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Bedtime For Bonzo: How Many Naps Does Your Baby Need

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

We all know that (new) moms and dad need more sleep...but according to experts, sleep is essential for your little one as well. In fact it is key for their young developing brains and bodies. However, a good night's sleep is not nearly enough. Regular naps help little ones get the rest they need.

Experts encourage parents and caregivers to encourage their baby to nap as often as possible, all the while keeping in mind that the child's temperament and natural body rhythms will also play a role in determining how and when your little one sleeps. They note that some babies sleep for longer periods every day while others function just fine with shorter naps.

Newborn will usually sleep for two to four hours at a time, day and night...and they stress that parents should not expect any sort of napping pattern at this stage. Instead simply let your baby nap as much as he or she needs to.

Infants between 6 and 8 weeks old typically start consolidating their sleep and will likely sleep less often and for longer periods of time. It is also likely that babies at this stage will need two to four naps per day, some even more.

Between 3 and 4 months babies start to exhibit more predictable sleep and nap patterns. This is a good time, according to the pros to begin developing a nap schedule for your child.

By 6 months old your little one will typically be taking two or three naps a day....one in the morning, one in the early afternoon, and one in late afternoon.

By 9 to 12 months of age most babies usually take a solid two naps a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. And, by 18 months old you can expect most children to forego their morning nap entirely but continue to doze off in the afternoon until they are about 3 or 4 years old.

Note that while, according to experts, these are typical sleep patterns, not all babies will follow them. Remember each child is unique and will have his or her own sleep habits and patterns.

Scheduling naptime:

By the time your baby is 3 to 4 months old you can begin to set a nap schedule that coincides with his or her natural sleep patterns.

Start by paying attention to your little one's sleep signals such as rubbing his or her eyes or getting fussy. Take note of falling asleep in the car or during various parts of the day. Also take note of alertness and overall mood when he or she sleep for longer or shorter periods of time. Jot down your observances at least for a few weeks and review until you are familiar with your child's moods, signals and sleep patterns.

Experts suggest easing your baby into a nap or some downtime at least 15 to 20 minutes before he or she gets overtired. Make sure to feed, change, and rock your baby quietly before putting him or her down.
You will also want to stick to a schedule making consistency your goal. Try to put baby down for a nap at around the same time every day...otherwise your baby may have more of a challenge developing a sleep pattern.

In addition, you'll want to refrain from activities that interfere or conflict with your little one's sleep schedule such as having friends with other kids over or picking up an older sibling at school. Instead try to work with and around your baby's (sleep) schedule.

If baby is in daycare during the week and has a regimented sleep schedule, follow a similar schedule on weekends when the baby is home with you.

Remember not to let temporary setbacks trouble you. Keep in mind that while you should stick to a schedule you won't always be able to revolve your life and YOUR schedule around baby. Instead rely on the fact that if a regular schedule is in place, it will be easier to re-implement after going off schedule.

Also remember that establishing such a schedule will take lots of practice, trial and error and will change as baby grows and changes reaching new developmental milestones. That means you regularly need to remain flexible and to evaluate your child and his or her sleep habits, always prepared to alter how you do your day, your life and your schedule.

Experts suggest establishing a naptime ritual and a nighttime sleep ritual, such as reading a story that helps put your child in the mindset for sleep and shutting down. Once you find a routine that works for you and your child make sure to stick to it as closely as possible.

Other tips for getting kids to nap include:

* Make sure your little one is dressed in comfortable clothing before nap or bedtime.

* Activity before naptime should be quiet. Avoid anything too rigorous or stimulating but rather activities that will help calm and soothe your child and help him or her unwind and settle down.

* Try to put your child down for a nap in the same place each day or in the same place he or she sleeps at night. This helps your child make the association with sleep.

*If on vacation or out of the house make sure to bring items your child associates with naptime to help you maintain your child's sleep and nap schedule.

* Refrain for letting your child get too riled up or too overtired before trying to get him or her to nap.
Even if your little one is not much of a napper, despite your efforts, don't worry or blame yourself...just keep doing what you're doing and giving your child the right environment and incentive to relax.

Remember your child may be a natural catnapper, constantly napping for less than an hour each time. Take note of your child and his or her mood and if he or she doesn't seem to cranky or difficult, your can presume that he or she is getting all the rest and sleep he or she needs.

Long Island Family Life & Parenting Articles > Bedtime For Bonzo: How Many Naps Does Your Baby Need

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