When babies are born everyone knows they spend the majority of their time sleeping, but as they grow their need for sleep decreases. By the age of two, most children sleep between 11 to 12 hours at night with a 1 - 2 hour nap during the day. The cycle of taking naps usually occur until the age of three, but some children continue to nap even at the age of five years old.
Infants are individuals and each will develop their own sleep patterns. Some babies develop a consistent sleep pattern earlier than others, but that is o.k. Parents sometimes try and compare how a previous child was as a baby and often times are very much in shock when the new baby seems to have other plans for their nights. By the time the infant is about 6 months a sleep pattern becomes more predictable, and you can count on about 2 – 3 naps a day. However, by the age of one the frequency of taking naps are down to about one a day.
How do you know when baby is tired? Tiredness is signaled by yawning, rubbing of the eyes, fussiness, crying or toward the end of feeding, they start to fall asleep. Some will go to sleep when laid in their cribs and others need a little bit more encouragement, they need to be gently rocked and then laid down. If there are other activities going on the home or daycare, babies should be placed in an area with less stimulating colors and away from activity to insure a quiet peaceful sleep. Quiet lullabies played in the background can help with this.
Some older toddlers when in a daycare setting does not sleep during the middle of the day. For these children get them use to lying down on a cot at quiet time for some relaxation as well, they do not have to go to sleep but they have to be quiet. Some providers and parents will allow the child while lying down to have a book to browse over quietly. In a setting where there is more than one child, the non-sleepers should be placed away from those who enjoy their naps.
In order to encourage nap time, developing a pre-nap routine would be very beneficial as a sort of wind down time. For example, allow children to get comfortable, pick a favorite stuff toy or blanket, take off shoes and settle down for a short story. Lights may be dimmed while story is being read or you can use this time to play some soft music. Doing this or something similar on a daily basis will program their little minds to calm down and get ready for quiet time. Never try to put children down after a high-energy activity such as coming in from outside play or even music time. Make sure the room temperature is comfortable, relatively quiet and your mood also must be one of calmness.
Sometimes a child may have an all around problem with sleeping, this can due to factors such as chronic middle ear infection, the use of certain medications and some cases even brain damage. For some falling asleep means they have to let go and sort of surrender themselves, this creates fear and anxieties thus produces scary thoughts and feelings of being out of control. The bad sleep habits that some have are simply due to poorly established sleep habits and routines from the beginning, so on your part, either as the parent or provider may have to do more to encourage the problem sleeper toward better sleeping habits until they are comfortable enough to go to sleep on their own. Patience is the key, if you become upset, the child will feed off of that and become even more anxious.
Remember, that even though sometimes we may think our child need a nap, they may just be a child that does not require a lot of sleep. If this is the case just encourage them to lay quietly every day for relaxation and this will make both of your day go smoother and who knows eventually he/she may start to fall asleep on their own.