The Reason You Can’t Get Your Baby to Nap
Trying to put your baby down for a nap can be extremely frustrating. You put them down, say goodnight and tiptoe out of the room with clenched fists and an even more tightly clenched stomach. Ten seconds later, you hear the dreaded wail.
Naps are a huge struggle for most parents, even for parents that have babies who sleep well at night. Daytime sleep is crucial for healthy growth and development. Why, oh why, is it so hard to get them to nap?
After setting up a proper sleep environment for your baby, you’re off to a good start. However, “a good start” is a long way away from having your baby take solid, dependable naps each day. Here’s the trick, my secret sauce to teaching your baby how to nap well. Every day.
Babies are biologically programmed to fall asleep easily at certain intervals. Know those intervals and half the work is done.
A 2-month-old baby is “programmed” to get tired and fall asleep easily after being awake for one hour. A 5-month-old baby will get tired and fall asleep easily after being awake for 2 hours. A one-year-old will get tired and fall asleep easily after being awake for 5 hours.
These intervals of time that a baby tires after are called Wake Times. The reason you can’t get your baby to sleep is that you’re not following proper Wake Times. When you follow proper Wake Times, you catch the magic window of tiredness that naturally comes after each Wake Time.
If you catch the wave of tiredness that comes at the end of each Wake Time, you’ll be successful in putting your baby to sleep easily. If you miss the wave of tiredness that comes at the end of each Wake Time, you may have to wait till the next one, as your baby can easily get overtired, wired and irritable.
You can also begin to look out for signs of tiredness, or the “Wave of Drowsiness” that comes at the end of each Wake Time. Here is what the Wave can look like in your baby
- Decreased activity relative to their stage. Less walking and crawling, or for younger babies, less kicking and squirming
- Slower motions and less energy
- Less vocalization- whether it’s less talking, cooing, squeaking or crying. Once the crying increases, you’ve kept them up for too long and they are probably overtired.
- Weaker or slower sucking as they nurse or drink a bottle.
- Quieter motions, calmness in their body
- Appearing uninterested in surroundings.
- Less eye contact
- Drooping eyelids, of course!
Keep a sharp eye out for your baby’s tired signs around the end of their Wake Time, because
once you’ve missed it, it’s difficult to get them to sleep well until the next comes around
Find your baby’s age in the chart below to learn how long their wake time should be between naps.
|Age||Wake Time||Naps Per Day|
|1 month||1 hour||4+ naps per day|
|2 months||1 hour 15 min||4 + naps per day|
|3 months||1 hour 30 min||4 naps per day|
|4 months||2 hours||3-4 naps per day|
|5 months||2 hours 15 min||3 naps per day|
|6 months||2 hours 30 min||2-3 naps per day|
|7 months||2 hours 45 min||2-3 naps per day|
|8 months||3 hours||2-3 naps per day|
|9 months||3-3.5 hours||2 naps per day|
|10 months||3.5 – 4 hours||2 naps per day|
|11 months||4-5 hours||1-2 naps per day|
|12-18 months||5-6 hours||1-2 naps per day|
Taking the 5-month-old baby as an example, who’s Wake Time is 2 hours and 15 minutes.
This means that if he wakes up for the day at 7:00 am, his first nap will be at 9:15 am, 2 hours and 15 minutes after he woke. If he sleeps till 10:15 am, his next nap will be at 12:30 pm, 2 hours and 15 minutes after he woke up from his nap. If he sleeps from 12:30-1:30, his second nap will be at 3:45, 2 hours and 15 minutes after he woke up from his first nap. You get the idea…
A 5-month-old baby should only be awake for 2 hours and 15 minutes at a stretch, as this is their natural wake time. Because wake times are natural, they can vary slightly between babies, just like any natural form of development can vary slightly between babies. The chart above has the averages for each age- but keep in mind that your baby’s personal wake times can vary by 15-30 minutes from the chart.
Get to know your baby’s Wake Times by looking out for their tired cues around their Wake Time. With a few days of careful focus, a pattern will begin to emerge, and you will learn your baby’s Wake Time.
Wake Times are the key to great naps. Putting your baby down before their Wake Time is torturous for them, as they will lay in their crib wide awake, unable to fall asleep. Putting them down for a nap well past the end of their Wake Time is also extremely difficult, as they will probably have gone into an overtired state by then- and we all know how hard it is to fall asleep when we’re overtired!
Practice getting familiar with your baby’s Wake Times and putting them down for naps according to this new schedule.
Your baby’s nap schedule will improve dramatically, just by doing this alone. If you combine this with night training at the same time, you will achieve great results much more quickly.
Consistent, reliable daily naps are within reach. You can do this! Try it and out let me know how it goes.
If you know any sleep-deprived and exhausted moms in your life, please share this article with them. It may be the first step they take towards better sleep for their family!