Updated: Jul 22, 2021
Ever frantically googled this after the 3rd "catnap" of the day?
Naps are golden and key to thriving for both babies and parents. Baby gets a chance to rest, restore and grow while parents have the coveted opportunity for a well earned break! (I won't patronise you here with that old chestnut "sleep when the baby sleeps"; I hope you do but, let's be real here...)
When exhausted parents come to me with a serial cat-napper, we're going to start looking at a number of factors:
1. How old is baby?
(Adjusted) age plays a big part here. At 4 months of age, baby's circadian rhythms (body clock) are really starting to develop and once these establish, baby can begin to sleep at more predictable times on the clock and for longer periods of time, especially at night! Wahoo! Before this time and in the newborn stage, babies sleep is naturally chaotic and typically shorter, but you can still encourage healthy, safe and consistent sleep habits even in this early stage by keeping their sleep space consistent, dark and ambient with white noise. Most important of all, keep every sleep for baby, safe;
(ABC: Alone, on their Back and in an empty Crib containing baby, a firm mattress and fitted sheet only)
2. Where do they fall asleep?
At any age, where baby falls asleep has a huge impact. As newborns they'll sleep anywhere and are super portable but, once we transition out of the newborn stage, babies are more aware of their surroundings and are far more easily stimulated. They require a dark room to fall asleep and stay asleep not only to eliminate stimulation and help them switch off, but darkness actually supports the natural production of that wonderful sleep hormone, melatonin!
3. How do they fall asleep?
As new parents, we develop a huge arsenal of soothing techniques to help calm our baby and send them off to sleep. These tricks can be tremendously helpful until our babies reach around 6-8 weeks and start to depend on these tricks to send them to sleep for every sleep. Babies sleep cycles last anywhere from 30-45 minutes to 90 minutes depending on their age so if you rocked or fed them to sleep at nap-time, they're going to rouse between sleep cycles and loudly request that you return to rock or feed them back to sleep, for every sleep... Placing baby alone, on their back, in their crib, drowsy but awake; will massively help support the vital learning curve of falling asleep and returning to sleep independently!
These 3 elements (plus many others) play a huge role in how our babies fall asleep and if we don't support their natural need for sleep in the right way and at the right time, their naps can be notoriously short or not happen at all. Parenting at the best of times is exhausting, especially with multiple children! The whole family needs and thrives on well rested parents and little ones. All babies are capable of sleeping well (assuming there are no underlying medical conditions inhibiting quality sleep) and with the right support through sleep consulting, we can get naps on track!