Nap Training: From Newborns to Toddlers, A Nap Success Guide
Little Yawn Collective - Oct 20, 2021
You need sleep. You’re grumpy, miserable, and irritable. You have zero patience, no motivation to work out, let alone put on a clean shirt, and you’re starting to slur your words so badly that people are beginning to think you have a drinking problem.
Past delirious and running on fumes, you desperately start searching the great world wide web in hopes of finding answers to questions like:
- Do new parents ever sleep?
- How do I get this tiny human to snooze for more than 20 minutes?
- Can infants turn into vampires?
- How many energy shots can be safely consumed in a day?
While you didn’t really expect to find anything in your super sleepy stupor, you land on “ baby nap training,” and to your surprise, for the first time in a long time, a good night’s rest doesn’t feel too far out of reach.
Interested in learning more? We’ve got you covered. Read on as we explore nap training to uncover the best tips and tricks for napping success.
Sweet dreams, ahead!
How Often Should My Baby Be Sleeping?
For the average healthy adult, seven to nine hours of quality shut-eye is considered the gold standard. As for babies, however, this guideline is very different. Why? Because when an infant is born, their internal sleep clock isn’t synchronized with the external, 24-hour cycle of daylight and darkness just yet.
It takes around three to four months for babies to get in sync. Until that happens, your tiny bundle’s sleep schedule will largely be dictated by its eating pattern. And seeing as infants need to be fed every two to three hours (even at night), it makes perfect sense that a baby’s sleep guidelines would be totally different from an adult’s.
So, with that being said, what are the recommended sleep guidelines for babies, anyway?
According to experts, newborns generally sleep a total of eight to nine hours in the daytime and around eight hours at night. But they may not sleep for more than one to three hours at a time. While all babies are different, most don’t start snoozing through the night for a decent stretch of time (six to eight hours) without waking until they’re about three months old.
What Is Nap Training?
An afternoon siesta might be optional for adults, but not for babies. In fact, not only are naps critical for your little one’s health and development, but they will also help to keep their hormones in check, which can do wonders for nighttime sleep.
Yup, it’s true. Ask any seasoned parent, and they’ll likely tell you that skipping your sweet baby’s nap is a surefire recipe for fussiness, irritability, meltdowns, and poor-quality rest—at best. Why does this happen, you ask?
Simply put, when infants get overtired, their bodies can become flooded with cortisol and adrenaline. Together, these mischievous little hormones can turn the sweetest tiny tot into the grouchiest Tasmanian devil. But the fun doesn’t stop there!
Since overtired babies are busy crying and fussing through the night, they aren’t getting the rest they need to rebalance their hormones. Less sleep will make an already overtired infant even more tired, therefore continuing the vicious tired-overtired cycle. *yawn*
Thankfully, to keep overtiredness from plaguing your most precious treasure, all you have to do is enforce daytime naps. Easy-peasy, right?
Well, not exactly. You see, some little ones can’t stand going down for a midday snooze and may refuse naps altogether. For these tiny naptime protesters, nap training is key.
Similar to nighttime sleep training but with the focus on daytime sleep, nap training is simply the practice of helping your snoozy tot overcome their bad nap habits and learn new, healthy ones.
Training your little sleepyhead to nap can be tough and really push your patience. But don’t give up! Be consistent in your nap routine, and before you know it, your little buddy will be napping like a champ in no time. And when the baby’s finally sleeping, you can get some much-needed shut-eye, too.
What Should I Do Before Starting Nap Training?
You might be tempted to dive headfirst into nap training, but just like how your small bundle needs to learn how to crawl before they can walk, there are a couple of things you should do prior to starting to help give your sweet pea the best shot at learning to nap.
Perfect Your Nighttime Sleep Routine
Does your little buddy battle you at bedtime or struggle to stay asleep through the night? If so, don’t start nap training just yet.
Instead, focus your time and energy on perfecting your nighttime sleep routine. Why? Because babies tend to have a much easier time drifting off to la-la land in a completely dark, quiet room following their predictable bedtime ritual. This doesn’t always happen with daytime naps.
