Is swaddling necessary for a successful naptime?
When it comes to infants and sleep, new parents have lots of questions, and swaddling is often at the top of their list. It's important to understand what swaddling is and when and why it's recommended. Swaddling is wrapping your baby up in a light, breathable blanket (or swaddle band such as the one built-in to our Dream Weighted Swaddle) to help your baby feel snug and secure. A safely swaddled baby has their body wrapped, like a little burrito, but leaving their neck and head exposed. The idea is that swaddling mimics a womb-like environment and helps your little one settle down more quickly and sleep for more extended periods.
One of the main reasons to swaddle is due to what's called the startle reflex, an involuntary motor response that infants develop shortly after birth. When a baby is swaddled, their arms and legs are contained, and it is less likely they'll "startle" themselves awake. So, now that you know the purpose behind swaddling, the question is, when should you swaddle, and how can you do it successfully?
Should newborns be swaddled during naps?
As mentioned, most newborns are calmer if they are swaddled. That's why swaddling your little one for added comfort during naptime makes sense. Swaddling also creates a positive sleep association, meaning when you wrap your baby, they instinctively associate that feeling with going to bed and can drift off to sleep in a secure and safe way. It's also important to remember that swaddled babies should always be placed on their backs to sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) safe sleep guidelines recommend a firm mattress and removing any stuffed animals or blankets from your crib before putting your little one to bed – as bare is always best when it comes to SIDS prevention.
Can you swaddle during naps but not at night?
When you decide to swaddle your baby is entirely up to you. But, in order to create a consistent sleep routine and ensure that your baby starts understanding sleep cues, it’s recommended to swaddle at naptime and nighttime. Many experts suggest making swaddling part of a routine that includes bath time, feeding, changing, snuggling, swaddling, and sleeping! Swaddling can also help babies stay asleep during their nighttime feeding and diaper changes. Our Dream Weighted Swaddle is designed with a dual zipper so baby can stay comfortably swaddled during a late-night diaper change.
When should I stop swaddling my baby for naps?
When to stop swaddling your baby is a common question, and the answer comes down to safety. You should stop swaddling your baby for naps and at nighttime before they can begin to roll over. The AAP advises parents and caregivers to stop swaddling their babies when they are around two months or when they show signs of rolling over, whichever comes first. This may sound disheartening to parents who've come to rely on the swaddle to help their baby sleep. But the good news is there are lots of safe alternatives that mimic the feeling of the swaddle. First of all, you can try a multi-use swaddle like The Dreamland Baby Dream Swaddle. This swaddle is designed so baby can use it with both arms in (full swaddle), one arm out, or two arms out. This versatility allows your little one to slowly wean themselves from a full swaddle. Also, once you discontinue swaddling, you can continue to use the Dream Weighted Swaddle as a more traditional sleep sack with both arms out, allowing baby freedom of movement. You can also try the Dream Transition Swaddle (coming June 2022). The Transition Swaddle is specifically designed to bridge the gap between a full swaddle and a sleep sack by allowing babies the freedom to move their arms and legs while still providing a snug, secure, and cozy fit. Remember, the gentle weight of our sleep sacks also helps babies transition from a full swaddle as they still enjoy the comfort from the deep touch stimulation that the sleep sacks provide.
What should a baby wear to daytime naps?
Once again, safety is the number one consideration when it comes to what a baby should wear during daytime naps. Snug-fitting pajamas and sleep sacks are the best choices. These items may help reduce the risk of suffocation or SIDS. You want to stay away from loose clothing that could accidentally move over your baby's face while they are sleeping. Comfort is also an important consideration. You'll want your baby in soft, 100% cotton PJs, such as our Dream Pajamas, that are comfortable against baby's delicate skin and have a dual zipper for fuss-free diaper changes. Finally, room temperature may impact what your baby wears during daytime naps. You'll want to keep in mind that the room temperature should be between 68 to 72 degrees. Babies are more sensitive to temperature, so monitor the room temp to avoid the risk of overheating. Also, pay attention to TOG (Thermal Overall Grade). This rating lets you know how warm a garment is, and sleep sacks typically range from 0.5-to 3.5. The Dream Sleep Sacks have a 1.2 TOG rating, meaning they can be worn year-round. (Coming soon: our Dream Sleep Sack 2.5 TOG – perfect for baby to wear during the colder winter months.)
