Rest Easy Moms and Dads, Don’t Let Your Child’s Nap Schedule Cause Undue Stress

Bringing a newborn home is an exciting time for a family. These precious new additions also present many questions parents should feel free to discuss with their little one’s primary care provider. Urgent Care for Children is standing by as support in the continuum of your baby’s healthy growth and development. To that end, a common concern among new parents is how much sleep their baby should get.

Babies do not achieve regular sleep patterns until they are about six months of age. Sleepless nights are to be expected when your bundle of joy arrives, yet there are a few things to keep in mind to encourage better sleep habits for your child. UC4C’s Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Allury Arora, shares valuable insight to help parents support their babies and ease their way into better sleep.

Is establishing a sleep schedule beneficial?

Multiple studies show that there are no negative consequences in a parent-child bond due to sleep training. In fact, some studies actually show an improvement in security between parent and child following sleep training. Although adults do tend to sleep better once the child is sleep trained, it is not for the parent. It is for the child. When a child needs caregiver intervention to fall back asleep each night, this is frustrating. Imagine waking up multiple times each night and having to cry in order to get put back to sleep.

This is not easy on the child. Learning how to self-soothe is an important skill for infants to avoid crying nightly. Scientific studies have not found long-term risks or benefits to sleep training. There are multiple studies showing short-term improvements in both sleep quality for children and maternal mood. Most of the debate around sleep training stems from the process of allowing an infant to cry. For those that are adamantly opposed to letting a child cry, but are frustrated by the lack of consistent sleep, there are other sleep training techniques that don’t involve simply leaving an infant in the crib to cry endlessly. Two examples of such methods are fading and scheduled awakenings. Explore your options before avoiding sleep training.

What should I do if my baby has settled into a sleep schedule, and it suddenly changes?

No human being actually stays asleep the entire night. We have multiple arousals every hour in which we might fidget or turn over. This movement is actually protective for us. Infants are no different. Even after sleep training, children will wake up multiple times each night and may roll over, move briefly, or make vocalizations. The key is that after sleep training, they will be able to put themselves back to sleep after these short awakenings. While it is true that most children will eventually stop needing the caregiver’s help to fall asleep, the timing varies greatly. It is not unusual for five and six-year-olds to still wake up multiple times and want to be fed or rocked to get back to sleep. Patience and consistency of parenting techniques are essential.

If my baby’s sleep schedule becomes inconsistent, will it affect their behavior?

Studies show that 20% to 30% of babies and young children suffer from sleep problems, and, although it is normal and expected for this age, 25% to 50% of babies over six months old continue to experience nighttime awakenings. However, behavioral issues are not associated with sleep schedule changes and inconsistencies in general since every situation and baby is unique. Babies who are overtired have trouble falling asleep, so be on the lookout for tiredness cues and don’t fall into the trap of scheduling bedtime too late. Even the best-trained babies are susceptible to setbacks once in a while due to illness or travel.

How will I know when my baby needs a nap?

Every baby will develop its own unique sleep habits. We cannot expect each one to follow typical sleep patterns and timings. You might want to keep a record of your baby’s sleep signals and naps for a week or two. This will help you see your baby’s patterns so you can anticipate naps. Simply, follow their cues and body signals: crankiness, fussing at a particular time each day, rubbing their eyes, etc.

Is there a certain number of naps my baby needs throughout the day?

Naps are all over the map at this age, so don’t fret about short and erratic naps in a newborn’s life. Instead, focus on daily feeding and sleep routines and use those to shape your day. You may refer to this chart for suggested nap times in a 24 hours period:

Birth to three monthsSix – eight naps
Three – four monthsFour – five naps
Five – six monthsThree – four naps
Seven – eight monthsTwo – three naps
Nine – 12 monthsTwo naps
Thirteen – 17 monthsOne – two naps
Eighteen months – three yearsOne nap
Suggested Nap Schedule

Again, it is important to remember these are not strict guidelines, and your child’s specific needs should be discussed with their primary care provider. With 19 locations in Alabama, Tennessee and Louisiana, rest assured that Urgent Care for Children’s dedicated providers are standing by to deliver quality, convenient care for families across the Southeast. If your child wakes in the middle of the night with an urgent care need, we are happy to serve your family all 365 days a year.