Month: May 2018

Nap Transition: Is My Baby Ready For 1 Nap?

Nap Transitions: Is My Baby Ready For 1 Nap?

Nap Transitions (dropping a nap) can be tricky territory. After having my second baby and having worked with so many different families and babies, it has become crystal clear that  every baby has unique sleep needs, habits, patterns and routines. It’s difficult to present hard & fast “rules” or exact schedules for a specific age group because what works well for one baby might not be ideal for another.

Sleep science does provide us with some very effective and helpful guidelines though. These  general recommendations for age-appropriate schedules are based on developmental total sleep needs. 

Day time sleep schedule recommendations are based on baby’s age, recommended 24 hour sleep totals, distribution of daytime/night time sleep, sleep cycles and stages, and age-appropriate wake windows between sleep periods. Generally: Newborns need frequent naps all day long. Sleep is pretty much a series of catnaps over a 24 hour period. Naps are scattered and a newborn baby is unable to differentiate between day and night. By about 4 months, baby’s circadian rhythms are maturing and the 24 hour internal clock begins to strengthen. A 4 month old might be taking anywhere from 3-5 naps/day but they may still vary in timing and duration. Around 5-6 months, baby will begin to take 3 fairly consistent naps (2 longer restorative naps, 1 shorter end of the day cat nap) and close to 9 months, baby drops down to 2 naps/day; one in the morning, one in the afternoon. Baby holds onto these 2 naps for many months, and I actually encourage parents to hold onto these 2 naps for as long as they can. Typically around 16-18 months, baby will drop their morning nap and their final nap schedule consists of 1 mid day nap, remaining here until 3-4 years old.

I’ve supported enough families now to know that babies will drop naps and transition onto new schedules at different times and different ages. Some will do well with more daytime sleep. Some will need less. Some babies can drop a 3rd nap before 8-9 months, others hang onto it until later. No two babies will follow the exact same path when it comes to sleep patterns and transitions. 

A great example of this variation is in my own home. My son is 21 months and he just dropped down to one nap/day. He is still in the transitional phase where most days he’s taking one nap, but from time to time I’ll nap him twice because I know he really needs it and cannot comfortably make it from his AM wake to 12:30pm.  He’s in that tricky phase where he is still dozing off in the car in the morning (where his am nap used to be) and falling apart by 11:30am because he’s not used to being stretched that longer wake window yet. Poor boy becomes fussy and overstimulated until I get him down around lunch time, and it certainly makes for some challenging mornings.

 I wanted to point out that he is 21 months and he’s still adjusting to this new 1 nap schedule. He’ll be at least 22 months (that’s right, almost 2 years old) until he has fully adjusted to going from his regular morning wake (6:30am) to his one and only nap after lunch. Most sleep advice/ recommendations  will tell you that 14-18 months is the age-appripriate time to transition to 1 nap.  And in many cases this is true. Some people will even say 12 months.  And then some babies will only start to show signs of readiness around 20 months. There is no one “right” answer here. My best advice is to take into consideration what the expert recommendation is, but follow your babies lead above anything else. Despite what all the resources/sleep information says, I decided to go with the flow of what my son clearly still needed, rather than make changes based on what the “average” baby does. 

Many babies will be ready to drop to 1 nap at 18 months.  But when my son was 18 months and I naturally started to wonder when/if he might be ready for 1 nap, I knew he wasn’t quite there, even if  “most” babies this age are. 2 naps worked 100%.  He’d wake for the day at 6:30am, 1st nap was consistent and predictable 9-10:30am, 2nd nap 1:30-3pm, bedtime fast asleep 7pm. This was every day and it worked for everyone. Bedtime was smooth, night wakings were either non-existent or easy to handle and there was no issue.

Like so many aspect of parenting and stages of child development, this worked like a charm until it didn’t.  I knew that 2 naps would not last forever and told  myself that once I started to consistently notice this 2 nap schedule creating new sleep issues, I would begin to make some adjustments to help him shift onto a 1 nap schedule.  Around 21 months, he started fighting one of his naps. Sometimes the morning nap would be teeny tiny. Other times it became difficult to get him down in the afternoon.  It slowly became clear to me (over a few weeks, not two days of funky naps) that Oakland no longer needed two solid naps/day and that the 2 naps were starting to impact bedtime and early rising. These new sleep issues indicated that he was ready to do a longer stretch of wake time before his nap and begin to consolidate his two naps into one mid day nap.

