Updated: Aug 30, 2022
To nap schedule, or not to nap schedule? That is the question...! A question that is often asked by parents. Should they introduce a nap schedule or follow the lead of their little one?!
Establishing a nap routine can be worrying for some parents, as they often think that this will mean their days are dictated by a nap structure. And honestly, who wants their life to revolve around naps and be at home ALL THE TIME just to get a routine established. No-one, that's who! Including me. So that is why my routines are flexible.
In all honesty, you don't actually need to follow a nap routine if your baby is sleeping well. If your child is happy, calm, well-rested and naps well, then there really isn't a need for a structure. And in fact, some children just naturally fall into a pattern that reflect their body clock function.
However, there are a large number of children who don't nap well. Their body clock is out of rhythm and they have no idea when they should be awake and when they should be asleep. These are the children who are likely to need more routine, more structure and more predictability.
In these situations, it is beneficial for your child if you consider establishing a nap routine. Most babies and children thrive on routine and it is entirely possible to notice big improvements in your child's overall sleep if you introduce a nap routine.
Do keep in mind that a nap routine doesn't mean that you are now controlled by the clock. I know that the words routine or strict nap structure can have many parents running for the hills! And I can understand why. But whilst a set nap routine can require a lot of consistency, persistence and predictability to establish, it really only takes a few weeks for your child's body clock to internalise the pattern that you are setting.
If you want to follow a set structure but are scared to mess it all up with out day out of routine, don’t despair. I like to remind all my clients of the 80/20 rule; 80% routine, 20% flexibility. It takes 3-5 days to make a shift in their pattern, so a few days here or there out of routine each week won’t mess up your child’s schedule or your progress. We can still improve sleep even when some days, you ‘break the rules’.
So, now you're feeling kinda ready to start thinking about a routine? There are a variety of routines that are possible but I find the most beneficial routine is the short-long-short or the short-long nap routine. As a basic explanation, the short morning nap discourages early morning waking and promotes a long middle of the day nap. And the purpose of the longer midday nap is to build enough consolidated and restorative sleep to keep your child's overtired hormones at bay. If your child is still on three naps a day, the third nap just gets them through to bedtime without the over tiredness kicking in.
If you’d like some one on one support to improve your child’s naps and establish a routine, then you can view my packages HERE or book in for a free discovery call below.
Forever bringing sleep to families,
My name is Shereen Nielsen and I am a certified infant and child sleep consult, working with children aged birth to 12 years. I am also a lecturer and mentor for students on their journey towards becoming a Sleep Consultant, through my on-line internationally recognised sleep consultants course.