How Baby Nap Routines Improve Nighttime Sleep

baby girl sleeping on bed
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There are several sleep experts who encourage parents to take a close look at their baby nap times and daytime sleep routines in order to improve nighttime sleep. Some big names that reference the connection between daytime and nighttime sleep include, Dr. Jodi Mindell, Dr. Harvey Karp, Elizabeth Pantley, and Dr. William Sears.

If your baby isn't sleeping well at night, adjusting nap lengths and routines might help the situation. Any parent who has ever dealt with an overtired child who won't go to sleep at night knows that sometimes skipping naps or skimping on sleep can seriously backfire. Regular, consistent naps are important and very healthy for babies.

It's important to remember that naps aren't just a respite for you as a parent. During your baby's nap, some serious work is going on in his or her body. Growth, healing, and a lot of development happen during naps, so it is important to make sure he or she has a regular nap schedule.

However, don't assume that adjusting naps is the universal solution to sleeping through the night. It may work for you, or it may not. But keeping your little one on a regular sleep schedule and instilling good sleep habits early on will benefit all of you. 

Typical Number of Daily Nap Hours for Babies

Before you begin to worry unnecessarily than you need to begin fiddling with your baby’s naps, it’s important to understand that all babies are different.

Though there are certain normal baby sleep patterns, just because your baby may not be taking the “typical” number of naps or because he may be sleeping more or less for his age, doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with his sleep schedule. It could just mean that his body is wired for either more or less sleep than the average baby.

With that in mind, if you take a peek at charts on baby sleep averages and notice a difference between your baby and the norm, perhaps you might want to consider making some adjustments to both nap and bedtime routines.

Sleeping Through the Night

Secondly, it’s also important to understand what “sleeping through the night” actually is. A baby is considered to be “sleeping through the night” when he sleeps 6 hours in one stretch. Perhaps your baby already is sleeping through- you just didn't realize it.

Naptime and Bedtime Routines

If you decide to change your child's nap times and routines in hopes of improving nighttime sleep, you may also want to consider:

  • Make any changes gently. For example: if you are trying to drop from 4 naps a day to two, drop one nap at a time, allowing your baby time to adjust to the new pattern.
  • Try and keep your bedtime and naptime routines similar. For example: put your baby down for a nap in the same place that she is expected to sleep at night. This helps to establish comfort and reinforces that this is the place where sleeping is to be done.
  • Don't expect newborns to fall into routines. Young infants will likely not be ready for timed naps and will sleep in irregular patterns. This is normal and to be expected.

The Takeaway

Overall, we can't say with 100% certainty that regular naps will magically make your baby sleep through the night.

However, establishing some kind of a sleep schedule with regular, consistent habits, such as reading the same book and napping at the same time, will help your baby sleep better. 

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