In my experience, I have found that parents often rush this transition, thinking baby is ready for 1 nap/day before they actually are. There is no need to rush this. I have a lot of parents ask me if their 12 month old is ready to move onto 1 nap/day.  Of course, there are those babies that may be able to handle this transition early and do well with only 1 nap.  As I just discussed, I wholeheartedly believe that every baby is unique and when they are ready to transition and I strongly encourage parents to do what works best for their baby and family (I always say, If it works, it works!) But, I also see parents attempt 1 nap around 12 months and it actually doesn’t work well for that baby or the family. 

The reason most 12-14 month old still do best on a 2 nap schedule is because they have difficulty comfortably handling these huge wake windows of 5-6 hours.  Stretching them this long before they are developmentally ready (before you are seeing clear signs of readiness) can result in an over-tired, over-stimulated, exhausted little babe. They may still do well with smaller wake windows or 3-4 hours which means they would do best remaining on a 2 nap schedule.  If baby is taking 2 predictable naps, bedtime is smooth, night time sleep is mostly uninterrupted and everyone is happy- hold onto these 2 naps.  Don’t make the transition before your baby is clearly telling you they no longer need 2 naps. Once you notice some of the signs outlined below, you can begin to prepare for the transition. If you have transitioned your baby between 12-14 months and it is working for everyone, then that is what is right for that family. 

Signs baby is ready to shift to 1 nap/day:
  • Baby is between 14-18 months (Some babies may be able to drop earlier,  some later ex. my son who dropped  at 21 months.)
  • Baby is sleeping well through the night: 11 hours of consolidated night time sleep
  • Baby is having difficulty falling asleep for morning nap, plays happily in the crib, rolls around, seemingly not tired OR
  • Baby is falling asleep well for first nap but is waking shortly after, happy, cheerful, well-rested OR
  • Baby is taking a nice morning nap but then refuses to nap in the afternoon, plays happily in the crib, rolls around, seemingly not tired.
Which nap should we drop? Morning or the afternoon?
  • Your baby will drop the morning nap. The afternoon nap is the one that stays all the way up until the preschool years.
  • The morning nap may start to shrink on its own. If you notice your baby taking an am cat nap and is functioning well throughout the day with one longer afternoon nap they may be ready for this transition.  If bedtime is smooth and overnight sleep remains uninterrupted, follow their lead and take this as a sign that they are ready.
  • The afternoon nap is here to stay, so we want to protect this nap even while baby is taking 2 naps a day (ex. don’t let the am nap run for so long that it hurts the afternoon nap. Protect the afternoon nap.)
When should the 1 nap take place?
  • Once the 1st nap is completely dropped and your child is out of the “transitional phase”, the ideal time for 1 nap/day is between 12:30/1PM, usually following lunch.
    Remember though, there is an adjustment period.  Baby will not immediately be able to happily go from her morning wake to 12:30/1pm. Initially, that 5-6 hour stretch will seem impossible, which is why your baby will need to be stretched gradually over a few weeks.
  • As baby adjusts to longer wake windows, the nap might initially begin at 11am, then 11:30am, then 12pm stretching her by 15 or so minutes every few days.
  • If the first nap naturally starts to shrink on its own, or becomes impossible to achieve, you can begin to keep baby up for longer wake periods in the morning before her 1 nap, stretching her 15 or so minutes every few days depending on her mood and temperament. This can take some time to sort out but baby will adjust. It is not until closer to 2 years of age that we can expect an easy peezy 1pm nap start.
  • When baby initially moves onto a 1 nap schedule, we want to make sure baby is not awake for too long before bedtime.  We may need to move bedtime up earlier to avoid over-tiredness and another huge wake windows heading into bed. (These big wake windows before bedtime result in difficulty settling at bedtime, frequent “pop ups” before midnight, and early rising) Start by closing the end of the day wake window to avoid new overnight/early morning sleep issues.
When 2 naps is too many and 1 nap is not enough: How do we handle the transitional phase?
  • This is where we are at with my 21 month old. He is rarely able to go from his AM wake of 6:30am to that ideal nap start of 12:30/1pm. Once a baby is fully adjusted to the new 1 nap schedule, they are able to do 6 hours wake before nap, 5 hours wake before bedtime.  But take it slow – don’t jump to this right away.
  • Be prepared for a bit of a funky phase where 2 is too many and 1 is not enough. It does sort itself out but it can take a couple weeks, so expect a bit of the unexpected.

On the days where I can tell my son is not going to be able to make it until 12/12:30pm I might (might) give him a short morning snooze (30 mins in the crib, even 10-20 mins in the car depending on our schedule, activities, etc.) and then a solid afternoon nap closer to 1pm.  Once baby refuses this little am cat nap or you notice they are managing fine with longer wake windows, you can fully commit to 1 nap a day. 

