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Your guide to baby naps

One of the biggest hindrances to sleep can be naps. Naps are crucial to the cognitive and physical development of our children. Counterintuitively, it’s also napping that help babies have a full sleep at night.

If you can get naps right, you’ll be on the road to restoring sleep for you, your baby, and the rest of your family.

Naps help night time sleep

Dr. Marc Weissbluth is an American paediatrician who specialises in sleep in children, and someone I follow avidly. He’s authored several books and has a wealth of research and sleep studies under his belt.

Weissbluth, as reported by Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, reports that naps are an essential part of sleep training. He says: “Many naps per day help avoid the over-tired state and allow your child to sleep better…’ 

For new parents this can feel counterintuitive. Consequently, the temptation to reduce, stop or fight against naps can set in. Reducing naps or attempting to skip naps before children are ready is a fight against nature. As a baby grows they are developing their natural biological sleep cycle, the circadian rhythm, which explains why things change so often. 

Their circadian rhythm comes into play at around 4 months and it is better to work with your child’s natural sleep cycle, rather than against it.

Weissbluth explains that “the normal development of circadian nap rhythms is that you see a morning nap around 9am, then a mid-day nap anywhere from 12-2pm. (for children under nine-months), followed by a third late-day nap that disappears after nine months of age.”

So, what can you do to work with your baby’s natural sleep cycle to make sure baby is getting those naps and therefore a more restorative sleep at night.

The do’s and don’ts of naps.

Do allow your baby time to adjust biologically to the napping process. In an interview with Today’s Parent, Weissbluth says that naps get longer at 6-9 months of age. So, if baby is taking a nap at 09:00 and 12:00 and nap duration steadily increases, don’t worry. It’s okay if they drop their third nap too. Let biology do its thing.


Don’t get hung up on sleep hours, or times. Even scientific data should serve as a guideline. Remember babies have their own individual, biological sleep cycle. 

● Instead, do monitor baby’s behaviour. Weissbluth says "The key is not how much he sleeps, it's more important to look at your child's behaviour around 4 or 5 pm. If he's calm, sweet and easy going, everything's okay. If he's not, you probably need to adjust something in his sleep schedule."

Don’t rely on one person to put baby down for a nap or night sleep. If mum’s arms become a comfort required for a nap it can be difficult for babies to self-settle and fall asleep without her.

Do get the family involved as early as possible. Allow other family members to put baby down for a sleep, so it becomes normal. This way nap time is non-negotiable and baby is gently learning the skills and ability to settle independently. 

Don’t worry excessively over low-level crying. Weissbluth has studied sleep in twins and recognises that mother’s with twins learn to accept some low-level crying as acceptable. Since mum can’t be cloned, sometimes twins may have to wait for mum if she is helping the child; mum can only help one child at a time.

Do keep naptime consistent and in-line with your baby’s cues. Try and put baby down for a nap as they are showing signs of sleepiness but are not overtired. Signs to look out for include eye-rubbing and yawning. At this time babies are more likely to fall asleep without a protest.

Finally, don’t let naptimes get the better of you. 

Sleep training is hard work and you’re not alone. No one experiences sleep deprivation quite like a parent with a young baby. Sleep deprivation can increase anxiety, hinder memory and it can shorten your fuse too! A host of symptoms that don’t help when you’re trying to restore calm and restorative sleep within your household.

As a Sleep Coach with over 30 year’s experience, I’ve seen a lot of sleep deprivation and sleep-related troubles, but the best part about my job is I’ve coached a lot of families through it too.

If you need advice or support do reach out to me

Sleep coaching and child development is my passion and I would love to help you.

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