My girls turned 7 months a week ago and should be napping 3hrs max at 3 naps a day. I’ve found going from 3.5-3 hrs has been hard for them. I have to wake them up from each nap and they are upset when I do.
Also when I don’t give Y at least 3.15 hrs of daytime nap, it makes putting her down for naps challenging as she screams until she falls asleep. Yesterday I gave them 3.5hrs but thought it’d affect their night time sleep but it didn’t. They went to bed at 7:35pm, and woke up at 7am. Their wake windows are also 2.5hrs which works best for Y, but I’ve put Z down a bit earlier than that and she still sleeps. How can I slowly dial it back to get to 3hrs or should I just let them be since it’s not affecting their night time sleep?
In a word, no. It’s not a problem at all. Some babies just sleep more than others.
Sleep predictions by age are just averages. Some babies will inevitably need more sleep and others need less. If you are the parent of a high sleep needs baby, you are, by many accounts, lucky.
Other parents worry that their babies don’t sleep enough. I worked with a client recently whose 12-month-old baby just wouldn’t take longer than 30-minute naps. We tried everything. But the baby’s night sleep -- after our work together -- was beautiful. Ten to eleven hours a night, with no wakings. And her mood was great during the day. She just didn’t need a lot of sleep, total, and especially, not a lot during the day.
So while it’s a good idea to have a general idea of average sleep needs and average awake intervals, try not to get bogged down with them.
Here are some general guidelines for what to expect in terms of awake intervals. I recommend switching to a clock-based schedule (as opposed to an awake-interval based schedule) by about 5 months but awake intervals are still useful beyond that age as a general guide. For example, if your two-year-old naps from 2-4 pm, she’s probably not going to be ready for bed at 7 pm because she needs 4-5.5 hours awake between the end of nap and her bedtime.
Awake Interval Details by Age *averages. In general, try to keep the awake intervals at the shorter end of the range unless you have a low sleep needs baby.)
Birth to 6 weeks: 45-60 min
2 mos: 1 hour
3 months: 1-1.5 hours
4 months: 1.25-1.75 hours with bedtime about 1.75-2 hours after the last nap ends.
5 months: 1.5-2.25 hours with bedtime no later than 2-2.5 hours after the last nap ends.
*** Most babies transition from 4-5 naps a day to 3 naps a day by about 5 months old. You can expect naps to get longer when this happens. You will likely need a very early bedtime during this transition to prevent overtiredness.
6 months: 2-2.5 hours Naps should be ending by 5:00pm with bedtime 2.25-2.75 hours after the last nap ends.
7 months: 2.25-2.75 hours with naps ending by 5:00pm. Bedtime should be 2.25-2.75 hours after the last nap ends.
8 months: 2.25-3 hours. The last nap should end by 4:00pm and bedtime should be 3-3.75 hours after that.
9 months: 2.5-3 hours. The last nap should end by 4:00pm. Bedtime should be 3-3.5 hours after that.
*** Most babies transition from 3 naps a day to 2 naps a day between 7 and 9 months old. You will likely need a very early bedtime during this transition to prevent overtiredness.
10 months: 3-3.5 hours awake between 2 naps with bedtime 3-4 hours after the end of the second nap.
11 months: 3-4 hours awake with bedtime 3-4 hours after the end of the second nap.
12 months: 3-4 3-4 hours awake with bedtime 3-4 hours after the end of the second nap.
12-18 months (2 naps): 3-4 hours awake with bedtime 3-4 hours after the end of the second nap.
12-18 months (1 nap): 5-6 hours awake before the nap and bedtime 4-5.5 hours after the nap ends.
*** Most babies transition from two naps a day between 15 and 18 months but some children transition as early as 12 months or as late as 21 months. When this transition happens, move bedtime earlier to prevent overtiredness.
18-24 months: 5-6 hours before the nap and bedtime 4-6 hours after the nap ends.
24+ months: The nap should end by 3:00-3:30pm or even earlier if you are finding that bedtime is too late. It is normal for bedtime to become later the longer the child keeps their nap. You may cap the nap to keep bedtime from getting too late.
For most children under age 6 (yes, a huge range of ages!), the sweet spot for bedtime is between 6:30 and 7:30 pm.
Don’t be afraid to try a much earlier bedtime if your baby or toddler seems overtired! If your preschooler is still napping (yay!), you may need a slightly later bedtime but if your little one is up until 9 pm or later, cap or eliminate the nap.
Again, these are just guidelines. If you are worried you child is sleeping too much or too little, schedule a free chat and we can figure out what is the best individualized schedule for your little one.
Fisher Price just issued a recall on their 4-In-1 Rock ‘N Glide Soother, an infant seat that can rock a baby forward and back as well as side-to-side. Four deaths have been reported: in each case, the baby was placed in it without the safety straps on and the baby subsequently rolled over in the seat and suffocated. They were four months old, two months old, two months old, and 11-weeks old.
Back in 2019, Fisher Price recalled almost 5 million Rock N Play Sleepers after 10 babies died in them. The deaths occurred “in most cases” after the babies rolled over in the devices, due to the fact that the safety straps were not used.
Clearly, the first lesson with these recalls is that it's critically important that safety straps are always used in infant containment devices. No matter what. It also suggests that parents should try not to rely on any inclined baby seat.
I have to admit that I was pretty devastated when the Rock n Play was recalled. My younger daughter LOVED that thing and would sleep up to 10 hours straight in it. It’s been hard to admit to my clients that that was a huge part of my success with sleep training!
Parents today have it harder, no doubt about it. A lot of newborns just don’t want to sleep flat on their backs, alone in a crib or bassinet.