Plus, if your small bundle is overtired, cranky, and irritable from being up during the night, this will make nap training nearly impossible.
Set your sweetie pie up for napping success and tackle the nighttime sleep routine first. A well-rested and happy infant is much easier to train than a grumpy one!
Learn Your Baby’s Sleeping Cues
Be on the lookout for your little one’s sleeping cues like yawning, getting droopy-eyed or sudden fussiness. Whether you’re nap training or sleep training, all sleep methods recommend starting when your infant is drowsy but not asleep just yet.
Once you learn your baby’s sleeping cues, it’s a good idea to document them. Make notes of how they act when they’re sleepy to help you remember the changes in their behavior so you can set sleep patterns accordingly. This will help immensely when nap training.
How Do I Nap Train?
It took some time and a whole lot of trial and error, but you finally learned your small bundle’s sleeping cues and basically have the nighttime routine down to a science. Now what?
Congratulations, parents—we know it had to be tough, but you pushed through the sleepless nights, and thanks to your hard work, dedication, and consistency, your sweet pea is now associating bedtime with nighttime (yay!).
Chances are sleep is coming much easier for your little one—and you, too! But don’t get comfortable just yet because now is the time to begin nap training. Here’s how to do it.
You can start your little one on a good bedtime and nap routine from the get-go. A kiddo is never too young to learn healthy sleep habits! Establishing a sleepytime routine, putting your infant down drowsy—but awake—and other effective techniques can lay the foundation for easy-peasy nap training.
That being said, since newborns haven’t developed the circadian rhythms needed to help them snooze through the night, experts recommend waiting until your infant is around four months old to begin nap training. Until then, you’ll want to follow a nap schedule to keep overtiredness far, far, away from your little one.
Finally—four months! At this age, your little buddy’s internal sleep clock starts to kick in, so setting a nap routine will be a whole lot easier. They will learn how to self-soothe and may no longer need night feedings.
When infants reach four months, they will generally need to nap two to three times a day and should snooze roughly 10 to 11 hours at night. An ideal nap schedule can include one morning nap, one afternoon nap, and if needed, a third late afternoon nap.
Six months old is a wild time for babies with lots of rapid and delightful developments happening. Your little one has probably started sitting up, trying to crawl, and exploring solid foods. They are probably smiling, giggling, and babbling throughout the day, almost appearing to be a completely different baby than just a few months earlier.
These adorable developmental milestones might seem small, but they require quite a bit of energy. In fact, it’s not uncommon for babies to temporarily regress a little in one aspect of development while using all of their energy to advance in another area. For example, your sweet pea’s sleep may worsen when learning to crawl.
To prevent your sweet six-month-old from becoming overtired during an already stressful time, it’s more important than ever to really be consistent with the sleep routines. At this age, babies need an average of 11 hours of uninterrupted shut-eye each night and around three to four hours of naps spread over two to three naps per day.
An eight-month-old baby’s sleep schedule should consist of about 13 to 14 hours of quality sleep every 24 hours. This is typically broken up into an overnight stretch and two daytime naps.
While all babies are different, most at this age snooze consistently between one and two hours each nap. That being said, if your little buddy was originally on a three nap per day schedule, expect sleep to be a bit bumpy as you transition down to a two nap per day schedule.
To help your tiny tot adjust to staying awake for longer periods when the sun is up, offer an earlier bedtime to prevent overtiredness.
For 10-Month-Olds and Beyond
Now that your drooly, smiley baby has adjusted to dropping the third nap, they should be getting a lot of good sleep—roughly 11 to 12 hours—every night. As for daytime ZZZs, two to three hours spread over two naps is ideal.
Around your sweet pea’s first birthday, they may start fighting two naps a day. This, however, is usually just a classic “nap strike” tied to a developmental leap like talking and walking, so it’s really important to hold your ground and enforce the napping law.
According to experts, the big transition to a one nap per day schedule will go a whole lot smoother when your little snoozer is between 14 and 19 months. At this age, they may be ready for a single 90-minute siesta in the afternoon—a pattern they may follow until they are about four or five years old.
