So, how do you 'persuade' your baby to take a nap during the day? The key to it all is getting the timing right. You need to make sure that your selected naptimes coincide neatly with your baby's most reliably sleepy moments. Stick him down too soon and he may either fight it or just catnap; too late and he may be, well, 'over' the whole idea.
As a rough guide, by four to six months, most babies are ready for a one to two-hour morning nap two hours after getting up, and for an one to two-hour afternoon nap just after lunch. An impressively snoozy few are also up for a (shorter) late-afternoon snooze, too.
Once you've got the timing sussed, it's really a matter of finding the right venue, using the right props and persevering like mad:
Once your baby's got the knack for naps, you can build your daily routine around them - whether you're a keen timetabler, like this Mumsnetter:
"I wake my son up at about 7am, then make sure he is awake and active for two hours before allowing him a nap in his room of no longer than 40 minutes. He then goes down for his lunchtime nap at around 12.15pm and now sleeps for around one and a half to two hours."
... or a more laid-back kind of gal:
"We go for a walk until he's asleep and then I park up outside the back door or in the conservatory, leave the door open and have a cuppa where I can see the pram."
What to do when your baby won't nap
Some babies do seem to manage on very little daytime sleep. Which can be rather infuriating if all your other new-mum mates can bank on a couple of hours of baby-free house-primping/ tea-drinking/Mumsnetting every day.
But also rather handy if you actually want to leave the house mid-morning or early afternoon - or if you need to explain to disapproving relatives why your home is a primp-free zone.
If your baby sleeps well at night and seems happy and rested in the day on very short (or no) daytime naps, then there's really no need to fret. But if your baby seems irritated or unsettled during the day, you may need to help him get the naptime sleep he obviously needs.
You can do this by:
- Having a naptime routine. Create a calming little pre-nap ritual for your baby that he'll come to associate with going to sleep in the day. You can make it a short version of what you do at night (feed, cuddle, lights off/curtains drawn, bed). Or introduce a special naptime variation.
- Settling your baby to sleep. A nicely drowsy baby should nod off quite easily with a song or a gentle forehead stroke. If you get no joy with those, try some rhythmic tummy-patting and shushing. Or stick him in the pram and go for a walk.
- Settling him back if he wakes too soon. With the same pat-sshh routine you used to get him off in the first place. Or by rocking the pram up and down the hall.
- Getting tough. If you're determined to crack the napping thing and nothing else is working, you can try one of the sleep-training techniques some parents use to get their baby to sleep through the night. They're not for everyone (especially the controlled crying method) but they could be your passport to a new house-primping regime. Or a good old Mumsnetting sesh.
Dropping from two naps to one
Round about 10 months to a year, you may find your baby needs to drop from two naps to one (the morning one's the first to go, usually). You'll know when the time's right: either your baby will fight sleep at naptime or he'll start waking ridiculously early in the morning.
What Mumsnetters say about getting babies to nap
- My son wasn't at all keen on proper naps at six months. But at about eight months, he suddenly got really into them and now goes down for two hours in the morning and an hour at lunch with no niggles at all. Kittypower
- I always reckoned the most reliable need-a-nap signs are rubbing eyes, yawning, fussiness and staring into space - though, obviously, not all at the same time! JuliaB
- I put him in his pushchair in the hall when he shows signs of being tired. I rock/push the pushchair for a few minutes and he falls asleep. Eaglebird
- What do I do? Put her cot mobile on and give her a dummy and leave her to cry for a few minutes at a time, returning to ssshh her and replace the dummy. Not a technique that some people like but it works for me. PorridgeBrain
- My son, now eight months, has not had a proper daytime nap since he was about four months. He does, however, sleep very well at night. I don't think it's such a big issue. Sweetie
- I had a blue baby blanket my aunt had made and I always got it out for naptime. It meant, within a few weeks, that when he saw it, he knew it was time to sleep - whether we were at home, in the car, at my mum's, whatever. Porpoise
- If he wakes crying, I try very hard to get him back to sleep for another half hour or so as I find it makes a real difference to his mood once he's up. Amber2
- Be warned: it can take a while for your baby to adjust. For a very messy few days after dropping his morning nap, my son kept falling asleep, nose-first, into his lunch. Porpoise