It is safe to use a bouncy seat or swing for a nap if you are in the same room and watching your baby sleep. But it is critically important that safety straps are always used, even with you in the room. And that you are observing your baby breathing, of course. Being on an incline seems to be a risk for SIDS, possibly even with the safety straps, so better safe than sorry.
It is not recommended that you let your baby sleep in her car seat except when she is riding in the car. In that case, her car seat is the safest place for her, of course. Once the car ride is over, it is recommended that you take her out of the car seat and put her into her crib. I know how terrible that sounds! But the problem with the car seat is that over time, it can compress her airway and increase the risk of SIDS.
If your baby doesn’t want to sleep in his bassinet -- and this is very common, especially for newborns -- here are some things you can try.
First, try the actual crib. Many babies sleep better in the crib than the bassinet. Perhaps the mattress is more comfortable? Give this multiple tries before deciding if it helped or not.
Second, use the 5 S’s to your advantage (with babies under 12 weeks old). They are swaddling -- even if he cries! -- suck (pacifier or a clean finger), side lying (in your arms only, on his back in the crib), shushing (white noise), and swinging (in your arms, before placing in the crib).
Third, try placing a heating pad in the crib for a few minutes. Remove the heating pad and feel the mattress with your hand, checking to make sure it’s not too hot, before you put the baby down.
Fourth, don’t be afraid of a little crying. Even for a newborn, it is perfectly safe. Put the baby down and stay with her and gradually increase the amount of support you offer. Maybe your presence, or a soothing voice, is enough. Next, try the pacifier or a clean finger to suck. Maybe just placing your hand on her body is enough, or jiggling and patting will do the trick. If not, try rocking her and putting her back down again. Use feeding as a last resort as a way to put her to sleep.
Don’t expect perfection the first time. But keep trying at least one or two times a day. Things will improve with consistent practice.
If all else fails and he will only sleep in arms, enlist all the help you can. If you have a partner, family member, or alternate caregiver, take turns sleeping and holding the baby (the person holding the baby stays awake). If you can enlist a friend to take the 8 pm -- 12 am shift even occasionally, take advantage! Go to sleep as early as you can. Even an unbroken 4-hour stretch can be lifechanging. These difficult early days don’t last forever.
Likewise, if you can hire some temporary nighttime help, do it! I hired a “baby nurse” every fifth night when Amelie was a colicky newborn and it was the best money I have ever spent. I couldn’t have parented my three-year-old humanely in those early weeks without help. I was just too exhausted and frazzled without help.
The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advises against bedsharing. If you are nonetheless committed to it, please read up on “safer bedsharing practices.” The safest option is room sharing but not bedsharing.
Parenting a young infant is hard. Be kind and compassionate to yourself. Ask for all the help. Be safe.
If you are struggling with massive sleep deprivation and an exhausted baby, you aren’t alone. Let’s set up a free chat and get your family the great sleep you all deserve.
You took the baby for a walk. You gave her tummy time -- although you feel guilty that it only lasted a minute -- and showed her all the expert-approved, developmentally-appropriate toys.
Now it’s time for her to nap. You are exhausted and praying for at least a shower if not time to do the dishes, a load of laundry, an opportunity to catch up on email. But she just won't go to sleep. You are trying not to be frustrated… but it’s hard.
Your mother suggests the baby isn't tired yet, "Here, give her to me! She just needs some time to play with her Grammy."
Your best friend is puzzled and suggests you are trying too hard, "I just didn't stress about naps. Baby Benny would just drop off wherever and whenever he was tired. Maybe you are stressing the baby out by focusing on the nap so much? Just live your life and don't worry so much! He will sleep when he needs to."
But neither of these strategies work. By the end of the day, your baby is fussy and frazzled. And so are your nerves. He cries for hours and honestly, sometimes you cry right along with him.
You have tried nap schedules but those don’t work either. The struggle is demoralizing.
Does this sound like anyone you know?
Don’t worry, you aren’t alone.
And you aren’t wrong that your baby needs more daytime sleep. And a schedule.
Your baby needs to nap. Sooner, longer, more frequently than you may realize.
Most of the time, the issue is that parents are accidentally missing the ideal window for a nap (it's surprisingly easy to do). When that happens, your baby becomes overtired and her body produces cortisol, a stress hormone that actually makes it harder for her to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Which can lead to lots of crying -- not only from the baby -- and rocking, bouncing, jiggling and walking your baby for hours on end.
It’s not your fault. It’s very, very easy to miss the early signs of tiredness, when it’s still relatively easy for your baby to fall asleep.
These early tiredness signs include avoiding eye contact, staring into space, or rubbing her eyes. Start getting your baby ready to nap at this point. Your baby is actually already moderately tired by the time she starts yawning.
Waiting past the point of the first yawn to make sure he’s tired enough to definitely sleep can backfire. Once he's fussy, you've missed the magic window of opportunity. Not only will it likely be harder to get him to sleep, the nap will also likely be too short.
For newborns, you can expect your baby to start getting tired after as little as 45 minutes awake, including the feeding. This will feel like a very short time awake. This is normal and to be expected! Do not try to keep the baby up longer. Start your nap routine (which will be very very simple at this age).
As your baby gets older, you will be able to stretch her awake interval a little bit. But you still want to watch your baby, not the clock. Some days she will be able to stay awake as much as an hour and a half, but other times, it will be less. Again, watch for staring into space, avoiding eye contact, and especially, yawns. Once you see a yawn, do not delay -- lunge into action!
It may take a few days, but if you follow her sleep cues carefully, you should see a dramatic improvement in her mood as well as more consistent, longer naps.
Want some help figuring out your baby’s tired cues? You aren't alone -- it’s confusing! Schedule a free chat with me and let’s figure it out together.
Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and former NICU nurse. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.