Those first few weeks can seem idyllic. You’ve made it through the birth, you’ve brought your little one home from hospital and so far all he/she does is eat and sleep. You marvel at how well-behaved they are, how it really doesn’t seem to be as tough-going as everyone says, how you just seem so blessed to have a baby that naps so much.
Of course, after the first couple of months, that can change dramatically.
You might have a colicky baby on your hands, or simply one who finds it hard to settle down for long. And those long naps from the early days – which seemed to do you both a world of good – are a distant memory.
Instead, you’re up at all hours of the night, cooing and soothing them back to slumber; only to wake up an hour later to do it all over again. And the daytime doesn’t offer much respite, either. Bubs won’t sleep for longer than 30 minutes and needs your constant attention; so those coffee dates with friends are a thing of the past. Shame.
Sleep is something we simply can’t afford to skimp on. No matter what age you are – an adult, a teenager or a toddler – you should be following what all the sleep experts say. And that’s to get enough, good-quality sleep on a regular basis, for a healthier and happier life.
Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to help your baby have longer naps.
1. Get the timing right
Make sure you take note of your baby’s sleeping patterns at the outset and try to adhere to them. For instance, getting them down much earlier than normal might feel like a ‘win’ at the time – especially if you’ve got a movie and popcorn calling – but in all likeliness they’ll just catnap and you’ll pay the price for this earlier bedtime for the rest of the night.
SImilarly, if you leave it too long before putting them down, they’ll wind up overtired and a lot harder to settle.
By noting the signs early on (rubbing eyes, glazed expression etc) you’ll see when they’re getting sleepy and know that naptime’s around the corner. And when they settle down at a more suitable time, they’ll be more likely to sleep for longer. Phew.
2. Let them be the guide
There really isn’t one catch-all formula for sleep schedules because every baby’s different. Some will nap twice during the daytime, for more than an hour at a time. Others need three shorter naps, maybe at 45 minutes apiece. The key thing to remember here is, don’t force a particular pattern on them.
Sure, it may suit your lifestyle and your own routine better if two long naps were all your baby needed, but they might need the extra one to avoid getting overtired. Still, if you think it would work better to drop a nap and increase the time of their remaining nap/naps, it’s worth giving it a try. (This could be true if your baby keeps waking up early from his/her morning or afternoon nap.)
By trial and error you’ll be able to figure out a) how many naps your baby needs to stay rested and happy, b) what time these naps normally take place and c) how long the naps last.
(Psst...If the naps are running short at first, maybe it’s because your timing’s off. Again, look out for those ‘sleepy signs’ of eye-rubbing and yawning as an indication.)
3. Make sure they’re comfortable
Sometimes we expect our babies to sleep in any situation – in the car, in a cafe, in a sling on the side of a mountain – and it isn’t always fair! How would we cope with only sleeping when we’re constantly being bumped about? Probably not very well. And probably with a lot of crankiness.
So to help your baby sleep for longer, make it easy for them. Give them a comfortable place to lay down their sleepy heads. The environment should be quiet, dark and cool (not chilly, but not overly stuffy, either).
In general, babies nap better in the place where they ordinarily sleep at night… so if you’re at home, bring them to their cot if you can. If you’re out and about, keep the top of their buggy drawn down to block out excess light. Make sure they’re not overheated with too many coats and blankets and they’ll be a lot more comfortable.
So there you have it, folks – 3 ways to help your baby nap for longer. Now both you and your little one can get the rest you both deserve, at any time of day!