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Gina's Top Tips for daytime sleeping

It is absolutely vital that your child should have the right amount of sleep during the day, neither too much nor too little. Only then can you be sure of the good night's sleep that will naturally follow. Ideally, your baby's day should begin at 7am and end at 7pm, with daytime sleep according to his age and needs. The amount and timing of naps is also important to avoid overtiredness.

Recommended daytime sleep

Birth - 4 weeks         5 hours
4 - 8 weeks               4 - 4 1/2 hours
8 - 12 weeks             3 1/2 hours
3 - 6 months              3 hours
6 - 12 months            2 1/2 - 3 hours
12 - 15 months          2 1/2 hours
18 - 24 months          2 hours
2 - 2 1/2 years          1 - 2 hours
2 1/2 - 3 years          0 - 1 hour

  • Allowing too much sleep during the day can result in difficulty in settling during the evening, or in middle-of-the-night waking, But allowing too little can often result in worse problems. Many parents make the mistake of allowing their baby or toddler little or no sleep during the day in the belief that he will sleep better at night. In my experience, this rarely works, as the baby or toddler usually becomes so overtired and irritable that he is difficult to settle in the evening and is much more likely to wake up in the night.
  • Striking the right balance takes planning and adjustment, but I think it is one of the best things you can do for your child. Aim to structure set times for your baby's daytime sleep and awake times, and encourage an awake period for babies under one month of 1 - 2 hours after daytime feeds. By one month, try to ensure that your baby is awake for a total of 6 - 8 hours between 7 am and 7 pm, and that he is awake for as much of a two-hour social time as possible. Keeping a diary of your baby's sleep patterns will help you to achieve this.

Morning naps

  • A baby under one month of age is usually ready for a nap 1 1/2 to 2 hours from the time he wakes up in the morning. By two months of age, most babies will manage to stay awake for two full hours.
  • If the baby stays awake for longer than two hours, he will often become overtired and fight sleep. Overtiredness is one of the main causes of a baby not settling well at nap time, and care should be taken that this does not happen.
  • By the time they reach six months, the majority of babies can stay awake for nearly 2 1/2 hours.
  • All babies should be woken no later than 10am if you want them to sleep for a longer time at 12 noon.
  • At around one year of age most babies will cut right back on their morning nap, usually cutting it out altogether somewhere between 15 and 18 months.

Lunchtime naps

  • A baby under one month is often ready for his nap around 11.30am, but by the time he reaches two months he can usually make it to 12 noon.
  • Ideally, the lunchtime nap should be the longest of the day, as recent research shows that a nap between 12 noon and 2pm is deeper and more refreshing than a later nap because it coincides with the baby's natural dip in alertness.
  • Once a baby reaches six months of age and his morning nap becomes later, the lunchtime nap will also come later - usually around 12.30pm.
  • Depending on how well the baby has slept at the morning nap, this nap usually lasts 2 - 2 1/2 hours.
  • At around one year of age this nap may cut back to 1 1/2 hours if the baby is still having a full 45-minute nap in the morning, although it may lengthen again to 2 hours once the morning nap is dropped.
  • The majority of babies will continue to need a nap at midday until they are two years of age, at which time they will gradually reduce the amount of time they sleep, cutting it out altogether somewhere between two and a half and three years of age.

Late-afternoon naps

  • If a baby sleeps well at two earlier naps during the day, the late-afternoon nap should be the shortest of the three.
  • A baby under eight weeks usually needs 30 minutes - 1 hour. By the time they reach 12 weeks of age, the majority of babies who have slept well at lunchtime will need only a very short nap of 15 - 20 minutes in order to revive them enough for the bath and bedtime routine.
  • As the late-afternoon nap is shorter than the earlier naps, it can be a good opportunity for you to try and get your baby used to sleeping in different environments such as a buggy or car-seat.
  • The late-afternoon nap is usually dropped somewhere between three and six months of age.
  • Allowing a baby to have a long sleep later in the day is often the reason he does not settle well at 7pm.
(from Gina Ford's Top Tips for Contented Babies and Toddlers)

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