In the early stages of this transition, you may notice that each day looks a little bit different. During the adjustment phase, your days may become less predictable, not as reliable. But this is perfectly OK. Observe your baby, their mood, energy levels, know and honour their temperament and then follow their lead.  If you are attuned to their daily needs and what they need most on that particular day, you can have some flexibility with your day, giving them what they need on that day. Just because your baby has nearly  outgrown 2 naps, doesn’t mean you  have to commit to 1 nap a day from the moment you start to guide baby towards a new 1 nap schedule.  Some days it might be 1 nap, other days still 2. It will all sort itself out, with time and patience.

For many babies, this transition is a natural breeze and baby falls into this new daytime schedule without much trouble For others though, it might be a little bit more of a journey with smooth days followed by unexpected rocky ones. You’re doing it right if you’re following their lead and honouring their unique sleep needs. Only you know what will work best for your baby and your family.   

 

Spring Is Coming: Will this affect my baby’s sleep ?

Spring Is Coming: Will This Affect My Baby’s Sleep?

 

It’s that time. Changing the clocks once again. At least this time we are “springing forward” which is AMAZING for 3 reasons: 1) This time change can often solve the issue of early rising! 🙂 2) We will be seeing longer days and more light! 3) Spring is actually on it’s way and maybe this means no more snow?! Way better than the fall time change, if you ask me! How you decide to handle this change depends on your family, sleep routines, daily schedule and child. I’ll be honest, this always makes my brain hurt trying to think about this but here you go, 3 ways you can go about this so everyone continues to sleep peacefully.

1) Gradually make the adjustment beforehand:

In the next few nights, gradually put your child to bed 15 minutes earlier each night. If your child’s bedtime is 7PM, once the clocks change, the “new” 7PM will feel like 6PM for your little one. Their bodies might be saying “ I AM NOT TIRED YET” which could very well be true. So what you can do TONIGHT is put your child down 15 minutes early for bedtime. Each night another 15- minutes earlier, so that by Sunday night of this week you put your child to bed at their regular sleep time (7PM new time) because you have gradually adjusted your little one’s internal clock. Adjusting your child over a few nights is a way to shift their circadian rhythms so that once the time change occurs, their sleep rhythms have already adjusted.

2) Meet halfway:

So if bedtime is 7PM, rather than shifting gradually, you can meet in the middle between the old time and the new time. Once the clocks are changed, 7PM bedtime will feel like 6PM for your child so put your child to bed at 7:30PM after the time change (which feels like 6:30PM for your child). That way you are not jumping to the new time but not leaving babe on the old time and instead, meeting in the middle. After a week or 2 of putting your little one to bed at 7:30PM new time, you can go back to their original 7PM bedtime and all should be good!

3) Just follow the new time and change nothing:

This doesn’t work for all families, but this is usually how I handle the 1 hour time change. Once the clocks are changed you just go with the flow and follow your regular schedule. It might be few nights of adjustment as your child will be going to bed later than usual (not a great option though for babies who already have a “too late” bedtime or for babies that are not napping well and need that early bedtime start.) and will probably wake a bit later BUT it will likely resolve you’re issue of early rising! My little guy wakes at 6AM but after the time change, old 6AM will actually be 7AM new time! Like I said, for an over-tired baby who is not napping well, or a baby or child that is already struggling at bedtime/bedtime is too late, it would be better to go with option 1 or 2.

So give it a go! Give it some time for your little sleepers to adjust and before you know it, it will be summer, you’ll be drinking margaritas on a patio and you will have forgotten all about this minor time change! 😉 That’s what I’m hoping anyway.

Happy SPRING everyone!

Why Won’t My Baby Nap?!

Naps are tricky. If your baby naps you probably feel on top of the world. On the flip side, if you’re baby is having trouble sleeping well in the day, or taking maddening cat naps scattered here and there, your feelings of frustration may be coming to a boiling point. Don’t feel too bad. The reality is, it is SO much more difficult for babies and toddlers to fall asleep in the middle of the day between busy, exciting activity than it is for them to drift off to dreamland at bedtime. In general, night time sleep is actually much easier than daytime sleep.  SO, If you are having trouble with naps 1) you’re not alone, daytime sleep is really tricky and 2) look carefully at these 5 reasons why your baby might not be able to nap well and see if there is anything you can tweak to better promote awesome daytime sleep!

Baby won’t nap well if…. 

