@McNeely Daytime napping is highly variable, and while this can pose challenges to parents, the important factors to keep in mind include safety, bedtime routine and nighttime sleep patterns, and 24-hour sleep duration. In addition, understanding the development of sleep cycles in the newborn and infancy period can to understand the patterns of babies.
SAFE SLEEP: The American Academy of Pediatrics has a list of safe sleep guidelines available here.
BEDTIME ROUTINES: Bedtime routines are the key to healthy sleep. Developing this routine can help naptime as well. The key to a bedtime routine is consistency. It is never too young to start a bedtime routine. A good bedtime routine includes 4-5 quiet activities that are done in the same order and at the same time each night. These activities should not last more than 20-30 minutes total and include an opportunity to have quality parent-child interaction. A few examples of good bedtime routine activities include: pick up toys; wash hands and face; brush teeth; put on pajamas; listen to music; sing a song (avoid energetic dancing); read a book (or two, but avoid developing a habit of ‘one more book’ and increase book reading at other times during the day instead); say prayers; share a good thing that happened during the day; hugs and kisses, etc. Early in infancy, you might develop a mantra like, “good night, I (we) love you, I (we) will see you in the morning” and repeat this every night as the last thing you say to your baby/child. This type of mantra can be helpful if children go on to develop bedtime resistance. Most importantly, allow your baby the opportunity to fall asleep independently to avoid a sleep association with you present. If they fall asleep during the routine, then gently wake them so they are drowsy but awake when you leave the room with the comfort of hearing you repeat the mantra as you leave the room.
INFANT SLEEP SCHEDULE: Before the age of 3 months, newborns have not developed the biological rhythm (circadian rhythm) that organizes their sleep based on light and darkness. This is developed between 3-12 months, and it varies from baby to baby. Research has identified that before 3 months of age, babies have two sleep stages. After 3 months, babies begin to develop the four stages of sleep that older children and adults experience. As such, sleep training is not recommended before 4-6 months of age since they are not developmentally or biologically ready. In the meantime, you can work on developing a good bedtime routine that will set the foundation for healthy sleep hygiene.
Thank you for participating in our AMA with Dr. Ordway. Due to the overwhelmingly positive response from this event, Dr. Ordway was not able to answer all questions asked - we encourage you to be on the lookout for our next Expert AMA!