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How do I get my baby to nap?

September 08, 2022 4 min read

How do I get my baby to nap?

Kelly and Roz are the founders of The Sleep Sisters; an online baby and child sleep consultancy company who help exhausted parents to get some well-deserved sleep back. They offer both bespoke sleep plans tailored specifically to individual babies and their sleep issues as well as pre-written plans which explain how to help common issues in baby sleep.

Today they are going to share some tips and tricks on how to get your baby to nap well during the day.

Why are naps so important?

Day time naps are so important for babies as they can only stay awake for a certain number of hours before they need to sleep again. Sleep is so important for babies; it’s during periods of sleep that they grow and develop the most. Depending on the age of the baby will depend on how long they can stay awake for (we call this their ‘awake window’), so it’s really important that parents can recognise when their little one needs to sleep.

How do you know when your baby needs a nap?

Nap timings mainly depend on how old your baby is and what your lifestyle involves, but we tend to recommend you start by establishing a 12 hour day and 12 hour night. This can be whichever time work best for you and your family, but it does mean waking your baby up in the morning if they aren’t awake by your ‘wake time’ (unless they are poorly!). It gives parents a really good base to start planning their baby’s nap routine and makes working out timings for naps much easier.

A general rule of thumb is that a 4 month old has a 1 ½ hour awake window, and then this increases by 15 minutes each month until your little one is a year old and ready to move to one nap a day. Although these times are just an average, they are a great place to start when working out when your baby needs to nap.

Awake windows are really useful, but it can also really handy to be able to spot your baby’s sleep cues. This is how your baby acts when they are getting tired, so when you spot their sleep cues, you want to start to get them ready for their nap. These can vary from baby to baby and you might have already spotted what your little one does. Keep an eye out for your baby doing any of these:

  • Rubbing their eyes
  • Yawning
  • Staring into the distance
  • Becoming disinterested in what they were doing
  • Getting a bit grizzly
Using a mixture of awake windows and sleepy cues is a sure fire way of making sure your baby is getting their naps at the right time during the day. The last awake window of the day can always be slightly longer than the others; you want your baby’s ‘sleep pressure’ to build up ready for a nice long stretch of night time sleep.

Where should my baby nap?

The reality is, the best place for your baby to nap is in their cot. Not only is it much comfier but it also helps to get them familiar with their surroundings, so if they wake in the night they know where they are. This might fill you will fear that you can never leave the house again but that’s not the case. There is no harm in letting your baby nap in the car or in their pram, but just be aware that they aren’t as restorative so try and aim for naps ‘in motion’ to be either the first nap of the day or the late afternoon nap (if your baby does 3 naps a day). The lunchtime nap is always the most restorative nap of the day, and it’s the last nap your baby will drop so if you can, try and keep this one in the cot, but don’t be hard on yourself if they have the odd day where this doesn’t happen.

What if my baby refuses to nap?

As sleep consultants we hear this a lot, and it can be really disheartening when you feel like you’re doing everything you can and your baby just won’t sleep. Remember, as long as your baby is healthy, if they are tired, they are capable of sleeping. Something will be preventing that from happening so go back to basics and make a note:

  • Is their awake window right?
  • What is their sleep environment like? Is it dark enough? Warm enough?
  • Is it too noisy? (White noise can help with this)
  • Do they need you to be with them to fall asleep?

When you as a parent aren’t getting enough sleep, sometimes it can feel really overwhelming to know where to start with helping your baby, so write down the answers to all of these questions and re-set. Chances are, there is something that can be tweaked.

If you are struggling to get your little one napping or have any other issues with your baby’s sleep, check out our packages here. You can use the code MAMABAMBOO15 to get 15% of any off our services or downloadable plans.

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