Friday, January 20, 2012

The Napping Window

This info is for a baby 4-8 months old.

If your baby isn't sleeping as well or as much as you think he or she should, then you're probably always searching for something else to try.  You're clinging to hope that maybe this is the key.  If you're like me, you optimistically go ahead and make yourself a to-do list for next week because you just know you're going to have all of this free time to kill while your baby sleeps.

In case you don't know, my Declan (7 months old) is was a serial cat napper.  He would take four to five 30-45 minute naps a day.  Not only was this frustrating because I'm supposed to be working from home, but I knew deep down that it wasn't healthy.  I know that consolidated sleep is best (did you know that?) and that 30 minutes is like 1 sleep cycle... no bueno. 

The past couple of days I learned some more.  Short naps can be an indicator of over tiredness.  How did I miss that one?  I guess I didn't think that falling short of the recommended 14 hours minimum of sleep for his age by just an hour (he was getting about 13 hours in a 24 hour period... on good days) would still have him being so overtired that it would affect him this way.  But I'm here to say that almost enough sleep is not good enough!  The deficit, no matter how tiny you may think it is, can still cause sleep problems (like short naps, or night wakings... check, check).

So now I have something for you to try!  (Get your to-do lists ready (c;)

If your routine is loose, like, your baby is napping at different times every day (outside of a 30 minute flex range), then you may feel like you don't have a good idea of when your baby naturally grows tired.  Or maybe you feel like you do.  Either way, consider this:  very common nap windows occur at 9am and 1pm.  If your baby sleeps past 7-7:30am-ish, you might want to consider waking him or her at 7 each day in order to maintain a routine.  I know, I know, it hurts if you are accustomed to sleeping in.  But if your little one is having sleep problems, think of it as part of the solution.  Feed, play with, change your baby, etc.  But at about 8:45am, start soothing your baby down for the first nap.  Your baby probably won't seem tired at this time, but understand that you are trying to catch them before they get too tired.  When a baby gets too far into the "tired zone," their bodies release hormones to keep them awake.  That's why they fight sleep if they're overtired. "It's not logical, it's biological."  Whenever Declan fights his naps, I know it's because I waited too long to put him down.  So, the goal is to get them to sleep as close to 9am as possible. 

Over a couple of days of trying this, you may find that your baby needs to take his/her naps earlier or (be careful with this one) later.  9am and 1pm are common nap windows, but it's up to you to tell if that needs some tailoring.  For Declan, 9am and 1pm happen to work great, although he has been fighting his 1pm nap for the past 2 days, I might try to put him down at 12:45 (start soothing at 12:35) today.

Focusing on these nap windows has Declan taking 1hr 15min (sometimes longer) naps at 9am and 1pm.  I also give him another nap at 4:30pm which is ideally an hour, but it is preferable that the baby has an early bedtime rather than a 3rd nap.  We have found, at least for now, that Dec won't go down for the night unless he goes to sleep at 8pm, not a minute earlier.  I suspect that he's too overtired to calm down by then, so my plan is to get him rested up through our new improved nap routine and then try an earlier bedtime in a week or two. 

As always with baby sleep, when you're trying something new give it 4 days.  After trying it consistently for 4 days, you'll know if it's working or not.  Don't be surprised (but you're welcome to be impressed) if better naps help nighttime sleep, too!

1 comment:

  1. Kendra, you ARE the mom! I wish Ryan & Wes had had "the mom"! Love covers a multitude of deficiencies, but, dang...I wish I had been the mom! I love you, Sweetie!