babies and parents need naps. Ten-month-old babies need at least a one-hour nap in the morning and a one-to-two-hour snooze in the afternoon. Between one and two years, some babies drop the morning nap but still require one in the afternoon.
You can’t force your baby to sleep, but you can create conditions that allow sleep to overtake him. Try:
Napping with him. You probably look forward to your baby’s naptime so you can “finally get something done.” Resist this temptation. Naps are as important for you as they are for your infant.
Establishing a routine. To get him on a predictable nap schedule, set aside time in the morning and in the afternoon and nap with him. This will get your baby used to a consistent pattern.
Setting the scene. A few minutes before naptime cuddle your baby in a dark, quiet room. Play soft music and nestle together in a rocking chair, or lie down on a bed. This will set him up to expect sleep to follow. Once he’s in a deep sleep you can do one of three things; ease him into his crib, continue napping with him or slip away.
Our three-year-old refuses to nap. I know he’s tired, and by late afternoon he’s a bear. How can I get him to nap?
Many children need an afternoon nap (or parents need them to nap) up to age four. Naps have restorative value, allowing the person to unwind, rest, and recharge to go on with the day.
- Announce “special quiet time.” Set the time of day that he needs a nap, and lie down with your child, closing your eyes for effect. Mothers often need a rest as much as the child and find this midday rest therapeutic.
- Don’t succumb to the temptation common to a busy parent, “Now I can get something done.” Gradually your child may fall into a predictable nap time without your presence.
- To entice resistant nappers, allow them to nap anywhere in the house. When, where, and how is up to the child. Make a “nap nook,” a special place in a corner, on a mat, under the piano, or in a little tent made up of blankets. Try a large cardboard box with an opening like a cat door that the child crawls into when he is tired. This capitalizes on children’s natural desire to create their own little retreats in all the nooks throughout the yard and house.
- Our “very busy” two-year-old cannot relax enough to nap if we just lie with her. So we started a routine of going for a stroller ride, and this lulls her off for an hour-long snooze.
- Another predictable way of getting her to sleep is to wait until carpool time and let her fall asleep in the car. If you are going to let your child nap in the car, be sure you can check on him and hear him when he wakes up. And never leave the windows up. If the weather is too warm, carry the carseat into the house.
- Condition your child to nap. Set a consistent nap time. While you can’t force the resistant napper to sleep, you can create an environment that allows sleep to overtake him: lunch, a story, a dark room, and quiet music. Don’t expect these conditions to result in sleep every time, or you will set yourself up to feel angry when those little eyes won’t close. He may be weary but not sleepy – he can be irritable without having “bed” shoved at him and perceived as a punishment.
- If your child is not ready to nap, he may need another hour to play before he truly needs and can accept sleep. Or your child may simply need a brief “down” time of quiet play while resting in his room.
- By three, some children are ready to forfeit the afternoon nap and go for an earlier bedtime. This transition will take a while — several months of napping every other day, then napping once or twice a week.
- Early afternoon naps and early bedtimes are not realistic when one or both parents arrive home late from work. Encouraging the child to nap early in the afternoon “so he’ll be tired and go to bed early and we can finally have some time to ourselves” deprives parents of prime time with a cheerful baby. It is no fun to be with a tired child. We have found that later naps work better for us. When I come home from work, a rested and playful child greets me. With later bedtimes you give up some child-free time together; but once you have a child, your nightlife won’t be the same for a long time.