  1. Timing is off- Baby is over-tired: Over-tiredness comes on quickly for a baby.  Once your little sweetie is over-tired it is much more difficult for her to fall asleep. Think about it like this: have you ever had a late night and the next day felt so tired that all you wanted was to jump into bed and fall straight to sleep? Then, when you pop into bed, desperate to fall asleep, you can’t? Instead of falling asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow, it takes 30-45 mins? You’re so over-tired that your body can’t relax, unwind and settle into a deep sleep. This is what happens to a baby, expect depending on their age, they can become over-tired as soon as 2 hours after being awake at any point on the day! When we try for naps just a little too late, we have missed the window.  When we “miss the window’ baby gets a second wind, feels alert , over-stimuated and wired and has trouble peacefully nodding off to sleep. Catching baby BEFORE they become over-tired is so key. 
  2.  Sleep Environment is Not Conducive to Sleep: Sleep environment is SO important. Before 3-4 months, the environment didn’t matter as much. If you have a 5, 6,7 month old and baby’s sleep environment is not *perfect* it is actually interfering with your baby’s ability to nap well.  Perfect your baby’s sleep environment so that falling asleep independently (and staying asleep without your help) is as easy as possible for your baby.  Having a baby sleep in an environment that is not conducive to sleep is actually working agains your baby.  If we are expecting awesome naps, we want to make it as easy for baby as possible to be able to sleep well.  Put yourself in their shoes. If someone scooped you up in the middle of the day and put you to sleep in a room that was too hot or cold, too bright, not cozy or comfy, how well do you think you would sleep? Sleep environment matters and it’s our job to create a peaceful sleep sanctuary for our little ones so that they feel calm, relaxed and safe enough to fall asleep all on their own. Keys to a peaceful sleep environment include:*Black- out blinds (darkened room 8 or 9/ 10 darkness- 10 is pitch black)*Continuous white noise playing for all sleep periods*Lovey or blankie used to comfort, nuzzle, cuddle as a way to self-settle*18-22 degree room (cool and comfortable)

    *Bare crib (remove pillows, stuffies, blankets, mobiles)

    *Sleep attire: footed PJs, sleep sac/ sleep bag

    *Peaceful, calming mood to the room (remember, you are creating a “sleep sanctuary”)

  3. Baby doesn’t know how to initiate sleep: There are two points here I would like to make. Firstly, when babies are newborn or even just out of the newborn stage (4 months) napping does not come easily. In fact, your little one under 4 months, does not really have the capability to nap well independently (meaning without any motion, or physical closeness to a caregiver). So it may be a matter of readjusting your expectations and remembering that biologically, 0-4 month range babies still need a little help sleeping well in the day. My second point is that napping well is not necessarily a skill baby knows how to do all on their own even out of the newborn stage and actually requires a lot of guidance from Mom or Dad. It seems a bit strange, “doesn’t know how to sleep.” You would think they just close their eyes and go to sleep, how hard could it be? But the truth is, it is challenging and it takes a bit of practice.
  4. Baby is reliant on Mom or Dad/Motion to fall asleep: This point piggy backs off of my second point. Because Newborns really do not have the capability to nap well independently, parents do whatever they can to get their little ones to sleep in the earlier months. This is totally right and parents should be doing whatever they can to help their little ones get much needed sleep in the day time. What happens though, is these newborns move out of the newborn stage, and they outgrow the need to be constantly rocked to sleep, or pushed in a stroller or bounced on a yoga ball in order to fall asleep. But because parents perhaps do not know any other ways of supporting their little ones to sleep, they continue to rock, bounce, nurse to sleep, even though their baby has outgrown the real need for it. It becomes a matter of removing some old habits, to give your baby a chance to learn how to sleep without assistance from Mom and Dad. This starts with the first AM nap, where you would want to introduce falling asleep in a motionless, still and peaceful sleep space (crib, bassinet) by gently removing the “sleep crutch” used which is impeding on your little ones ability to nap well. 
  5. Baby’s schedule is off: Babies and children have sleep windows in which they are most easily able to fall asleep. When the schedule is off, baby may be sleeping slightly “off the clock” which can impact their night time sleep as well as their daytime sleep. If baby is waking too late in the day, taking late naps and bed time is inconsistent or too late, this all throws the schedule off. Knowing and understanding your baby’s age-appropriate wake windows and required number of naps in the day, will help give you a guideline for how to establish a reasonable schedule for the day. Timing with sleep is especially important.
© Peaceful Sleepers Consulting 2017 All Rights Reserved - Website by Megan Nakazawa.