By Xanet van Vuuren
“Around his first birthday, your little one should be having around two good sleeps during the day, about 3 ½ hours apart,” says Megan Faure and Ann Richardson in their book Sleep Sense.
Your child’s environment and the experiences in his day affect his sleep. To ensure that your little one gets the most out of his nap times, keep these tips in mind:
1. Be diligent about routine
While children have a body clock that signals when they are tired or hungry, they aren’t yet able to express these needs or satisfy them on their own. Your little one needs you to tell him that it’s snack time or nap time, and to keep these routines consistent so he knows what to expect.
2. Follow your child’s cues
“The length of time your baby can be happily awake is determined by his age. A newborn is unable to cope with stimulation and interaction for the same length of time as a toddler before becoming over-stimulated,” says Faure and Richardson. If your little one refuses to have a day nap and cries as soon as you put him down, chances are that he’s been awake for too long and might be over-stimulated.
Stay focused on your child’s unique clues that he’s ready for a nap. Signs to look out for include: eye-rubbing, yawning, finger-sucking, and general fussing. Keep your child awake for feeding time, but remember to stay within your little one’s regular nap times by half an hour.
3. Create a sleep zone
Your baby’s sleep area doesn’t always have to be in his crib in his own room. It can be a camp cot in another room or even in another house in a cool, quiet, dark room – as long as nap time isn’t in the car or in a bouncy seat while you’re doing the dishes. “If a sleep zone is used consistently, it prepares your little one for sleep as soon as he sees his cot and the darkened room,” says Faure and Richardson. White noise such as a fan or a white noise CD can help to filter out household noise and help your little one to settle.
4. Stimulate your baby when he’s awake
Keeping your little one engaged while he’s awake will help him sleep better during nap times. While it’s important to limit over-stimulation during the day; there is one type of stimulation that some babies don’t get enough of in order to sleep well – movement stimulation. “It’s important to have sufficient movement in your baby’s daily activities to ensure he will sleep well,” says Faure and Richardson.
A trip to the grocery store or a walk around the block in a pram or sling can help a great deal in getting your baby ready for a nap. You can keep your toddler busy with fun activities like dancing to music or swinging on a swing before nap time. Remember to look out for cues that he may be tired and ready for a nap.
Our experienced editors work with trained journalists and qualified experts to compile accurate, insightful and helpful information about pregnancy, birth, early childhood development and parenting. Our content is reviewed regularly by our panel of advisors, which include medical doctors and healthcare professionals. Meet the Living & Loving Team and our Online Experts.