Naps: 3-4

Duration: 2-4 hrs.

Age: 6 mos.

# of Naps: 2

Duration: 1-3 hrs.

Age: 12-18 mos.

# of Naps: 1-2

Duration: 1 hr. morning and/or 1-3 hrs. afternoon

Age: 2-3 years

# of Naps: 1

Duration: 1-3 hrs. early afternoon

Age: 4-5 years

# of Naps: 1

Duration:

Age: 5-6 years

# of Naps: 0-1

Duration: 1 hr. sleep or quiet time

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