Successfully putting your baby down for a nap can seem next to impossible at times. Here are the essential dos and don’ts to keep in mind for your baby’s next naptime.
WORDS NURULHUDA SUHAIMI
Naptimes are probably one of the more elusive things when it comes to taking care of your baby. How many naptimes do babies need in a day? How can you tell if your baby is ready for a nap? Do babies fare better with scheduled naptimes?
Some of these questions can rattle a parent’s brain (more than it might already be!), so we consulted Dr Imelda Lustestica Ereno, senior resident physician in the Department of Neonatal & Developmental Medicine at Singapore General Hospital, on the essential things every parent needs to know about baby naps.
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The Purpose of Naptime
Naps offer more than just resting time for your baby; in fact, naps play a significant role in different areas of your baby’s development.
“A baby who is well-rested is better able to concentrate,
take on new information, interact positively with others,
and deal with conflict and challenges,” explains Dr Ereno.
And we don’t have to tell you that babies who take sufficient naps throughout the day are generally less fussy.
Quantity + Quality
It is not just the number of naps your baby gets that matters, but also the duration. According to Dr Ereno, the sleep cycle of an infant is about 50 minutes long, and 60 minutes for a toddler. Napping for shorter lengths of time is known as catnapping and is not encouraged as it is not a full sleep cycle, says Dr Ereno.
Take Note of Baby’s Sleep Cues
If only babies came with an alarm that indicates they need a nap, right? Unfortunately, it is up to the parent to figure out whether their baby’s crying or fussiness is due to them needing a diaper change, feed, or nap.
However, there are also signs you can look out for. Dr Ereno gives us the following common sleep cues:
Should You Set a Nap Schedule?
Some parents swear by creating a nap schedule for their baby. Having their baby get used to napping at the same times each day makes it easier for parents to go about their day without too many unexpected interruptions.
However, Dr Ereno advises against this. She says, “The times at which babies feel sleepy during the day will vary, although can be predicted depending on their own individual circadian rhythm (“body clock”), but other factors may affect [nap times] such as the time they get up in the morning, [and] regularity of their daily lives.”
“More than setting a nap time routine is to recognise and respond to the baby’s sleep cues,” adds Dr Ereno.
Let Baby Self-Soothe
Have there been times when your baby has fallen asleep on your chest or bed while you were nursing or rocking them to sleep, and you resorted to just holding your baby rather than risk waking them up trying to place them in their crib?
While it undeniably gives you a heartwarming feeling when your baby cuddles and snuggles into you, letting this happen too often can create a habit that will be hard for your baby to break.
You might find later on that it is impossible for your baby to
fall asleep without you nursing or rocking them.
“Before six months of age, their circadian rhythms are not fully developed yet, therefore, these babies can pretty much sleep anytime, anywhere. However, after six months of age, sleep cycles begin to sync up with the 24-hour clock and their daytime naps start to affect their ability to sleep through the night,” explains Dr Ereno.
This is why it is important to allow your baby to self-soothe for their naps, rather than you nursing or comforting them. Dr Ereno has this advice for mums: “Only bring your baby into your bed to feed or comfort. Place your baby back in his/her own sleep space when ready to go to sleep.”
Baby Napping on the Go
Having your baby nap in the car, stroller or carrier might happen often when you are out and about with your baby. While this can be hard to avoid, try not to let this become a common occurrence.
Says Dr Ereno, “’Naps on the go’, whether in the car or stroller, are not recommended. As much as possible, it is better to be in the crib for naptime. Children who can self-soothe for daytime sleep are more likely to sleep through the night. When they nap in the care (or stroller), they are not self-soothing because they are being rocked or moved as they fall asleep.”
Besides not giving your baby the opportunity to self-soothe, naps on the go tend to be shorter. This means your baby will wake up earlier, which can result in more fussy behaviour. If your baby does fall asleep in the car seat or stroller, Dr Ereno advises transferring your baby to the crib once you reach home.
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