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Baby Napping Basics All Parents Must Know

Your bubba is growing and developing rapidly and needs a lot more sleep than you do. He can’t manage on one long stretch of sleep at night so it is important for him to have day naps for the first two years. Some little ones continue to need and enjoy day naps until they are four years of age.

Newborns require around 16.5 hours of sleep in 24 hours, broken up with milk feeds. In other words, your newborn needs a sleep between feeds otherwise he may not have the energy and coordination to feed well. Your newborn should be offered milk at least every three hours during the day, which gives him time for a nap in between. Some newborns feed and sleep for the first six weeks while others have a little more up time between feeds.

During the first three months, most bubs end up having about five or six naps during the day.

Napping nuances

While your newborn is awake you will notice him change from relaxed fluid movements to clenched fists, jerky limb movements, grimacing facial expressions, and turning his head away. These are tired signs that tell you he needs a sleep not a feed.

For the first six weeks there’s no need to sleep him in a dimmed room, as exposure to daylight will help to develop his day/night circadian rhythm. The best cues to help your bub sleep mimic the womb environment, a place where he’s previously felt safe and warm.

Swaddle him to secure his arms and prevent the startle reflex from waking him. Play white noise to muffle any sharp sudden noises that could wake him. Keep him warm but it’s important not to overheat him – use clothing and swaddles that are made from breathable fabric.

Awake and alert

Between three and four months of age your bub is more alert and stimulated by his surroundings. This mental alertness makes it harder for him to fall asleep. But by four months he will understand systems and patterns better and find going off to sleep easier if you have been consistent with giving him sleep cues. He’ll generally be happy with four naps a day at this age.

From four to seven months of age your bub is usually content with three day sleeps. Two are around one to two hours long and one around 30 to 50 minutes long. Tired signs at this age are eye rubbing, back arching, yawning, wanting to be picked up, and not wanting to amuse himself with floor play or toys.

Two a day

By eight months of age most babies are happy and contented with two-day naps of about one to two hours in length. Bubs who rely on props to get to sleep (dummy, feed, rocking) may only sleep one sleep cycle of 45 minutes or less if they are overtired from frequent night waking. All bubs are individual and some thrive on less sleep than others.

Day dreamers

Your bub continues to have two naps a day, one in the morning and one after lunch, until 12 to 16 months of age. His temperament, diet, genetic makeup, and the quality and length of his night sleep and day activity influences how much sleep he needs in the day. Bubs who are extremely active can tire themselves out and sleep well but they can also do this on less sleep.

As all babies are individual in temperament, you will need to be patient in helping yours develop good sleep habits to prepare him for good sleeping patterns in the months and years to come.

What are some ways you ensure your baby sleeps well? Share them with us in the comments below!