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Nap time struggles are universally shared by parents at one point or another during a baby’s sleep development. You may feel like you’ve finally nailed down that routine, but then here comes a regression to throw a hurdle in your progress! Not every nap will be perfect but we have some tips to make things a bit easier when those naps become a challenge.
Having a bedtime routine is extremely important to establishing good sleep hygiene habits for your baby, but we often overlook the just as important nap time routine. A nap time routine should be much shorter than your bedtime routine, 15-20 minutes is more than enough time to help your baby wind down and be prepared for their nap. A nap routine can involve reading a book, snuggling with you, a feeding and definitely a diaper change. Your baby will likely begin to show sleepy cues during this routine and will be ready to close their eyes for a good nap.
Wake windows are a great guideline to helping you begin to recognize your baby’s sleep cues. If you know they have about a one hour wake window for their developmental age, then you can be more aware of the time you can expect those sleep cues. Your baby will speak their own language and if you watch and listen carefully and experiment, you will become their interpreter in no time.
Understanding what cues look like for most babies will not be as helpful as watching and learning from your own baby and then experimenting. Is that yawn a tired cue? Or just a sign that they need a different sensory-scenery? You don’t need to go to sleep with every yawn, so maybe your baby doesn’t either. You can watch their body language, hear their grunts and movement and recognize their need before they even have to ask. Cued-care is a relaxing way to approach parenting as it establishes a close and healthy bond between you and your little one, and they will know that you will provide for them when they request help. It’s a different approach to responding rather than just following the clock for wake-windows or following a feed-play-sleep schedule.
Physical movement and stimulation not only will help your baby hit those developmental milestones, but it can also help reduce SIDs and promote better sleep. So for your new infant, practice skills such as tummy time 2-3 times a day for 3-5 minutes each session, encourage them to crawl around or stand, even lying on their back kicking can get out their wiggles and tucker them out for a more restful nap. Exercise doesn’t just mean physical strength but also mental strength. Your baby will thrive with sensory and mental stimulation. These neural exercises can be as simple as taking them outside of the house for a walk in the park, a trip to the store or just running your errands can help your baby practice mental, neural and social exercises. You will find it’ll tucker them out and help improve their quality of sleep.