Naptime can be a magical time when baby gets some much-needed rest and parents get chores done around the house but, as baby gets older, nap times change or go away altogether. This can bring tears, tantrums and exhaustion for baby and parents. According to Arthur Lavin, MD, FAAP, Akron Children’s Pediatrics, Beachwood, one way to keep naptime from causing stress is to take scheduled breaks throughout the day, rather than making it all about the nap.
“Although parents may really want their infant to take a nap because they think it’s needed, you can’t force a child to sleep,” said Dr. Lavin. “If an infant is irritable and crabby, but won’t nap, try making 15-20 minute quiet breaks part of his daily schedule instead. By placing the infant in a safe, less active environment, it can often turn into a nap without the battle. At the very least, it becomes a routine way of giving everyone some down time to reset.”
Kids grow rapidly in the first few months of life, which is why they seem to be such great nappers early on, but around 4 months of age, all of that can change.
“As growth slows down, babies don’t need to get up to eat at night so they begin to connect these pockets of time into longer stretches of sleep at night,” said Dr. Lavin. “When the brain becomes capable of organized sleep at night, awake during the day, naps really only happen if the baby isn’t getting enough sleep at night.”
Nighttime sleep is important for a child’s growth, development and overall health. Naps recharge a child’s energy level, but don’t help with overall development. How much sleep kids need varies by age. While every child is different, experts recommend an estimated range for sleep while following safe sleep practices.
- Infants (0–3 months): 14–17 hours. Infants tend to sleep on and off around the clock, waking every couple of hours to eat.
- Infants (4–12 months): 12–16 hours. Most babies are sleeping longer at night and have 2–3 daytime naps.
- Toddlers (1–2 years): 11–14 hours. Young toddlers may still take two naps, but most drop down to one nap a day by 18 months.
- Preschool (3–5 years): 10–13 hours. Many preschoolers get enough sleep at night and give up their afternoon nap during these years.
- School age (6–12 years): 9–12 hours. Kids over 6 should get all their sleep at night. If your older child regularly naps, set a bedtime that allows for the recommended amount of sleep.
As infants get older and napping isn’t working, Dr. Lavin recommends scheduling quiet breaks so they become part of the child’s daily activities – breakfast, play time, art time, lunch, quiet break. In doing so, breaks become part of a predictable routine to help kids thrive.
If you’re struggling to find a way to get your child to take breaks or naps, talk to your provider or find a provider who can help answer specific questions or concerns about your child’s sleep.
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