Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Mama, Dada, I’m ready for a Nap Schedule! 5 signs your baby is ready for ‘time of day’ naps.

By Julie Wright, MFT

Nap confusion is way up on the list of parents’ sleep questions and concerns.  No surprise here. Naps are notoriously tricky and constantly shifting like a moving target. 

In our book, we tout the incredible ‘90 minute awake span’ technique—a life-changer for babies and their exhausted parents in the early months. But what happens next?  How do we know when our little one is ready to move from napping based on how long he’s been awake, to a nap schedule based on the clock? 

The good news is your baby will show you the way. Here are 5 signs from your baby that he is ready for a nap schedule.

1.  I’m about 5 – 6 months old.
It may surprise you to hear that your baby’s circadian system—her internal clock that signals night, day and nap times—has matured a great deal by this age. Now she’s moved from the erratic sleep patterns of her early months into much more predictable, by-the-clock timing for going to sleep and waking up. 

Other developmental areas are also surging forward at break neck speed.  She is sucking her fingers or thumb, snuggling with her lovey and nestling her body to get comfy. By this age or soon, she is rolling and becoming comfortable with her physical prowess and newfound freedom. All of these lovely skills contribute to her ability to self soothe.

2.  I can fall asleep on my own!
Once your baby is doing what he is built to do – fall asleep on his own, you’re well on your way to much more predictable and scheduled naps.  That’s because when babies are accessing their innate capacity to fall sleep without outside help from you (rocking, bouncing, swinging, stroller, etc.), they sleep longer and more deeply.  They also are able to put themselves back to sleep after a sleep cycle or being awakened by a loud noise.  If they fall asleep in their familiar sleep space, using their helpful sleep associations (thumb, fingers, lovey, body position), they know just what to do to go back to sleep. 

3. My naps are starting to get longer.
What a welcome change! You thought it would never happen but those dreaded 30-minute (or less) naps are finally starting to stretch out!

Little babies often go down for their first nap after only an hour of awake time.  By about 6 months, especially if your baby is getting the 11-12 hours at night that her brain and body require, you’ll also see that span grow to 90 minutes and longer. These are sure signs that she is moving to a nice nap schedule.

4. My morning wake up time is settling in – finally!
Why oh why do little ones think 5:00am is a good time to start the day? 

This is very normal, but the good news is with maturity, self-soothing to sleep, and a consistent pattern of response from you, your early riser will start sleeping to at least his 11-hour mark (11 hours since bedtime)—which is what we want him to do. Once your little one is predictably ‘finishing his night’ and waking at about the same time each morning, this sets the stage for tolerating a longer awake span and being ready to move into time of day naps.

5.  My internal clock is showing the way.
Here’s the really cool one.  We know that sleep is natural and babies are built to sleep.  Well, then it would only make sense that their little bodies and brains know when it’s time to move to scheduled naps.  And it’s true!  You will start to notice a pattern emerging where that first nap not only moves a little later, but starts to settle into a predictable time of day.  You will no longer need to meticulously count the minutes of awake time but can now set your baby’s schedule. 

Here are examples of typical nap schedules for babies 6-9 months old:

                                    EXAMPLE 1                                    EXAMPLE 2

7:00 p.m.
7:30 p.m.
Wake time
6:00 a.m.
6:30 a.m.
First Nap
7:30 a.m.
8:30 a.m.
Second Nap
12:00 p.m.
12:30 p.m.
Third Nap
3:00 p.m.
3:30 p.m.

For more sleep help, join us at The Happy Sleeper Sleep Class for babies 5-24 months (all ages welcome). The next class is April 3, 11:15am – 12:45pm in Santa Monica. In the class we’ll teach you our approach for helping babies,
·      Fall asleep independently
·      Sleep through the night
·      Take healthy naps

Julie Wright and Heather Turgeon are the authors of the new book, The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night’s Sleep – Newborn to School Age (Penguin Random House).  Follow them on Facebook @TheHappySleeper