Hannah, my daughter, was an exceptional napper. In her first nine months she slept for two hours each morning and two hours at night. These naps were combined around age 1 and she slept for between three and four hours in the afternoon. She would get up smiling, go to bed, then have dinner, a bath and a story before returning to bed at 8 p.m. for another 12 hours of sleep. The Napster was never sick, unless she was teething.
Let me be real. I believed that my good fortune in napping was due to me being a great mother. My son Isaac was born when Hannah was 3 1/2 years old. Napper. Ever. Hannah stopped sleeping for about a week after he arrived. Sixteen months later, Ben, my second child, was born. Worst. Napper. Ever.
What was the problem? Wasn’t it the same mother as me?
With three children under 5, I was actually a more tired and distracted mom, although less smug. It was also difficult to fit in naps around Hannah’s hectic, non-napping schedule. Hannah had more colds than Hannah, so I was wondering if it was because of all the germs Hannah brought home from kindergarten or if their poor sleeping habits were affecting their health. We were all miserable regardless of what was going on.
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Be Diligent About Routine
Children have a body clock, just like adults. It tells them when they are hungry or tired. They don’t have the ability to meet their needs. They need your help to set and keep a regular schedule.
Lewis J. Kass M.D. is a Mount Kisco, New York pediatric sleep specialist. “Naps can be so important that I believe parents ought to plan their entire day around them,” he says. It turns out that the old saying, “Sleep begets sleep” is true. Pediatric sleep specialists agree that toddlers who skip naps often don’t get enough sleep or fall asleep faster. They tend to fall asleep more often at night. Dr. Kass says that sleep plays a huge role in development, growth, metabolism and metabolism. “Growth hormone secretion from pituitary glands requires continuous, uninterrupted sleep.”
If your 11-month old had a wonderful day yesterday, when they woke up at 8 a.m. and slept for one hour, then again for two hours at 2 p.m., you should make it a routine. You should not go to a baby gym today at 11:15 a.m. You may reconsider bringing them to class until they go to bed for an early afternoon nap. Ask the gym for a partial reimbursement!
Grab the Moment
My boys were too busy for me to notice the things I had been paying attention to with Hannah. This was what I used to call “The Window of Napportunity”. I didn’t notice I had missed the window until my boys’ yawns became tired tantrums.
It is important to keep your eyes on your child’s signs that they are ready to go to sleep. They may be fussy, eye-rubbing or yawning. Keep your baby awake during feeds, and then put them down for a nap when they are tired but not asleep. West suggests that you create a relaxed pre-nap routine, such as darkening your room, massaging the baby or reading books.
Make a Sleep Sanctuary
Even though I had three children, I never abandoned my dream scenario of a crib nappy. Mothers I know were much more relaxed about naptime and would happily let their child sleep in a stroller or car seat. Is it better for a baby to learn to fall asleep in a different place than their crib? Many sleep experts disagree.
Dr. Kass says that the best environment for babies is one that is dark, quiet, and cool. However, the baby’s bedroom is not always the best place to sleep. You can also use a portable crib in another space or house. It is important to maintain a similar environment.
To make sure the room is dark enough, use light-blocking shades once you’ve found a cool spot. A white-noise machine and the ability to block out potentially loud events can help you achieve that quiet. Is the dog going crazy when the mail arrives at 1 p.m. Place the dog in a place where it will not hear the mail carrier, such as a back yard or secluded room. Are neighbors or friends often available to drop in on the dog? I used to leave a note at my doorbell saying: “Baby napping 1-4.” I would love to meet you when she gets up. You can invite guests to visit your baby while she is asleep.
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Keep it alive while they’re awake
Encourage good napping habits by making sure your baby is awake when you’re up. Sing while you fold laundry and make eye contact with your baby. When you are talking on the phone, pretend that you are directing the conversation towards them. Even a short trip to the grocery shop after breakfast can provide a lot of fun sights and sounds. If your toddler or preschooler is still nappy, make sure they get lots of fresh air and keep moving. You might be challenged to a jumping-jack competition (“Let’s try to do five more than yesterday!”), or dancing to fun music. You can count the spoons as they are put back, or take all the spoons out from the drawer.