Select nap times that fit your child's schedule. "Think about your baby's day, and try to time his naps logically," says Dr. Deb Lonzer, MD, chair of the department of regional pediatrics for the Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital. "Watch your baby for about a week and see if each day starts to have a similar pattern. If so, just follow your baby's lead -- but if not, you should select the nap times." However, Dr. Lonzer notes that it is best to aim for both a midmorning and a midafternoon nap for your child to avoid sleeping difficulties at night.
Whether your baby needs one, two, or three naps a day, it's important to establish a schedule and stick to it. "Babies like consistency," Dr. Lonzer says. "Nap times should be about the same every day." Plus, regular breaks in your day will help you relax and get a little quiet time, as well.
"Babies should nap in their cribs every day so they recognize their surroundings and feel safe," Dr. Lonzer says. If your baby must nap outside of her crib, let her sleep with an item or two that will remind her of her usual bed.
If you are having trouble getting your baby to fall asleep, Dr. Lonzer suggests giving him a warm bath, a little massage, or a tummy rub to help him relax and drift off. "Sometimes playing soft music or white noise such, as rain can be soothing," she says. "Rocking and cuddling can be helpful for babies, and relaxing and enjoyable for parents."
It isn't too difficult to see when a baby is worn out. "Just like us, babies will start to close or rub their eyes when they get tired," Dr. Lonzer says. "They often yawn or pull on their ears as well." One surefire sign your baby needs rest: He'll get fussy and nothing will be able to cheer him up.
Engaging activities and fresh air help tire your baby before nap time. "Take your baby outside in the stroller when you walk, or play on the floor and keep her active," Dr. Lonzer says. Plus, fresh air, colorful toys, and silly games are all good for your baby's health and development.
While staying active is important for your little one, you shouldn't let him become overtired. This is often a problem if your baby is around an older sibling who no longer takes naps. "Remember that older siblings sometimes keep younger kids up playing longer than they should," Dr. Lonzer says. "They mean well, but help them understand that little ones need more rest."
As your baby begins to sleep longer at night, she might need fewer naps during the day. However, Dr. Lonzer says that quiet time every day is still crucial. "Babies need quiet time without external noise and interaction for their growth and development," she says. "Make sure they get at least 30-60 minutes of quiet time a day -- and you get yours!"
Adjust your feeding and bathing times to fit with a good napping schedule, suggests Dr. Lonzer. "Make sure you are not getting your baby highly active right before nap time," she says. "Wind down with a cuddle, feeding, rocking, and a story or a song."
It's not healthy to let your baby nap more than 2-3 hours at a time, as it might negatively affect his sleep at night, Dr. Lonzer says. Gently wake your baby after a couple hours if he's prone to long naps.
Don't stress if your baby simply won't nap. As long as he'll lie quietly in a darkened room for a while during the day -- and he sleeps through the night and is active during the day -- he probably doesn't necessarily need a nap. "This is unusual until kids are older, but some infants and young toddlers need only one nap to get through their day with adequate rest," Dr. Lonzer says.
When in doubt, talk with your pediatrician. Every baby is different and napping routines may vary over time -- there is not one right answer for every child. Dr. Deb Lonzer says not to worry unless your child's total sleep hours aren't adding up, or if sleep is interfering with important activities such as eating and development. Talk with your pediatrician if you're concerned your baby's sleep schedule might not be healthy.
Look for these common signs that your child needs two naps every day, courtesy of Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Nap Solution.
Look for these common signs that your child only needs one nap a day, according to the The No-Cry Nap Solution.
Look for these common signs that your child no longer needs a nap but just a quiet rest time during the day according to the The No-Cry Nap Solution.
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