Is it okay to swaddle a baby during the day?
When it comes to swaddling, you'll want to "save" it for naptime and nighttime. While you might be tempted to swaddle your little one during the day, it's best to wait until you're ready to put them down for a nap or the night. In this way, you are signaling it's sleep time. Also, a baby is rapidly developing motor skills, and a swaddle can restrict mobility. During the day, you'll want them to have free movement for eating and playing. Then once nap time arrives, they'll associate the calming comfort of the swaddle as the cue to relax and fall asleep.
How many naps should newborns take?
Newborns sleep a lot, and to the dismay of many new parents, not always at night! But, remember, infants from 0-3 months need about three to five naps a day or more. Many parents think if they keep their baby awake during the day, they'll sleep through the night, but that's not the case. During the first few months, your newborn needs daytime sleep to support their overall health and development. Once they hit the 4-month mark, naps can go down to 2 to 3 a day.
How many hours should a newborn nap?
Now that your baby is swaddled and ready for their nap, the question is, how many hours should they sleep? Nap times vary a lot from baby to baby, and while some can nap for two to three hours at a time, others sleep as little as 30 minutes. It's important to remember that successful sleep, for most babies, requires developing a routine. It's important to be aware of signs that your baby is getting sleepy, such as rubbing the eyes or crankiness. When you start seeing these signals, putting your baby down for a nap will help them get the sleep they need.
What are the keys to a successful nap time?
The essential tip for nap time to be successful is routine! You'll want the baby to learn the signals that it's time to sleep. This can include swaddling, putting on their weighted sleep sack, and using white noise and black-out shades. This creates the "nap environment" that can help baby feel calm and potentially sleep longer. You'll also want to line up your feeding schedule with naps and if the baby does wake early from a nap, allow them some time to self-soothe.
As with all things, baby, remember that patience is key. You will get comfortable with the do's and don'ts of swaddling and reacting to your baby's sleep cues. Your baby goes through so many changes in the first few months but starting with a regular swaddle/sleep routine will help set them (and you!) up for sleep success.
Swaddling might just be your best ally in the first few months of having a new baby. It may look uncomfortable, but swaddling is very soothing to young babies. That’s because the swaddle mimics the womb, a tight and cozy space where your baby spent many months growing and developing.
When babies are first born, they have the Moro (or startle) reflex, which usually disappears around 4 months of age. As many new parents know, newborns can often startle themselves awake during the day and night. The great news is that swaddling can dampen their startle reflex, leading to longer stretches of sleep. A win for mom and baby!
Here are a a few key things to remember when swaddling your baby:
- The swaddle should be snug but not overly tight. You should be able to fit two or three of your fingers in the top of the swaddle.
- The swaddle should be loose around your baby’s hips so that they can move their legs freely.
- Don’t dress your baby too warmly under the swaddle. A light cotton onesie is usually enough.
Should I swaddle my newborn for naps and night sleep?
The swaddle works great night and day. Remember that it can help extend your newborn’s sleep stretches, so use it when your baby is sleeping at home in the bassinet or the crib. Make sure to take your baby out of the swaddle when they are awake so they can stretch, wiggle and have freedom of movement of their limbs.
The swaddle can also help to cue your baby that it’s time to sleep. You might even notice that they yawn and start to relax as soon as they are swaddled.
When should I stop swaddling my baby for naps?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that once your baby is showing signs of rolling, usually between 3 to 4 months, parents should no longer use the swaddle. When this happens, it’s time to transition your baby into a sleep sack.
How long should babies nap by age?
Newborns need multiple naps around the clock and their schedules should ideally be based on feeding. Make sure your newborn takes in enough milk everyday and is growing and developing as they should. They can sleep in between feeds!
7- 15 week-olds need about 3-5 naps a day and a total of about 3-5 hours of daytime sleep. At this age, it may be more helpful to watch their wake windows than to try for a certain length of a nap since daytime sleep is unorganized at this time. Wake windows should be 1-2 hours during the day.
At 4-5 months, most babies are getting somewhere around 2.5-4 hours of total daytime sleep spread over 3-4 naps, with wake windows around 1.5 to 2.5 hours.
6-8 month olds usually take 2-3 naps a day and get 2-3 hours of daytime sleep with wake windows of around 2-3 hours.
