Let's talk about nap and sleep training. This delightful part of the day is a life saver for a mom's schedule. Encouraging a period of rest doesn't even require a little one to be sleepy! The downtime is beneficial physically and emotionally for the entire family when it is routine and predictable.
Children aren't born with an internal clock that matches the world around them. Therefore, it's a mother’s saving grace to get everyone sleeping or resting on a schedule.
The age of a little one determines the length and frequency of nap time. Of course, newborns need to sleep and eat round the clock, but that certainly is not the case for a six-month-old and beyond.
Consider using this guide for a 6-9-month-old, making adjustments where needed. Older children need naps or rest time too, but for shorter periods. Some children outgrow the need for naps altogether, but the rest time is a gift for mom, as she can use this time to get her own needs met while her little one rests.
Start by determining what time the day begins in your home. For our purposes, let's say 6:00 am.
CREATE A MORNING SCHEDULE (eating, change of clothes and diapers, and freshening up for the day). Next up in the schedule might be playtime, learning, physical activity, and socialization. These activities might bring you to about 9:00 am. Now is a good time for a nap or period of rest lasting about 2 hrs. The morning activities conclude at this point. Awaken around 11:00 am for the early afternoon segment of the day.
CREATE AN AFTERNOON SCHEDULE similar to the MORNING ROUTINE (eat, change a diaper as needed, freshen up). Follow up with playtime, learning, physical activity, and socialization. Most of the day's trips and appointments are more convenient when scheduled between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm. The afternoon concludes with a 2nd nap or rest period, again lasting about 2 hrs. Awaken around 4:00 for the early evening segment of the day.
CREATE AN EVENING SCHEDULE similar to that of the MORNING ROUTINE, which might now include dinner, family time, and a soothing bath, bringing you to about 7:00 pm or 8:00 pm. Now is a good time for a final bottle or nursing, change of diapers, change into pajamas and down for the night. By 8:30 pm, bedtime sounds, lighting, and mood should set the tone for little ones, letting them know the day is over.
The days are quite manageable when the daily routine is repeatable and consistent. In the example above, it started at 6:00 am - included two naps about two hours each and ended with bedtime at 8:00 pm. This routine allowed for a total of 14 hours rest and ten hours of engagement, plenty of downtime and lots of activity.
As a child grows, the need for naps becomes unnecessary, but a regular time of rest is always valuable for relaxing activities. Bedtime should remain unchanged until a child is well into the elementary years or until you feel the need to do otherwise.
A good night's sleep for everyone begins with a routine that incorporates as much predictability as possible. Naps and rest time allow Mom to recover, rejuvenate, and tend to her own needs. This last point is as valuable to the family as any other goal one can set. A happy mommy makes for a happy home.
If you have any questions or comments regarding this first step of nap time and sleep training, I'd love to hear your thoughts!