Naps: 7 tips to help your baby or toddler nap better and longer

Sleep is an important part of your child’s growth. Naps can assist with ensuring that your baby or toddler is getting the required amount of sleep each day. When children get better and longer periods of sleep during the day, it allows them a chance to recharge, preventing them from being overtired. When a child is overtired, it can affect their moods and behavior, and even make it difficult for them to fall asleep at night.

But what happens when naps are a constant battle, and your child wakes up before they have had a chance to fully rest?

When my daughter was younger, not only would it take me a long time to get her down for a nap, but staying asleep was always a problem. I would start nap time by rocking her, put her in her crib, listen to her cry, pick her up, and repeat until she was finally asleep. I would sneak around my house only to, without fail, hear her cry again after 20-30 minutes. Not only was it difficult for me to get anything done, but she was always cranky around the late afternoons due to being overtired. I knew I had to find ways to make her naps better and most of all longer.

Just like every other phase in my toddler’s life, it took some consistency and many efforts to find a way improve her nap time, now when my little one wakes up, she is well rested, always happy, and full of smiles.

7 tips to help your baby or toddler nap better and longer

Encourage quiet time before a nap

It may be difficult for your child to go from being active and playing one minute to settling down to sleep the next. Encourage them to spend some time with their books, or simple toys that don’t have any lights or make music before putting them down for their nap.

Look for your signs that your child is tired

During the days, you want to keep an eye on the time, but also to watch for signs that your child is tired. For most babies it will be rubbing their eyes, yawning, or even just starting to slow down during activities. You will learn what to look for very quickly, and it is best to take advantage of that short window before they start to become overtired, making it harder to get them to sleep.

Offer a meal or snack before nap time

Feeding your little one before a nap can help prevent them from waking up due to hunger. If you are doing naps in the morning, give them their breakfast and some play time to allow their food to digest, before putting them down for a nap. This applies to afternoons as well, feed them lunch or a snack before an afternoon nap.

Make their sleep comfortable

Before I bring my little one into her room to take a nap, I make sure her room is comfortable, resulting in a longer nap. To get her room ready, I typically will pick up any toys that may be near her crib, I turn on her fan, and I pull down her blackout window shade so that no light comes in through the sides of her curtains.

Put them down for a nap awake

This was a little tricky at first because I would breastfeed my little one before naps and she would sometimes fall asleep. But without fail, 20-30 minutes after I put her down asleep, she was wide awake again. When I started putting her down just before her eyes would close, she would at times cry, but after a few minutes, she would fall asleep and stay sleeping for 1 to 2.5 hours.

Be consistent

Being consistent with a nap routine helps with their internal clock and signals that nap time is coming up. Try to stay within the same time each day and if you need to, put off any outings until after your child wakes up. Also, being consistent with where your child sleeps helps them associate the place with sleeping.

Be quiet, but not too quiet

When you put your child down for a nap, you may be tempted to tip-toe around the house, but most babies can sleep through normal household noises. While you don’t want to start loudly banging things around, you may find it beneficial to have some noise in the house. This can prevent your child from getting startled when they hear something and wake up early. You can even try using a white noise machine or the sound of a fan can help them block out any background noises.

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