Napping is so important for infants, toddlers, and young children. Getting the proper amount of rest is just as important as good nutrition. But how do you ensure your children are getting enough rest?
Infants sleep whenever they feel like sleeping. Usually by around 3 months, you will start to notice a pattern of 3-4 1 hr naps, occurring around the same time each day (Infants ALWAYS need to go to sleep on their backs).
By 6-8 months, they may have transitioned to 2 naps, one morning and one afternoon. Letting infants sleep when they need to is important. Their bodies know how much sleep they need, and when they need it. Every infant is different, and every family has a different schedule, so do not be alarmed if your child does not fit into any schedule that your family or friends are using for their children. Some infants don’t like schedules, and prefer to do their own thing, all the time.
Between 12-18 months, your child will probably transition to one afternoon nap. A friend of mine recently sent out a message on Facebook that said "Help! My daughter (17months) gets up at 4:30am every morning!"
That is a sign your child is ready for only one nap. Other signs include: really short morning or afternoon naps, not being able to fall asleep quickly or lots of mischief in the bedroom when they are supposed to be sleeping.
The question: how to get there? If your child takes a nap at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., begin by pushing the morning nap back by 30 minutes. Make the nap at 10:30 a.m. for a couple of days, then 11 a.m. for a few days then 11:30 a.m., then Noon, and finally 12:30 p.m. This may take two or three weeks to complete the transition, but it is important to be consistent. In the beginning, you may still want to have an afternoon nap, and that will also have to be adjusted backwards.
Try to make the afternoon nap short, about 1 hour in length, so it will not interfere with bedtime at night. Your child might be crabby or easily upset during this transition time, but after a few weeks, the transition will be done and your child should be their usual self.
Sometime around 3 and a half to 5-years-old, your child will give up naps completely. Many children go through periods of time where they do not nap for a few days then go back to napping. Others will rest on their beds, but not sleep. They may want to look at books or do other quiet activities, but they do not sleep. Others will wake up siblings or anyone else in the same room as them, in the mistaken belief that if everyone is awake, then naptime is over.
Do not be quick to end the naps, make sure your child is really ready to give it up. When children do eventually give up their naps, they may need an earlier bedtime for a while to deal with the adjustment in sleeping. If parents still need the naptime, they can institute a quiet time, where the child can do quiet activities, such as puzzles or books.
If you are unsure of the amount of sleep your child requires, give your pediatrician a call. They can also help you determine if you child is ready for one nap, or no naps. Children who suddenly seem to need a lot more sleep than before may be sick, or growing, and if parents or caregivers have concerns, they should certainly call their doctor.