Naps and kids can be a tough argument for parents. Are they taking too many or not enough? How long should they be? Where should they nap? So many factors go into how many naps your kiddo needs but the number one is to know and recognize that as they grow their sleep needs change and fluctuate. Sleep during the day and night time are both crucial to our growing, learning little ones!
Essentially, naps are an extension of the time of total sleep we need in 24 hours. A newborn could be sleeping 16-17 hours in 24 hours waking often because of their need to feed. As children grow their sleep needs change and evolve. For example, by 6 months a child should be able to sleep through the night but they still need 14-15 hours of sleep. There are not enough hours in the night, so they will nap to make up for the deficit they need in 24 hours. So the big question is, how much sleep does a child need in 24 hours?
How much sleep does a child need in 24 hours?
Every child is unique and their sleep needs are unique, however, there is a science-based guideline to help you determine if your child is getting the sleep they need in order to thrive. Here is the childhood sleep guideline provided by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine:
To determine if your child is getting enough sleep, record how many hours they sleep per night of consolidated sleep, and be sure they are napping to cover the difference in hours. Are they sleeping enough?
My kiddo needs longer naps - what do I do?!
Several factors go into why your little one's naps are short. Here is a little list that could help you extend those short catnaps.
Set that internal clock! - Humans strive on consistent routines. Consider your eating habits for one - if you eat lunch at the same time every day and for some reason today you had to push your lunch back by an hour, your stomach will let you know that it isn't ok! The same goes for sleep; if you consistently have your child napping and going to bed at the same time daily, this will help set their internal clock and let them know when they are tired. You, as a parent, will also be able to read your baby signs and know what they need.
Keep the environment the same -Baby's sleep environment should be the same every time they sleep: Pitch black room, cool temperature, white noise machine, etc. We want baby to associate the setting with time to sleep. This also means most naps should happen in their bed (or at least in the same bed at daycare or grandma's house).
Crib/bed is for sleep only - We want your child to associate their bed with sleep only. Therefore, do not place baby in the crib to play or load it full of toys that could distrupt sleep.
Quick naptime routine - This should be an abbreviated version of your bedtime routine - diaper change, going into a darkened room, quick story, and down for the nap. Again, this will help baby associate this short little routine to time to sleep.
Teaching independent sleep - The number one thing you can do is teach independent sleep. Most children are waking early because they are only able to sleep for one or two sleep cycles before needing someone or something to help them fall back asleep - like rocking, nursing/bottle, pacifier, bouncing, patting, etc. If the kiddo knows how to sleep independently, they will transition between sleep cycles easily and extend their sleep.
Independent sleep? How do I teach that?!
That is where I come in! If your child is relying on someone or something to fall asleep and you need help to get them on track, send me a note and I would be happy to help. I will look at your child's total sleep, character, daily routines, and come up with a personalized plan to help baby get the sleep they need!