Changing napping patterns

When Baby is first born, it’s hard to pick out when they are ‘napping,’ because they seem to exist in a perpetual cycle of either napping or preparing to nap, without ever settling down into a more serious sleep. This is partially because they hasn’t had the chance to develop a circadian rhythm yet, and so doesn’t have any way of differentiating between day and night, and partially because their stomach is small enough, and growth-rate is large enough, that they need to eat just about every three to five hours, making any sleeping pattern other than napping practically impossible.

Baby is moving into a transition period between the frequent naps and broken-up nights of their early months and what could be a regular schedule involving a few naps and a long night’s sleep. By the time they are between a year and 4 years old, they will probably be down to a nap or two a day, on a fairly regular schedule, and 11 to 12 hours of sleep a night.

At this point, you may have noticed that Baby has moved away from napping “on-demand,” and falling asleep when they&;s tired, and has started to fall asleep in more predictable patterns, napping around the same time every day. As this happens, they may have started to differentiate between day and night, sleeping for a longer stretch of time at night, and for shorter periods during the day. If they hasn&;t started to differentiate between night and day, you can help to encourage them by making sure to keep their room dark at night, and to let daytime naps see some sunlight. As time goes on, their sleep schedule should start to shift until about two-thirds of their sleep is happening at night.

Baby’s nap schedule will probably follow a generally decreasing pattern, with maybe 3 or 4 naps when they start sleeping through the night, and decreasing to 2 or 3 around their first birthday, or a little later. There may be points when they might seem like they are moving backwards, but this is just because, as they hit their growth spurts, they may need to eat more often to fuel that growth, breaking up their nighttime rest, and may make up for it by taking up naps that you thought had been eliminated from their schedule. This is normal, and nothing to worry about, though it can concern parents. In general, though, Baby’s sleep patterns should start to fall into a fairly predictable pattern by midway through their first year, even if you don’t work to impose a deliberate schedule, and from there should generally start to shift towards shorter and fewer naps.

When it comes time to reduce the number of Baby’s naps, there is no strict time-frame, but they will start to send you signals when they are ready, first by sleeping for a shorter and shorter amount of time during the nap in question, and then by resisting going to sleep for that nap to begin with. Once or twice could just have to do with their mood, but if Baby is resisting going to sleep for a certain nap more than half of the time, it might be a sign that they are ready to let that nap go. Eliminating naps can be tricky, though – Baby can seem to both be ready not to take a certain nap, and not be getting enough sleep without it at the same time. You can ease the transition here either by moving the nap before the one you’re eliminating just a little bit later, or by temporarily putting Baby to bed for the night a little bit earlier until they adjust. Eliminating naps doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing situation, though – Baby may be at a point where they won’t need a nap at a certain time on some days, and will do much better taking a quick one at that time on others.

Sometime when Baby is somewhere between 1 and a half and 2 and a half, they may be ready to go down to just one nap a day, and sometime when they are somewhere around three or four years old, they may be ready to stop napping altogether. However, it’s important to remember that all babies are different. Maybe Baby‘s napping days will be done sooner than you think!

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