Tips to Help Your Baby Sleep Longer
Naptime is your little break from the diaper changes and feeding, but what happens when your little one cat naps instead of falling asleep for a long nap? Not only does it leave you wishing for your own quiet time, but it also leaves your little one tired and possible crabby. If he's in the habit of waking up from naps too early, work on changing his sleep habits, so he can get to the much-needed REM sleep that only comes with naps at least 45 minutes long.
Create a Soothing Sleep Environment
Think about your own napping. Where do you sleep best? Probably not in the middle of a bright, noisy room. Create a cozy sleeping environment for your little one to help her fall asleep and stay asleep during naps and at night. A cool, dark, quiet spot is best, and it's important to have consistency each day. That similar environment at naptime creates familiarity that helps your baby sleep.
Look for small changes you can make in her bedroom to make naptime easier. Blackout blinds help block most of the sunlight when your baby sleeps during the day. Some blinds also help block noises from outdoors. A white noise machine in the nursery creates a soothing place while minimizing wake-ups from sounds. Turn the thermostat down a few degrees during the day, or use a fan to keep the room cool.
Establish a Naptime Routine
You probably have a routine at bedtime, but are you as consistent with naptime routines? Using the same routine leading up to naps every time lets your little one know it's time to sleep. You might do a diaper change, nurse, sing and rock in that order each time, for example. For the best results, choose calm, soothing activities, and do them consistently.
Chart Your Baby's Sleepiness
If you're serious about getting your baby into a sleep routine, do your research first. The goal is to track your baby's sleep and awake times, so you can anticipate when he needs to sleep. Watch your baby for a few days, and write down the exact times when he starts acting sleepy. Signs include yawning, mood changes, droopy eyelids, nodding his head and rubbing his eyes. Look for patterns in his sleepy times. If the times are consistent, you have a built-in nap and bedtime schedule for your little one.
Start the Naptime Routine Earlier
Once you know when to expect naptime, show up prepared. If your little one starts getting really sleepy and fussy at 10 a.m. every day, start your naptime routine no later than 9:45 a.m. to ensure she's ready for sleep before she gets overly tired. If you wait until she's already fussy and exhausted, she still has to wait for her diaper change, feeding and any other pre-nap activities. She may be so worked up that it's difficult for her to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Put Her Down Sleepy But Not Asleep
Instead of feeding or rocking your baby to sleep, try putting him in his crib when he's sleepy but not fully asleep. This gives him the chance to put himself to sleep, which is an important skill for naptime and bedtime. When he knows how to fall asleep on his own, he can put himself back to sleep if something wakes him during his nap or at night.
Sleep Better at Night
A consistent nap schedule during the day helps your baby sleep better at night. If your baby skips her nap, she probably won't make up for at that night. In fact, she may actually have trouble sleeping at night. Regular, uninterrupted sleep allows the pituitary gland to secrete growth hormones, so your baby's sleep schedule is important to her growth and development.