In this blog we take a look at the different ways your baby or toddler can achieve regular day time sleep seven days a week. You’ll feel informed about how different naps work so you can pick and choose what will work best for each day’s differing schedule.
Parenting means spending lots of time planning life around daytime naps for your baby or toddler. Every parent wants to win in the nap department and this blog provides hints and tips to help you successfully achieve sleep for your baby during the day, even if this means on the go!
For most families, no two days are the same and we want to help you continue to respect your baby or toddler’s sleep needs whilst not becoming housebound 24/7.
Types of Day Time Naps For Your Baby or Toddler
Bridging naps are most successful for babies under 5 or 6 months of age and are generally reserved for an early riser (prior to 6:00am) and where a re-settle was unsuccessful.
Whilst your baby may be tired, we don’t want to start and finish their first nap all before 9:00am in the morning, especially if they are over 4 months of age.
Enter the bridging nap, a wonderful way to provide a quick reset to get you back on track for the day ahead. Whilst this nap is limited to a very short 10-15 minutes in duration and is an assisted nap (more on assisted naps in the next point) it can be a lifesaver for those early starts.
Bridging naps are often achieved in the pram, car, baby carrier or simply rocked in your arms and held for a power nap. You then gently wake your baby after 10-15 minutes to get you back on track for your baby’s normal nap routine for the day.
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Assisted naps commonly take place in the following ways:
- Baby carrier
- In your arms
As the term ‘assisted naps’ suggests, your baby is assisted to sleep by motion and/or close proximity to you.
Expert Tip: Assisted naps can be really important in young babies who become chronically overtired. If you feel your baby’s stuck in an overtired loop, a few days of assisted naps can help provide a circuit breaker to “reset” and catch up on sleep debt.
At this point you might think assisted naps sound counterproductive and will set you back with all the healthy sleep foundations you’ve implemented.
Surprisingly they don’t undo your previous hard work of adjusting your baby to mattress settling. Instead, they provide everyone with a physical and mental break to focus purely on age appropriate awake times, wind down cues and optimal sleep environment (without the pressure of independent sleep).
Once your baby isn’t so overtired and their hormones are better balanced, the process of transitioning back to independent sleep is much quicker and easier. This is also a great opportunity to focus on improving night sleep for your baby as thanks to melatonin AKA our sleep hormone this time of day is when we have the strongest physiological drive for sleep.
Expert Tip: Have a time frame in mind for assisted naps. For example, 1-2 days so it doesn’t become a long-term habit where we’ve accidentally swapped one prop for another.
Naps on the Go
Naps on the go are inevitably going to occur for your baby and toddler. We need to get out and about after all so there are ways to respect your baby or toddler’s sleep without needing to stay home all day, every day (especially when juggling multiple children).
Some ideas for naps on the go are:
- Plan your road trip – Leave at a set time in line with your baby’s normal nap times so they can sleep in the car.
- Take the longer way home – To allow your baby to finish their nap, go down side streets or via the scenic route. We all know transfers can become less successful as babies grow but you can dump that sleep pressure with even just a sneaky 5-10 minute power nap.
- Pack the pram and go for a walk – I recommend the Snooze shade cover which blocks harmful UV rays and minimises external distractions.
- Baby carrier – This provides you with versatility to keep both hands free, manage different terrains and keep your baby close. My recommendation for a baby carrier is Tula
- By nature newborn naps can be sporadic and disorganised so this is not the time to focus on a set sleep schedule (save this until closer to four or five months).A newborn’s circadian rhythm doesn’t develop until around 12-16 weeks so trying too soon to focus on a set sleep schedule can put undue pressure on parents to control their newborn’s sleep.Instead, focus on awake times and getting sleep rather than no sleep. You can’t form any “bad habits” read my debunking newborn sleep myths blog and your newborn will require close proximity to you in the fourth trimester as they transition from womb life to room life.
Feeding, rocking and holding are all great ways to stay close and you can work from completely asleep, to drowsy, to calm and finally begin to transition to mattress settling over a period of time.
Depending on your baby’s temperament and your commitments here is a guide to newborn awake times:
Newborn Awake times:
- Birth to 3 weeks – 45 minutes
- 3-6 weeks – 45-60 minutes
- 6-9 weeks – 60-75 minutes
- 9-12 weeks – 75-90 minutes
- 3 months – 90 minutes
For more in depth information on newborn sleep you can check out my detailed blog on Realistic Expectations For The Fourth Trimester.
Top sleep tips for conquering catnapping:
- Optimal sleep environment – Dark room and white noise- this minimises distractions and provides a consistent buffer from the outside world.
- Correct awake window – Knowing about and being aware of age appropriate awake windows can make such a difference. Learn more about age appropriate awake windows in my blog about Nap Routines.
- Wind down routine – Being consistent by following the same wind down steps each time your baby is getting ready for sleep provides your baby with predictability in a sequence of verbal and non-verbal sleep cues.
- Practice initially falling asleep in the cot – We want our baby to wake where they initially fell asleep. Mastering this is the first step to then mastering re-settling, although expect this part to take 2-3 weeks with our bodies lower sleep pressure during the day.
Re-settling Opportunity – choose 1 or 2 naps a day where you focus on re-settling for 10-20 minutes meaning you don’t automatically rush in. This is a time dedicated to giving your baby the benefit of the doubt to try to independently resettle and go back to sleep (even if it’s just for a few minutes before providing hands on assistance). If you have a catnapping king or queen read the Catnapping Blog dedicated to helping you manage catnapping.
Babies need lots of sleep, especially in the first 2 years of life. This is often broken down into various naps across the day depending on their age. For guidelines on sleep routines from 6 weeks right through to 4 years Download the Infant & Child Sleep Routine Guide
Does your baby wake early? How early is too early? There are some common contributors to early rising which are easily addressed. For tips to combat the crack of dawn wake ups check out the blog on all things early risers here
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