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….
- 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.
- 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”)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.