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Naps (and how your little one can get a good one)

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It’s one of the most common sleep problems parents have, how to get their little ones to nap well. It’s not just settling for naps, it’s how to get their little ones to have a good, long, naps in the daytime.

Does this sound familiar: when your little one wakes up in the morning you feed her, change her, and play with her for a little while before rocking or feeding her to sleep and trying to transfer her (gently) into her cot for her morning nap. If you’re lucky it works…if not you start all over again.

About 30 to 45 minutes later she wakes up grumpy and fussy and, despite your best efforts, she will not go back to sleep again to finish her nap. Eventually after half an hour of trying to persuade your little one that she needs to go to sleep you give up and hope that she will be much more tired when her afternoon nap comes around. Unfortunately she has no intention of going to sleep (or having a long nap) then either and ends up being a grumpy ball of unhappiness for the rest of the day.

So why is she not napping and how can you do something about it? Let me explain:
Babies, just like the rest of us, sleep in cycles. We start off in a light state of sleep, where we’re easily roused, then gradually fall into a deeper stage where even loud noises or movement might not be able to wake us. This stage of sleep is incredibly important, especially for babies and children. This is where we really rejuvenate, and get our restful sleep; where our brains and bodies do all of the maintenance work that leaves us refreshed, clear-headed and energetic (when we get enough). Our bodies and brains also do some repair and even ‘cleaning’ which can reduce our risk of illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and some cancers.

Once we’ve come to the end of the deep-sleep cycle, we slowly start coming back to the light stage again, and, typically, we come to the edge of sleep for a few seconds then drift off again, for another sleep cycle.

In adults, one of those cycles typically takes about an hour and a half. In little ones, it can be as little as 30 minutes (although can be as long as an hour).

So the fact that your little one is waking up after only 30 minutes is actually completely natural. In fact, if she wasn’t waking up regularly, that might be cause for concern.

I anticipate you may have friends, whose babies nap for two or three hours at a time. Well, that’s partially true but what is actually happening is they are consolidating their sleep cycles (coming to the edge of sleep and settling themselves back into another sleep cycle). The only difference between their baby and your baby is their baby has learned how to fall back to sleep on their own.

Once your baby can fall asleep without help, they will be able to consolidate their sleep cycles because they will not wake every time they come to the edge of sleep.

This will have two great impacts on your day:
1. A happier (and healthier) baby and
2. On the self-indulgent side, leave you with a couple of hours to do whatever you like (or at least have a hot cup of tea, relax or sort the house a little).

To enable your little one to be able to do this we need to get rid of what we call a ‘sleep prop’. This is something that your baby uses to make the transition from being awake to being asleep This can be a dummy, a feed, rocking or even walking in the pushchair. I’m certainly not saying that you shouldn’t do any of these things, in fact you should absolutely cuddle, rock, and snuggle your baby…just not to the point where she falls asleep whilst you are doing it.

When it comes to bedtime, put your little one down in her cot, while she’s still awake, and let her fall asleep on her own, stay with her if you wish, just don’t get her to go to sleep, she needs to figure out how to do that on her own.

There might be a little bit of protest for a day or two, as we are teaching your little one a new skill, but the majority of my clients find results start appearing in just 3 to 4 days. This is especially because we plan their baby’s day to ensure we know the only issue is that they are learning a new skill.

Just imagine, in three or four days you and your little one to be enjoying the extraordinary benefits of proper sleep. You will both be happier, healthier, more energetic and you will both sleep better at night too.

There are a few other tips for extending your baby’s naptime:
● Keep the bedroom as dark as possible.
● White noise machines are useful if baby tends to wake up due to outside noise. Just make sure it’s not too close to their ears and not too loud. 50 dB is the recommended limit.
● If you’re having difficulties applying these suggestions, give me a call (07572 309404) and set up a free 15 minute consultation. I would love to help you solve any sleep difficulties you are having and help everyone get a better night’s sleep.

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