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Friday, February 21, 2014

sleepy heads: part 5 - getting baby on a nap routine

Part 5 of our Sleepy Heads series!

Now it's focusing on day time sleep. I believe day and night time sleep go hand in hand. Once you've got a routine established on either end you can work on getting the other side working. To me, it starts during the day actually. From day one in the hospital we attempted to help our child be consistently happy, well-fed, changed, etc. by feeding on demand, but at least every 1-2 hours like clockwork from the start. That established some sleeping patterns... not necessarily a schedule, as infants like to sleep when they want to and I agree with allowing them that flexibility. But we started every 2 hours diaper change, feeding, diaper, sleep, etc.

A few tips for helping your baby to sleep during the day time hours:

*Use the swing. Love love love swings. Babies like motion and movement. They moved all the time in your belly, of course they like to move on the outside. But not too much... my son hated the swing before 2 months old because it was too fast. Try and see if it works for your baby. I see nothing wrong with using the swing in the night also to get some ZZZs if it works those first few weeks. Do what works! My babies napped in the swing for the first few months during the day.

*Don't rock them to sleep every time. Of course this is a wonderful feeling for both of you so don't never do it... but don't always do it either. Help your baby learn to sleep on her own by laying her down sleepy, not wide awake, not totally asleep either.

*Watch sleep cues... and intervene early. Don't wait until your baby is soooo tired she can't console herself and settle down. Overstimulated babies have a difficult time relaxing. Help them keep regular by feeding normally and putting her down before she's sleepy.

Some babies and older children will ramp up and look more energetic and busy as the night goes on, signaling to you that perhaps they are not yet tired... but in fact they ARE tired. Don't wait for them to tell you, especially as babies, because they'll only tell you when it's too late, past their peak time for restful sleep.

*Spend time in the crib awake playing so he's used to it. Before you transition your baby from bassinet to the crib, spend time in that room. Put her on the floor and let her just look around. Put her in the crib and put the mobile on, let her kick her legs a while. Stay in there with her, leave the room for a minute, but do this when wide awake, not sleeping so she's getting adjusted to this new space.

*Let's get musical! We always had a CD of soothing songs, no words, just music, to help our son fall asleep. You could use a mobile, too, or a music toy.

*White noise. Noise makers are a must in my opinion! This drowns out noise from outside the room, so you can carry on out there like the house it not shut down, and it also helps baby feel more at home. White noise = how it sounded in the womb, they love it!

*Sleep sacks are awesome! I lOVE these things. We used them well past the first year with our kids. Blankets are not recommended for a long period of time, but babies get cold. So keep them snuggled up in a safe sleep sack. Halo makes great ones. These are also nice when you want to be done with the Swaddle.

*Don't rush it.  A baby's sleep routine doesn't typically happen till closer to 6 months, but you can initiate the routine at about 3 months old and be consistent... Babies will not sleep that wonderful two hour long nap that you hear your friends rave about until they are at least a year old, typically. Most babies nap shorter increments... 30-45 minutes is VERY common for infants to nap. I know that's barely enough time for you to pour a cup of coffee and write one email, but it's how these young ones roll... Here's the thing, if they are awake and happy in their crib, let them be. It's OK to leave them there a bit.

A typical nap routine could be like this for 6-9 months old/ish:
5/6 a.m. wake for the day and eat, fall back asleep until 7/7:30 or so
Nap about 8-9 or so, typically 30-45 minutes long
eat again
eat 11ish
nap around 11:30/12:30 for a longer period, 1-1 1/2 hours
eat afternoon
nap in mid-afternoon/early evening
bed about 7 p.m.

Again this is average, and depends on your child.

Here are some helpful articles with nap info:

Here's the thing about naps......
You should be consistent, too. It's not going to work for some kids to nap at 12 one day and then 1 the next and 12:30 the next. They'll need you to keep it up.

Also, just like we don't sleep the same amount every day, sometimes your children are going to wake earlier during their naps. If they wake an hour earlier (like my son did today writing this!) go up and make it known they are not coming downstairs yet, it's still rest time. Put the music on again if you ned to. Help them realize nothing is happening in the house, everyone's resting, it's time for sleep. More times than not they will lay there and go back to sleep... but this only works if YOU keep it consistent. If you give in today and tomorrow but not the next day, it's not going to take.

Many babies give up their second nap around a year old... but many other babies go well into their second year with two naps.

Signs your baby is ready to give up or decrease a nap:

  • waking earlier, standing up in the crib, talking
  • not being tired for the second nap, wide awake, not acting like they want that sleep
You could try decreasing the first nap in the morning to make the afternoon one longer. If baby typically slept for 45 minutes, at 30 minutes go in and wake her up gently, quietly. This will make her afternoon nap longer, which is the optimal sleep time for her in general. 

When you give up the morning nap altogether, the afternoon nap should start about a half hour earlier than it used to... so if your afternoon nap used to be starting at 12:30, when you get rid of the morning nap, start afternoon nap at 12 or so. 

Good luck napping!

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