How do I get my child on a nap schedule?
Some babies seem to fall into a sleep schedule without any problems while others struggle and tend to have very short sleeps during the day (that is, less than 1 hour per nap). We call these babies ‘cat nappers’. Around 15% of babies catnap and these babies often sleep for longer at night. Other babies seem to have no schedule to their napping times.
Do not try for a schedule until your baby is at least 3 months old. Make sure she is growing well and getting enough to eat and that there are no health issues that need to be managed (for example, a cow’s milk protein allergy) before trying to get her into a schedule. Once you have confirmed that your baby is healthy and getting enough to eat, then you can try getting her into a nap schedule. Use the feed-play-sleep approach. That is, feed your baby, have a play time, and when she starts to look tired, settle her to sleep. Tired signs in babies include jerking their arms and legs, clenching their fists, yawning, fussing and crying – which is a late sign. When you see your baby’s tired signs, take your baby into her bedroom, wrap her (or put her in a sleeping bag/safe sleep sack if she is older), cuddle her until she is calm but not asleep, and put her into the cot (crib) still awake. If she is quiet or just fussing a bit, leave her be. If she cries, you may need to pat or stroke her until she is quiet but not asleep. You can then leave the room to see if she can fall asleep on her own. You may need to come back if she hasn’t settled after a couple of minutes and repeat this process again. There are several posts on this website that can provide some guidance on how to do this process if you need some additional help. For naps, making sure the room is dark will help sleep and definitely avoid having your baby sleep in noisy, bright places such as the lounge/living room or kitchen.