Your baby’s naps and the overall balance of your daytime sleep really does affect the night time sleep. Depending on your baby’s age they may be on 1, 2, 3 or even 4 naps. But there are a few things that are important when it comes to naps:
Ultimately, we want for their longest nap to be happening around the middle of the day. If their longest nap is happening in the morning it can mean they are not tired enough to take a long afternoon nap and then are overtired by bedtime. If their longest nap happens too late in the afternoon, it can mean that they don’t build up enough “sleep pressure” before bedtime to actually sleep soundly from bedtime into the night. So working on your longest nap happening in the middle of the day is the most complimentary for night time sleep.
Having your baby’s nap taking place in the cot is not essential, what it does allow you to do is have a much-needed arms-free break each day! (It was my son’s regular cot naps that allowed me to study to become a sleep consultant and start my business!) But naps can take place in the cot, sling, pram, car or in your arms and they all count. The best quality sleep is when your baby is horizontal so thinking about either the cot or the pram for at least some of their naps so that they are lying down horizontally is a good option, particularly for their longest nap.
Do you wake a sleeping baby?
In a word: yes! Capping your baby’s nap lengths in order to “protect” their next nap or protect bedtime is what I recommend to families regularly. This may seem a little mean but you are not taking sleep away from them, but more nudging it a bit later in the day (or into the evening) when that sleep will benefit them more usually. When you want to wake your baby, go into the room, open the curtains or blinds and let the natural light start to help them stir. I will then undo their sleeping bag and give them a couple of minutes to start waking gently.
Where to start?
When and how long your baby should nap is totally dependent on their age. From newborn up to 12 months your baby’s daytime sleep needs will gradually decrease from around 6 hours each day to around 2 hours, so it is constantly changing and gradually decreasing as they get older. A top tip would be staying abreast of that and tweak as you go along whenever you notice your night time sleep is starting to be negatively affected. All of our sleep programmes have daytime nap routines from newborn up to 4 years and can help you with staying on top of this.