While it’s true that babies need a lot of sleep, getting them to nap for long periods can be a major challenge for parents. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children 4-12 months of age sleep for 12-16 hours a day. The problem, of course, is that babies won’t sleep 12 or more hours in a row, so it’s important for them to maximize the time they spend napping to foster healthy development.
Newborns alternate between short stages of sleeping and eating around the clock, but this pattern changes after the first few months. At approximately 4 months old, as their brains begin to mature, babies begin to cycle through longer periods of sleeping and napping. This is when you would like to get them on a sleeping schedule, but this can certainly be easier said than done. If you find yourself having trouble getting your child to nap longer, try these 10 expert tips:
1. Be Active While Awake, And Quiet While Asleep
This tip may seem obvious, but it’s worth pointing out the importance of playing with your baby while they are awake. The attention will keep them active and stimulated, which will help them sleep longer at nap time. On the other hand, you should try to stay quiet and soothing during their nap time so that they remain peaceful and sleeps soundly.
2. Try Blackout Curtains And White Noise
If you find it difficult to keep the home quiet while they are asleep, try blackout curtains and/or white noise devices. It’s also helpful if your baby can learn to sleep with a little background noise so that they don’t require dead silence to sleep. Otherwise, one dog bark or slamming door can cut the nap short.
3. Put Your Baby Down When They Are Drowsy
Try putting your baby to bed when they look sleepy but are still awake. This will teach your little one that the baby bed is for sleeping. Once they associate the bed with napping, you may find that you won’t have to rock them all the way to sleep. Not relying on your embrace also helps them learn to put themselves back to sleep if they wakes up mid-nap.
4. Use One Bed For Sleeping
While the swing or baby carrier can be crucial to help your young baby fall asleep, eventually you want them to learn to sleep where they are supposed to—in their bed. Keep trying to reinforce that the baby bed is the only place they should sleep by getting them to bed ASAP when they start to look drowsy.
5. Let Your Baby Fuss
Once they’re asleep, try not to pick your baby up if they get a bit fussy. Let them try to fall back to sleep on their own, and remember to keep the room quiet and the lights low if you do check on them. If they stays awake and becomes full-blown upset, then see if they need to be changed or fed.
6. Read a Book
If your baby has trouble falling asleep, try reading to them. It’s never too early to start reading to your child, and this is another activity that your baby can associate with sleepy-time. Reading is an amazing bonding activity, and a wonderful habit to prepare both of you for when they are old enough to understand and enjoy the books you read.
7. Try Swaddle Blankets
Many young babies are able to nap longer in a swaddle blanket. While keeping your baby snug and warm, swaddles also prevent the startle reflex from waking them up by keeping their arms tight by their side. When your baby outgrows the swaddle, consider trying a sleep sack or sleep suit.
8. Get Into a Routine
Above all, establishing a system that works for you and your baby is key. Every child is different, and what worked for big brother may not work for your newborn. Try these tips, find out what works for your child, and stick to that routine as much as possible.
9. Reach Out To Your Support Network
Remember that you are not alone! There are thousands of parents out there going through the exact same struggle. Talk to your friends, family, or consult online parenting networks to see what has worked for them. At the very least, they will lend a sympathetic ear!
10. Enjoy This Time
While this stage can be exhausting, remembering that one of the joys of parenting is watching your children develop can help you cope with the fatigue. Enjoy this time that you have together!