We know that babies thrive on the predictability of routine and consistency and sleep is one place we can provide exactly this.With routine providing structure and familiarity in our little one’s ever evolving world, sometimes our schedules can accidentally become all about our little one’s naptime.
With plenty of tasks on the to-do list as well as older children to drop off and pick up, activities to attend and errands to run, life is busy and we can’t always be at home for naps. You deserve to feel confident with navigating daytime sleep without feeling like a slave to the house.
Which is why a daytime plan for naps can make it easier to plan your day to day activities.
A sleep routine that feels restrictive is not in the best interest for you or your family so let’s shake things up and get you ready for day time naps that work for you.
Because let’s face it, babies and toddlers are not robots. Every baby is different and there will always be natural variations for a baby’s sleep schedule by +/- 15 minutes. This blog will guide you with an overall sleep framework.
Before we dive into routine tips, check out the below guide to awake times. Whilst it’s important to know how much sleep our little ones need, it’s also important to have a guide to awake times. The guide below covers off what to expect for awake times from birth to 3.5 years old.
Birth – 3 weeks – 45 minutes
3- 6 weeks – 60 minutes
6- 9 weeks – 60 – 75 minutes
9- 12 weeks – 75 – 90 minutes
3 months – 1.5 – 1.75 hours
4 months – 1.75 – 2 hours
5 months – 2 – 2.25 hours
6 months – 2.25 – 2.5 hours
7 months – 2.5 – 3 hours
8-15 months – 2.5 up to 4 hours
15-18 months – 4 – 5 hours
2.5 -3.5 years– 12 hours
Now that we know what to expect with awake times, there are two tips to keep in mind about daytime naps:
Sleep routines should follow the principal of 80/20
80% predictability (where we are in control) – 20% reality of life (external factors means being flexible and getting out and about, despite interfering with naps).
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Children are more adaptable than we think
Healthy sleep foundations make it quicker and easier to get back on track when you do have a day out as they are not overtired on the day to day basis.
So how do I plan my baby’s day time naps?
Understanding different nap routines and structures is important and will help you decide which nap routine is best for your little one and your family.
Here are two options that might work for you and your little one:
Short-Long Nap Routine
The Short- Long Nap Routine is my personal favourite as it allows you to focus on one big nap each day and releases the pressure of constant re-settling. This is great if you have a little catnapper on your hands where you can work slow and steady to lengthen their naps over time.
The key to the short-long nap routine is making the first nap the shorter one. The short nap gives you freedom to get out of the house in the morning and this nap can be a motion assisted nap if needed. Think morning walk while bub naps in the pram or a power nap in the car on the way to playgroup. This will allow you to attend morning activities without feeling like you can’t leave the house until you have achieved a “good” nap.
The second and longer nap can then occur at home. This is an added bonus when you have subsequent children who are still have a day nap and works well for school drop off and pick-ups as well as discouraging early rising. There are so many wins in the Short-Long Nap Routine.
Medium – Medium Nap Routine
A Medium- Medium Nap Routine can work just as well for families. It means each nap is longer than a short nap but not as long as a long nap. They’re great if your baby is naturally linking the first sleep cycle, but note that you will likely need to monitor awake times as the day progresses and will often need to add an extra 15-30 minutes of awake time to increase sleep pressure. These naps would average around 60-90 minutes.
You’ll also want to be careful to not use a longer morning nap to try and make up for any instances of early rising. If you are experiencing early rising click here to check out my common contributors to early rising.
You can also shorten the morning nap if the second nap becomes harder to achieve. Ideally you would switch to the Short-Long Nap Routine around 12 months if/when second nap refusal arises prematurely.
After reading through the above routines, you might feel one routine sounds ideal for you and your little one. Don’t worry if you’re unsure though, you can always trial both to see what works for you and your child, just remember to give it at least 1-2 weeks before making your decision either way.
Have you read my blog, ‘What is the solution to catnapping?’ Check it out if you have a little serial catnapper on your hands.
You can’t cover off a blog about napping without also mentioning nap transitions. Nap transitions will at times play a part in your naptime approach and call for flexibility and adjustment. Want to know when and how nap transitions may occur for your little one? Check out the Nap Transitions blog here.
What about leaving the house at nap time and how do you approach sleep when you’ll be out all day?
What’s the best way to approach naps when you’re leaving the house at nap time?
Time your outing to occur when you can make the most of your travel ie with a car trip, walk in the pram or baby carrier.
If you’re spending the whole day at one location (like the grandparents’ house), take a portacot and pack sleep associations from home for familiarity. My personal favourite is Snoozeshade cover which blocks out stimulation and artificial light. Check out the Snooze shade blog here, including a discount code.
You might also want to include your little one’s sleeping bag, white noise machine, comforter or dummy too. Enjoy the day and remember it’s ok to break the rules.
Expert Tip: Some sleep is more important than no sleep on the road so plan to get back on track with an extra nap or earlier bedtime when home. (It takes 3-5 days to see overall readjusting). I touch more on the best way to manage napping on the go and away from home in my blog about the festive season. You can find the blog here.
If daytime sleep has felt a little overwhelming, I hope this solves some of the confusion and helps to guide you through suitable awake times and tips for managing naps during the day.
Want to know the ins and out of the sleep routines that I recommend? Download my comprehensive nap routine guide. This is a 35 page guide, from 6 weeks to 4 years which breaks down each age and stage not only in awake times, but also gives you total day sleep requirements and provides detailed explanation of two different routines for each age group for you to learn and understand more about daily sleep needs for your little one.