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Baby Naps
by Rebecca Garland

When you first hear to “nap when the baby’s napping” you often don’t realize exactly how often your little one will be asleep. Granted the naps change frequently and vary considerably from child to child, but there are some patterns to look for in your child as she settles into a solid nap schedule.

Newborn Naps
Newborn babies sleep all the time. Newborns will likely wake only to eat and get a clean diaper before falling asleep again for one to three hours. As they gradually become more aware, your newborn baby might stay awake for longer stretches, but a baby less than four months old does best to nap every one to two hours during the day and sleep around the same number of hours at night that you do – with a wake-up call or two for a snack during the night.

Baby Naps
As your child gets close to four months of age, two things happen with her sleep. The first is that she starts falling asleep for her morning nap around the same time every day. The natural rhythm of babies this age calls for a period of sleep between nine and ten every morning.

Your baby might have slightly different hours, but chances are she’ll settle into roughly the same nap time every day. After the morning nap, nap times are erratic, and naps can vary from short catnaps to long powernaps.

As baby gets close to six or eight months, you’ll start to see a regular afternoon nap develop. The erratic sleep of a few months ago settles out into a regular nap after lunch starting around noon or as late as two. Baby sleeps for an hour or two, and then is awake for the rest of the day. Some babies take a short power nap in the early evening, but this nap should be gone by around nine months since it will begin to affect night sleep.

As naps get more routine, your baby will also start to show a preference for an earlier bedtime. Watch your little one for signs that she’s ready for sleep and move her bedtime back accordingly. Don’t be surprised is you wind up with a baby in bed by six or seven PM every night – fewer naps during the day means more sleep at night. Because she’s going to bed earlier, she might again require a feeding or two at night until around nine months. Some parents get lucky with a baby that sleeps twelve hours straight without feedings from very early on.

Toddler Naps
After your baby turns one, she gains the title of Toddler and loses her morning nap. You’ll see the nap gradually disappear and will likely endure a period of fussy baby as she doesn’t get quite enough sleep with a single nap, but can’t fall asleep for two. Move the afternoon nap up and try an earlier bedtime to help smooth the transition.

Toddlers and even preschool age children continue taking an afternoon nap with a bedtime before eight or nine PM. Around age three, your little one will likely give up her afternoon nap and you might move her bedtime closer to seven again to give her plenty of sleep – especially once she starts attending a school program sure to wear her little body out each day.

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