Timing the First Nap

In the book 
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child 
 (HSHHC), Weissbluth gives a lot of details on when and how to time naps. Many moms report following these with great success. His suggestions aren’t exactly what I land on 100% of the time, but they are close. In the past, we have talked about the Importance of the First Nap. So the nap is important, yes, but how do you time it all to get optimal sleep length? Weissbluth talks about this starting on page 121. Here are some key points.

Reasons for Short Morning Nap

  • Waketime length was too long before baby was put down for a nap.
  • Baby was put down at the wrong time for the biological systems to work with the nap.
  • Baby was put down too early.
  • Other activities interfere with nap (like older siblings activities).
  • Bedtime is too late.
  • Morning wake-up time is too late.

Baby Younger than 4 Months

  • Start nap only one hour after waking in the morning. The most common cause of baby not taking a good morning nap is because she was up too long before starting the nap.
  • *My input here–most babies in this age range definitely do need a waketime of only 40-60 minutes. Morning waketime is often the shortest of the day. Don’t be afraid to put your baby down for a nap. I remember when Brayden was a baby and I was putting him down for a nap. One of my good friends commented, “He takes a nap already?!?!” She had her first baby one year after Brayden was born and she commented, “I thought it was crazy that he took a nap so early, but now I see that babies need that!” It seems crazy, but it is right.

Baby 5 Months and Older

  • Should start nap between 9-10 AM if possible. “You are willing to allow the child to become a little overtired but not become so wigged-out that he has great difficulty falling asleep” page 122.
  • Wake child up around 7 AM so she can go down at 9 AM (I would argue this some–especially for a 5 month old. Not all 5 month olds can go two hours).
  • Have an early enough bedtime that the child wakes at a good time in the morning.
  • *My input here–a baby will slowly add waketime length. You won’t be at one hour as a four month old and then two hours when baby turns five months old. Baby adds time in 5-10 minute increments slowly. Take the increase slowly and as baby can handle it. For your morning wake-up time, I would shoot for the 7 AM HOUR. So between 7-8 AM. If baby naturally sleeps until 8:30, go for it. You will get to sleep in on weekends :). Remember to have bedtime about 12 hours before your morning waketime. Most babies seem to do best with bedtime in the 7 PM hour, so between 7-8 PM.

If you get the timing wrong for the first nap, it can make it so the afternoon nap is not good, which leads to a cranky baby by the end of the day.