How to get your baby down for a nap

by Julie Snyder

Baby napIt's nap time, again. In some households, getting your baby down seems so simple. The caregiver cheerfully announces the upcoming event and the baby follows instructions, cooing a few minutes and dozing off.

But, in many households it's a dreaded time that causes extreme stress.

Instead of peaceful and restful, does nap time at your house seem more like a nightmarish battle? All children are different and that includes their transition from on-the-go baby to a snoozing sweetie.

If you're blessed with a bundle of energy who doesn't seem to turn off, these tips might solve or prevent those sleep -- or lack of sleep -- issues.

How to get your baby down for a nap

Newborns nap in bits and spurts. Until your baby reaches about two months of age, daytime sleep may not be regular. Then your baby's internal timing mechanism kicks in. First, a morning nap kicks in about two hours after your baby wakes up. Later, the need for a regular midday nap occurs between noon and 2 p.m. Some lucky parents have a child who adds a third afternoon nap.

In theory it sounds good, right? What can you do if your baby fusses at your plan and decides to stay awake? These tips can help tiny mites -- from the catnapper to the crib-hater -- get a good day's sleep.

Move bedtime earlier

While it seems counterproductive, a super early bedtime helps some babes wake up better rested. Naps improve, too. If your baby's crabby all day, but refuses to sleep, try filling up the sleep reservoir better in the evening.

Watch for sleepy signs

Your baby won't nap unless tired. Try too early and you'll meet resistance. Wait too long and your child will catch a second wind.

Can you recognize your baby's sleepy signs? Does she pull her ears? Does he suck on his fingers? Does she twirl her hair? Does he stare off into space? The moment your baby gives you that sign, go right away and put them down for their nap.

Work with your baby's natural rhythms

Somewhere around six to eight weeks, your baby hits a bunch of developmental milestones that open a window of opportunity. Your first tip is a more alert, interactive baby.

Take advantage of this crucial time and help your wee one develop the skill to fall asleep quickly.

• Put your baby in the crib drowsy, but awake
• Use your voice to sooth them to sleep
• Your baby may fuss and talk with you, but if they're really upset, pick them up and comfort. Then put them down again, awake, but drowsy.

Make the crib a safe haven

The safest crib is a boring crib. It has no pillows, no bumpers, no blankets and no toys. It does have a firm sleep surface. Your baby snuggles in a sleep sack or sleeper, showing off those "back to sleep" skills.

Create a nap-friendly environment

Where do you sleep best? If you like most people, babies included, it's in a cool, dark room without unexpected noise. Your child might sleep better if you:

✓ Hang dark curtains
✓ Turn off the night light
✓ Lower the noise level or use white noise to help your baby tune it out
✓ Keep the room cool

Help your baby transition from shallow to deep sleep

During the 10 to 20 minutes a young baby takes to fall into a deep sleep, the fewer distractions, the better. If loud, sudden household noises interfere with drifting off (yes, I was thinking of older siblings), consider using white noise as a mantra "om . . . om . . . om . . ." to encourage your mini meditator to dive into a deeper level of sleep.

If your baby consistently wakes up after a 30-minute nap, get there first. Tiptoe into the room around the 20- or 25-minute mark. Once the wake-up shuffle begins, whisper or pat your baby back to sleep. Leave the room when you hear the steady breathing signaling deep sleep.

What's helped end the daytime nap drama for your family?

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.