Monday, April 15, 2013

Nap Baby Nap

Did you know that for a 4 to 7 month old baby the average number of hours slept in a 24 hour period is 14?!  The average amount of daytime sleep (naps) is 3-4 hours leaving about 11 hours for nighttime rest.

From the moment my little guy was born, I followed a flexible parent-directed feeding (PDF) schedule from the popular book On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the GIFT of Nighttime Sleep.  It has worked very well for us, and I would highly recommend it to any new mom.  My little guy began sleeping 8 hours at night at just 8 weeks old and 11 hours at night when he was 11 weeks old.  I attribute his good sleep habits mostly to the schedule we followed and the techniques below.  More on our schedule in a later post.

The 3-4 hours of napping is what I'm going to touch on here.  Most babies with established sleep patterns like to nap in the morning for an hour and a half or two hours then again sometime after lunch for another hour and a half to two hours with maybe a 30 minute catnap in the late afternoon or early evening.  These 2-3 naps should make up the 3-4 hours he needs for good daytime rest.

However, getting a baby to nap can be one of the most mind boggling and frustrating things a mom will go through!  Who is with me here?

Some days your baby will fall asleep on his own for his nap yet other days, he will need to be swung, swaddled, or lulled to sleep.  Some days your baby will sleep for a solid 2 hours, yet other days he may wake after only 20-40 minutes!  This awakening early is also known as the "nap intruder".  If the intruder sneaks in, it'd be a good idea for you as the parent/caregiver to protect the nap time and try to help the baby get back to sleep.  If you get the baby up and he isn't actually ready, you will have one cranky baby in no time.  You will be totally confused because you thought the nap was over!

To help him get back to sleep, try reswaddling, a little cuddling, softly rubbing his head, or giving him a pacifier a few times (and making sure he has a fully belly and a dry diaper).  This little tidbit can make your afternoons much more enjoyable.  Your baby will be happier and well-rested.  In addition, if your baby is overly tired, he or she may not sleep well at night, and we all want our babies to sleep through the night, right?  If he does go back to sleep, he should sleep as long or longer than the first span.  Your baby should wake up happy and cooing in his crib not crying and fussy.  If he wakes up fussy, that means he probably needs to get back to sleep for a little longer.

Tips for helping your baby sleep and get back to sleep:

establish a bedtime routine

~ Put your baby down to sleep around the same time each day/night.
~ Start calming your baby a little bit before you are going to put him down.  Slowly swing him in your arms, rock him in a rocking chair, or go for a walk.  If he gets riled up before a nap or bedtime, he will have a harder time falling asleep.  Remember, he would much rather be playing with you than sleeping.
~ Incorporate soothing activities such as a warm bath, gentle massage with lotion, story time and/or a prayer.  This will help your baby recognize it's time for sleep.
~ Use a swaddle blanket, sleep sack, and/or pacifier to comfort your baby.

put baby to bed sleepy but awake

~ Put your baby in his crib while he is sleepy but still awake.  Although it's a sweet time for baby to fall asleep rocking in mom's arms and can be done on occasion, putting baby down sleepy but awake will encourage him to learn how to fall asleep on his own.
~ Always put your baby to sleep lying on his back.

white noise & dim light

~ Set up a small fan in the baby's room.
~ Turn on a sound machine or soft music.
(I use the sounds and music from my baby's swing that is already in his room.)
~ Keep the room dark or dim using a soft nightlight when attending to baby during naps or nighttime.

A well-rested baby = A happy baby!
(and a happy mommy)

...for he gives to his beloved sleep.  Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward.
Psalm 127:2-3 (ESV)

{I am by no means an expert and don't claim to be such.  As a new mom, I'm going through this right now, learning and loving my little guy the best way I know how.  You may not agree with my strategies, but please be kind and open to others' opinions and ideas.  What works for one mom and baby may not work for another.  These are just some of the techniques I've come up with through my research and experience.  I'd love to hear about your experiences.  We can all learn from each other!}

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