What Are Great General Tools for Nap Training?
Nap training can be pretty challenging, but with a few general tools up your sleeve and a little guidance, we know you can do it! Remember, you’re a parent and therefore capable of anything and everything.
A Dramatic Wake-Up
Having some naptime challenges? Don’t worry—it happens. If your fussy tot simply has trouble waking, leave the room for a quick minute and return with a “dramatic wake-up.” Announce your presence with a lot of energy, do a cheerful “rise and shine,” turn off the white noise machine, and open those blinds.
The reason for the theatrics is that you want your baby to think you’re getting them up due to it being time rather than it being due to their fussy ’tude. It sends a message that this is the appropriate time to get out of bed and also distinguishes your response from night wakings.
A Calming Sleep Environment
To help your wee one catch some ZZZs, a calming sleep environment is key.
Set the mood by keeping the nursery nice and dark with blackout blinds to prevent the sun from peeking in. You might also try a sound machine to keep outside noises from disturbing your snoozy tot’s slumber.
Set the temperature to sweet dreams between 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit and get rid of any harmful blue light. We also recommend spritzing our Relaxing Pillow and Linen Spray into your little buddy’s room.
Our sense of smell is directly linked to our brain, and helps build strong sleep associations for an effortless bedtime routine. This gentle, melatonin-free sleep mist is infused with our signature NaturalSnooze fragrance, featuring dreamy scents proven to create a peaceful environment that helps with falling asleep and staying asleep.
An Abbreviated Nighttime Routine
From mysterious illnesses and questionable fluids to random bouts of fussiness and sudden growth spurts, life with little kids is anything but boring. A consistent routine, however, can bring some order to the chaos.
Like syrup on waffles or butter on toast, babies on routines are just better. Yup, it’s true—according to research, a consistent routine helps little ones learn healthy habits, self-control, and communication skills.
It can give your sweet chickpea confidence and independence while providing opportunities for special daily and nightly rituals such as snuggly bedtime stories with dad or morning dance parties with mom.
When it comes to nighttime sleep, a consistent schedule can reinforce your baby’s natural circadian rhythms, signaling that it’s time to hit the hay. A good bedtime routine might include a warm bath with soothing shampoo followed by a calming massage, a feeding with cuddles, and a sweet lullaby or two. In fact, a warm bath is linked to helping your baby fall asleep faster and longer.
Find what relaxing activities work best for your little buddy and stick to your family’s bedtime routine every single night. For instance, you can incorporate a light massage with the Nourishing Body Lotion with Oat & Shea Butter before bed. Studies have shown that positive physical touch and baby massage can help reduce the symptoms of stress, promote relaxation, and enhance bonding for you and your baby.
After some time, your child will associate these predictable nighttime activities with sleep making bedtime a breeze.
Feeling a little fussy? The Calming Probiotic & Organic Chamomile Sleep Drops can help reduce fussiness before bedtime and help calm digestive upset.
With that in mind, when nap training, it can be really helpful to use an abbreviated bedtime routine to give your baby cues that it’s time to rest. For example, your naptime routine might be a diaper change, one soft lullaby instead of two, and a quick cuddle sesh. Choose a few activities and be consistent.
As your little buddy grows from a snoozy newborn to a rambunctious toddler, you’ll teach them everything from reciting their ABCs to catching those ZZZs!
While training a wee one to nap is certainly no easy feat, it’s not impossible. Yes, it’ll be tough as you go through the motions, and you’ll likely hate life as you rack up sleep debt, but with a dash of guidance, a sprinkle of perseverance, and a downpour of patience, you’ll have your baby napping like a champ in no time.
At Little Yawn Collective, we’ve got ZZZs down to a science. Whether you could use some confidence to establish a naptime routine that actually works or are on the hunt for an all-natural melatonin-free sleep solution to summon the sleepies, you can always count on us to have your back.
Check out our sleepy essentials today for a happier bedtime tomorrow.