A 9-12 month-old baby is taking 2 naps, 2-3 hours in total, with wake windows at 2.5 to 3.5 hours.
Remember all babies are different and your baby may need more or less sleep than the outline listed above.
How do I know if my baby is overtired?
When babies are overtired their stress response system kicks in, triggering cortisol to be released to keep them awake. This stress hormone can cause some babies to become upset and may make it difficult to soothe and calm them.
To avoid your baby from becoming overtired, you can watch the clock and your baby. Pay attention to how long they’ve been awake and try to get them to sleep within the recommended wake windows. Also, watch your baby to see if they are showing signs of being tired. Are they looking off into the distance and avoiding eye contact? Are they crying? Yawning? These are all signs that they need to go down for a nap.
What is the 2-3-4 nap method?
The 2-3-4 nap method is all about wake windows. So, 2 hours after waking in the morning your baby would go down for their first nap. 3 hours after waking from the first nap they would go down for their second nap. And 4 hours after waking from the 2nd nap, your baby would go down for bedtime. This timing of wake windows can work well for babies that are 9-12 months old, who only nap twice a day.
Why do babies fight naps? And, what should you do when your baby is fighting a nap?
There are many reasons why your baby could be fighting their nap, but the four most common reasons and solutions are:
- Your baby is overtired. Maybe you missed your little one’s wake window and now they are running on fumes. It sounds silly to us but your baby can be too tired to nap. Baby sleep can be counterintuitive! At this stage they really need help shutting down their system so that they are calm enough to sleep. Try taking your baby into a dark room and holding, feeding or rocking them so they can fall asleep.
- Your baby is not tired enough to sleep. Maybe your little one needs a longer wake window. Play around with the timing of the nap to see what works best for your baby. Just like Goldilocks, your little one needs to be not overtired but also not undertired, it needs to be just right. Take several days to write down how long they were awake and when they show sleep cues to determine what their ideal wake window is. You may need to lengthen the wake window so that your baby is tired enough to sleep.
- Your baby needs help transitioning to nap time. Have you noticed that your little one resists naps more when you try to transition them quickly from play time to sleep time? If so, try creating some transition time. Fifteen minutes before their next nap is due, take them to their darkened bedroom with white noise playing and do a 5-10 minute relaxing routine. You can change their diaper, feed them, sing songs and help them wind down. Many babies need help transitioning to nap time so they can relax and fall asleep.
- Your baby is getting ready to drop a nap. If your baby is consistently protesting one of their naps, see if it’s time to drop a nap. Most babies drop to 3 naps by 6 months old, 2 naps by 9 months old and 1 nap by 18 months old.
How long should I let my baby cry it out for naps?
Some parents choose to do sleep training for naps to help their babies learn to self-settle and take long, restful naps everyday. Nap training can be done from the age of 6-7 months old. There are a variety of ways to teach babies to nap well, including controlled crying or gentle sleep training methods.
If you choose a controlled crying nap training method, you may need to allow one hour for your baby to start getting the hang of self-settling for naps. I don’t recommend that parents let their babies cry for longer than one hour during nap training.
Should you wake your baby up if they are napping too long?
Preserving nighttime sleep is important but we also want to make sure your baby gets a full day of rest. Depending on your baby’s age you may want to wake them up if they are napping too long. This helps to protect nighttime sleep and allows your baby enough awake time to ensure they eat enough during the day.
What’s the best environment for napping babies?
Create a “baby cave” for your little one to have the best daytime sleep possible. This includes a dark and cool bedroom. Try to keep the temperature between 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit.
Also, play white noise to help your baby nap longer. The worst thing in the world is to work so hard on getting your baby down for a nap only to have the delivery man ring the doorbell and wake your baby! White noise helps to muffle outside noises, allowing for longer naps.
Swaddling your newborn baby in the first few months can help them sleep well. Remember that a tight swaddle mimics the womb and can prevent the startle reflex from waking your baby.
Helping your baby learn to nap well can be both an art and a science. You want to watch your baby and get to know their unique sleepy signs and also use recommended wake windows to help your baby nap well.
Using the advice in this blog post can give you an advantage with helping your baby nap easily and well everyday.
Jilly Blankenship is a pediatric nurse, lactation consultant and mom of two. She helps exhausted parents get their babies and toddlers sleeping great at Baby Sleep Made Simple.