When you get home with your newborn, you’ll see that a large part of the day will consist of them napping. The first few weeks will consist of short naps and regular feeds.
Of course, as a new parent, you may be asking yourself: “Is my baby sleeping enough?”, “Is my baby sleeping too much?”, or “How can I extend their naps?”
All these questions are completely understandable!
It’s important to remember that as your baby grows, their sleeping and nap habits change to accommodate their needs.
So, how can you make sure your baby is getting enough quality sleep?
First, Why Is Napping Important?
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that a baby who takes few to no naps during the day will sleep the whole night through. No! Don’t fall into this trap. Naps are an essential part of a baby’s routine.
A little one who’s running on no naps goes past the sleeping stage and gets irritable and stressed.
Babies simply cannot tolerate being awake for as long as older children and adults. They need a lot of sleep because they are developing at a rapid rate. Baby Sparks points out that naps enhance learning, they’re linked to better emotion regulation, and they are a key component for better night-time sleep.
Now that the importance of naps are laid out, how often should your little one be napping for?
Babies Six Weeks And Under
During this newborn stage, you’re following the sleep, wake, and feed cycle. Your baby is going to be taking a lot of short naps throughout the day – don’t worry too much about the length of the naps. They’re most likely going to need feeding every two to four hours, which doesn’t leave much room for a long sleep.
Click here to download my recommended routine for two to six weeks.
However, no two babies are the same! As such, your newborn’s natural napping schedule may differ from another baby of the same ago. What To Expect describes two main categories, “Nap schedules vary a lot from baby to baby. But when it comes to nap length, babies tend to fall into two basic categories: the ‘monster nappers’ who nap for two to three hours at a time (and have lucky, well-rested parents), and the ‘cat nappers’ who sleep for shorter periods — sometimes as little as 30 minutes at a stretch — but may have more frequent periods of shut-eye throughout the day.”
Babies Six Weeks To Four Months
As your baby’s night-time sleep gets longer as they get older, you’re not going to be waking up to feed them as much. But, this means you’re going to need to make these missed night-time feeds up during the day. There is a transition period as your little one restructures their feedings.
Expect shorter daytime naps and more frequent feedings for a period of time. Let’s say your baby normally eats seven times in a 24-hour period with two of those feeds happening after 7pm. If they drop one of these night feeds, the next day you might find that they wake up earlier from their naps. This is because they need to make up for the missed night-time feed. Eventually, they will be able to transition to fewer feeds in a 24-hour period.
As your baby reaches between three to four months, they will most likely be sleeping throughout the night for up to 11 hours at a time. Due to this, their naps will be shorter and less frequent.
When your little one is drowsy, put them down for a nap. Then let them sleep until they wake up naturally.
A baby that is happy when they wake up is a baby that has had enough sleep.
TIP: If your baby wakes up from their nap crying, don’t go to them straight away as they might still be tired – see if they’ll go back to sleep on their own. Babies need to get used to their new sleep cycles.
At four months, your baby might go through a sleep regression, where they revert back to the sleeping habits of a newborn. This sleep regression could be the result of many different factors such as not enough feedings, overstimulation, teething, or their environment. Luckily, there are ways to combat these issues so that your baby can get back to sleeping through the night.
Click here for my tips on sleep regression.
Babies Five To Six Months
During this stage in their development, your baby will probably move down to three naps a day. One nap in the morning, the second in the afternoon, and then an evening cat-nap.
Parents explains that at around six-months-old, your little one might be experiencing some separation anxiety when it comes time for them to nap. “Separation anxiety first peaks around six months, and it increases when baby is overtired. Your little one might fight naps and bedtime in order to be with you. Helping your child self-soothe will help with this sleep problem.”
Always putting them in their crib to sleep within a dim room without stimulation can go a long way to calming your baby. Make sure they’re snuggled up with their favorite blanket or stuffed toy. A “lovey”, or comfort object, can help reduce anxiety and other sleep-disrupting behaviors.
If your baby is no longer falling asleep on schedule, it may be time to drop a nap. Click here for the four signs it’s time to reduce your baby’s naps.
It’s worth repeating: every baby is different! As your baby grows and develops, there are going to be challenging low-points in the parenting journey. Make sure you give yourself and your little one grace.
Are you in the Charleston, SC, area and struggling with your baby’s sleep cycle? Schedule a sleep consult to gain the tools you need to feel confident in your ability to understand what your baby needs.