It is incredibly important to make sure that your baby or toddler is getting enough sleep over the course of the day. An overtired baby is likely to be fussy and hyperactive when awake and is less likely to sleep well at night.
When the baby is sleeping, you may panic as you wonder whether there is something wrong with her/him. Some parents even buy the best pulse oximeters and use them to check the baby’s oxygen level during sleep. All this is unnecessary.
Read on for an overview of the amount of nap time that a toddler needs.
0 – 3 Months
Your newborn will not have an established sleep pattern and may only be awake for 45 minutes at a time. Your baby will still be learning to differentiate night and day and it is highly unlikely he or she will be consolidating most of their sleep into the night time yet. After approximately 12 weeks, your baby will be starting to associate sleep with:
- Noise and Quiet
- Light and Dark
- Playtime vs Quiet time
3 – 6 months
Your baby will be napping 3- 4 times a day and is unlikely to remain awake for more than a couple of hours at a time. You should try to make sure that your baby naps in a crib as babies that nap on the move do not benefit as much from a deep sleep.
7 – 15 months
By this time your baby should only be napping twice a day. Once, about 3 hours after he or she has woken up and once in the afternoon.
16 months – 3 years
At some point, your toddler will drop one nap and will only need to sleep once during the day. The morning nap will occur later and later and this will tend to push the afternoon nap to a later time. When this starts to interfere with bedtime, you should consider dropping the morning nap. At some time around your toddler’s third birthday, your toddler will lose the daytime nap altogether.
You should watch your baby closely and learn to recognize the signals that indicate that he or she is feeling sleepy. These may include yawning, eye rubbing, ear pulling, arching back and rubbing their little faces into a blanket. If you miss these signals, you will end up with an overtired baby that has much greater difficulty in falling asleep.
As early as 3 months you can start establishing a basic routine that signals nap time. Try to keep things quiet and calm in your toddler’s bed and provide a consistent environment. You should consider time, light, smell and place. For the first few months, your baby will closely associate feeding and sleeping so consider feeding him or her just before starting your naptime routine.
At nap time, do not use a pacifier nor nurse your baby to sleep. Babies that are dependent on inappropriate sleep associations will not sleep as long nor will they be able to fall back asleep easily if they happen to wake up prematurely.
Finally, bear in mind that the total amount of sleep that your little one needs (in a 24 hour period) is shared between daytime naps and nighttime sleep. If you are having problems with your baby waking too early then your baby may be napping too long during the day. If your baby has problems with night waking, he or she may not be napping enough and may be overtired.