Daytime sleeping for older babies and toddlers
The Sleepstore offers tips for helping your baby and toddler sleep better during the day.
Does my baby need to sleep for longer during the day?
There are some babies who will only ever sleep for one sleep cycle, regardless of what you do!
If your baby sleeps for 45 minutes per sleep,and wakes up cheerful, and does not show any signs of tiredness until their next sleep, then try not to stress about the length of his day sleeps. It is likely the sleeps will increase as time goes on, and he becomes more active during the day.
But if your baby wakes up tired, grizzling or screaming after 45 minutes, it is much more likely that your baby is crying from tiredness rather than hunger, so try to resettle him for another sleep cycle and then feed him when he wakes.
The following tips should help you increase the length of your babies day sleeps:
Teaching your baby to self settle:
If your baby can't settle himself to sleep, it will be hard for him to resettle at the end of a 45 minutes sleep cycle in the day. So if you are helping your baby fall asleep with feeding or rocking, for either day sleeps or bedtime, this is a good place to start working on to improve day sleeps.
Learning to self settle doesn't have to mean leaving your baby to cry, it just means you need to start a process where you wean your baby off needing you to fall asleep.
Use very firm wrapping:
This is one of the most effective ways to increase the length of day sleeps, even if you don't wrap your baby at night. Give it a try, you may well be surprised and delighted at the effect on your baby's day sleeping!
Depending on the age of your baby, you may want to wrap with one or both arms in.
If your baby is interested in using his hands/fingers to soothe himself, then wrap with one arm out. One arm out is also good if you want him to be able to hold a comfort blankie or put his dummy back in.
We recommend using a stretch cotton wrap at least 1.2 x 1.2m . If you don't yet have a wrap large enough, try wrapping your baby in a cot sheet.
If you are taking your baby for a walk to help him sleep longer, we recommend you wrap your baby before putting him in the pushchair, or SwaddleMe can be bucked into your pushchair harness.
Use white noise:
Using white noise can be one of the most effective ways to help both newborns and older babies to sleep longer and resettle during the day.
With newborns, white noise reminds them of the swooshing and gurgling noises they heard inside the womb for 9 months. It was never quiet inside you, so it makes sense that babies find it hard to settle in a quiet room!
With babies over 4 months, white noise can still be very effective for helping with settling and longer sleeps. Older babies can hear that you are outside their room, doing things more enjoyable than falling asleep, and they may well want to be part of that! So using white noise can mask distracting sounds and provide a strong cue that it is sleep time.
Also as babies get older, they are more and more awake and alert prior to sleep time, and white noise can help with the winding down needed to fall asleep. (It is also very effective with adults who find it hard to fall asleep for the same reason!).
Play your white noise at the start of the sleep and on repeat through the sleep. Play it louder than your baby is crying, so he can hear it. You can use radio static, vacuum cleaner, dehumidifier or buy a white noise CD.
You can also use soothing lullaby music for the same effect with older babies and toddlers. Music for Dreaming is a great choice for this, and has been developed after considerable research into the effect of music on baby's sleep.
Close your baby's curtains and make his room nice and dark. Bright light can be stimulating to a baby, and also highlights all the other fun things there are to do other than sleeping.
Invest in blackout lining on your curtains, or pin a blanket or black polythene over the windows to see if that helps.
Do try wrapping your baby for day sleeps to see if that improves their day sleep.
But if that has no effect, or you are not keen to try wrapping again, then definitely use your baby's sleeping bag for all their day sleeps. It is a strong cue to your baby that it is sleep time, and also ensures he doesn't kick off the covers.
You can also combine one armed wrapping with a sleeping bag.
Opportunity to resettle
We recommend that you give your baby the opportunity to resettle by himself if he wakes at the 45 minutes mark. If you always rush in as soon as he makes a little noise, he learns he needs you to help him back to sleep, and he never gets the chance to practice going back to sleep.
Many babies grizzle or cry for a few minutes as they stir, wake and resettle back to sleep. This is quite normal and doesn't mean your baby is upset or ready to get up. For many babies it is jsut what they do in the middle of their day sleeps.
How long you give your baby to resettle is completely up to you, how hard your baby is crying and how old they are. However a good rule of thumb would be to give your baby about 10 minutes to see if they can go back to sleep.
What happens next
There are a number of options you can use if your baby doesn't resettle after you have given him 10 minutes opportunity:
Pop his dummy in if he uses one.
Try some sssshing or patting until he has calmed down. Try to then leave him to fall back to sleep, so he eventually learns he can go back to sleep.
Leave him swaddled, put him flat in the pushchair, and with his dummy if you use one, and go for a walk to help him back to sleep.
Avoiding falling asleep in the car:
With babies over the age of 4 months, we recommend that you avoid letting your baby fall asleep in the car, as this reinforces cat napping habits.
For example, your baby may fall asleep 10 minutes before you get home, and think he has had his sleep. That means he then won't settle for another sleep in his cot, your routine will get completely out of whack and you will have a baby that will be really over-tired later in the day.
I find it works best to either go out after your baby's morning sleep or to go out early and put baby into his pushchair for his morning sleep when you get to your destination (wrapped or in sleeping bag, whatever you do at home).
If your baby (over 4 months old) is finding it hard to settle for day sleeps or waking after 45 minutes, we recommend getting your baby into a structured routine.
This will help your baby's body clock get set to sleep at certain times, will mean you can plan your day for the best times to go out and also help you with when to feed & give solids.
For babies over 12 weeks try sleep times at 9am, 1pm and 4.30pm. Once your baby of over 9 months, move the day sleeps to 9.30am and 1.30pm.
If you aren't keen to try a structured routine just yet, then ensure you use the feed/play/sleep, as this will help with structuring your day, learn when your baby is likely to be tired or hungry, and also help with learning to self settle.