Figuring out when your baby should nap is practically an artform. Their nap schedule is in eternal flux, they’re sprinkled throughout the day messing up your daily goals (modest may they be, like have a shower), but without them your baby will fall apart.
First, babies need a lot of sleep and you have to work around their schedule. That means you may not have time to go out shopping, visit friends, or whatnot. Just thank God you got the time to do one thing, like go for a walk in the park.
Second, if you skip a nap, you will pay for it later. More precisely, your baby will be paying for it. He will not be a cooperative baby if he’s overtired. And don’t believe that they’ll sleep better because they’re exhausted. Think about it. When you go to bed super late, don’t your muscles get twitchy, doesn’t your brain hurt, aren’t you a tad sensitive? Imagine your baby going through that. It’s going to be a nightmare to put him down and keep him asleep. Don’t skip naps!
Third, figure out your little one’s sleep cues. This is the best way to figuring out his personal schedule. Yawning means, hmmm I could sleep a few winks. Staring into space, please put me to sleep. Rubbing eyes, I’m so tired I’m about to have a fit and I’m getting crabby. Crying means you missed the boat. Don’t delay a nap. If you see them yawning a couple of times, swoop them up, it’s time to sleep. If you catch it on time, it should be very easy to put your baby to sleep.
Lastly, a typical schedule for naps varies widely and greatly depends on the baby’s age. On average, a baby under 4 months old should not be awake for more than 2 hours at a time. It could be two naps in the morning and two naps in the afternoon. As they grow older, the morning nap may consolidate into one, with still two naps in the afternoon. Then, playtime starts lasting longer with a nap in the morning and one later in the day, until one day your baby only needs one nap a day.
Most sleep books only discuss bedtime issues, and explain very little about naps, except for The 90-minute Baby Sleep Program. So useful and easy! Don’t worry. This book will not force your baby into an arbitrary schedule. It helped me understand when my baby is tired and discover his ever-changing sleep pattern. Check out my short book review here.
Good naps mean good nights!