Whether you have mastered nighttime sleep or are still working on it with your little one, you have probably already discovered that it is only half the battle. It doesn’t matter how well they sleep overnight if you can’t get them to nap during the day. And it’s not like the two aren’t interconnected. Chances are, if your child isn’t napping well, their night time sleep will start to suffer.
To give you the baby sleep help you need, we polled our Slumber Squad sleep experts. They shared five common sleep blunders that could be derailing your child’s naps..
1. Creating Instagram-Worthy Cribs
While it can be tempting, especially with your first, to create the most adorable crib that matches your baby’s nursery theme or aesthetic, it can cause trouble. Unless your theme is minimalism, it can be unsafe.
You shouldn’t be adorning your little one’s crib with gauzy canopies, crib bumpers, or cutesy blankets, no matter how cute they look. Additionally, you can create an overstimulating environment for your baby to sleep in. The decor can be incredibly distracting as they get older and more alert.
Your crib should look sparse with just a fitted sheet over the mattress. Their room should be dark, especially during the day. The darker it is, the longer they will sleep without the sun waking them prematurely. Fear of the dark doesn’t start until their imagination ramps up between 2 and 3 years old, so the only light in that room is for you.
2. Keeping Your Little One Awake To Sleep More
If you have ever fallen for this fallacy, you are not alone. However, sleep begets sleep. The more your little one sleeps, the more they will continue to sleep well. Obviously, you don’t want your baby sleeping all day as they will surely be up all night.
Follow age-appropriate wake windows as guidelines to ensure sleep pressure is built up to lead to good naps and even better nighttime sleep. For example, newborns can typically only be awake for 30 to 60-minute windows before they get overtired and refuse to sleep. Three to four-month-olds can tolerate 75 to 120 minutes, while an 11 to 14-month-old can handle three to four-hour chunks of awake time.
3. Trying to Train Flexible Sleepers
Especially if you have other children, you may try to get your infant comfortable napping on the go or in loud areas. However, are you more likely to get more restful sleep in your bed or on the floor of a busy airport? No matter what age, we will always sleep better in our relaxing home environment.
Yes, you may need to do school drop-off during your baby’s first nap window, which will lead to a shorter first nap. If you have time, you can make your drive longer if they accidentally fall asleep to allow for more sleep. However, prioritize at least one nap at home in the same sleep spot, such as their bassinet or crib, to ensure they get complete deep-sleep-inducing rest.
If they are down to one nap a day, apply the 80-20 rule. Approximately 80% of their naps should be in their crib, and the other 20% per week can be on the go so that you can make important events.
4. Skipping a Pre-Sleep Routine
Even more than most adults, children thrive on routines. Because they control very little of their day, knowing when to expect certain things helps them make sense of the world and feel more secure. Establishing a bedtime routine will help them understand that sleep is coming and will cue their brains to prepare.
Bedtime routines typically involve a clean-up or bath, a fresh diaper, pajamas and a sleep sack, some milk, stories or songs, and, finally…sleep. While you don’t want to do that whole routine for every nap, doing an abridged version will help them prepare for better daytime sleep. Try a fresh diaper, putting on their sleep sack, one story, and bed.
It will help to choose one consistent story or song to end their nighttime routine with. Reading that story or singing that song night after night will help trigger sleepy time for naps (even if you don’t have time for the whole bedtime routine).
5. Using Yourself or Another Sleep Prop
Sleep props can be rocking your baby to sleep, only holding them to sleep, using a bottle or breastfeeding to sleep, lulling them to sleep in a stroller, or driving in the car. The list goes on. While there are desperate times when you “do what you gotta do” to get your child to sleep, overusing these sleep props can create a crutch that’s difficult to pry away.
Your baby’s sleep cycles are roughly 45 minutes long. If you are using something to help them fall asleep, at around the 45-minute mark, they will enter their light sleep phase and realize that the prop is no longer there, startling them awake. By around three months, they will start depending on these soothing tricks to get them back to sleep.
It’s crucial to let them self-soothe to sleep by laying them down, sleepy but still awake. When they do wake up, watch them for a few minutes on their baby monitor. See if they can put themselves back to sleep or if they are truly awake. Pausing for a few minutes ensures you’re not disrupting their sleep cycles or creating an unsustainable sleep crutch.
Remember to remain flexible and relaxed, particularly if your baby is under five months old. It’s developmentally appropriate for them to have more frequent naps when they are young. They will start consolidating and lengthening their daytime sleep around the five-month adjusted age mark.
Remain consistent, and you will begin to see results from your efforts slowly at first. Avoiding these mistakes doesn’t always feel like the easy path, but if you stay consistent, you will set yourself and your child up to sleep through the night long-term.