Sleep when the baby sleeps: it’s what every new mother is advised.
Babies and toddlers don’t sleep the same way as adults. Daytime naps are important, throughout the first 2-3 years of life.
To mothers, they can be a precious break in a busy day. You might prefer to catch up on some housework or just take some downtime while your baby sleeps, resting even if you don’t sleep.
But have you ever considered where your baby should sleep during the day?
Surprising facts about daytime naps
Most parents are very aware of the guidelines for safe sleep for babies, which includes having babies sleep in the same room as their mother in the first 6-12 months – but how many realize this applies night AND day?
Research has shown that babies who sleep in a separate room from their parents are at a greater risk of sudden infant death for both daytime and night sleeps. And while 83% of SIDS deaths occur during the night, the risk during the day is still significant.
The safest option is to keep your baby near you while they sleep, 24/7. Recommendations to parents now state: “Babies are safer if they sleep in the presence of an adult caregiver compared to sleeping in a room on their own, so during the day your baby is safest if they are sleeping near to an adult who is looking after them.”
Here are ways you can do so:
Most mothers crave more sleep – and most mothers need more sleep! So, it makes sense to prioritize this need over all others.
When it is time for your baby to take a nap – and you are at home – simply put them to bed as you normally do and hop into bed yourself!
If you are breastfeeding and bed-sharing, learning how to breastfeed lying down makes this a natural progression from feeds.
Mothers who are not breastfeeding, smokers and others who fall outside the guidelines for safe bed-sharing can settle their baby to sleep in her bassinet or cot, then lay down separately in their own bed in the same room.
It might be harder to fall asleep without the benefit of breastfeeding hormones, however relaxation techniques, a guided meditation app on your phone, or reading that book on your nightstand should help.
Never co-sleep with your baby on a sofa or arm-chair, as these pose the highest risk of all sleep spaces. If you plan to sleep alongside your baby, or fear you might fall asleep unintentionally, always lay down safely on your bed.
If you are away from home, have other children to care for, really need to tackle the washing, or want to combine nap time with a walk in the fresh air, then babywearing is an excellent alternative to co-napping.
Around the world, mothers juggle their babies’ sleep with the need for domestic or other work by rocking them to sleep in a baby sling or carrier.
The rhythm of a moving body quickly soothes the most unsettled baby and babies generally sleep longer when wrapped closely against their mother.
Find out more about choosing a safe and comfortable baby carrier in Choosing a Baby Carrier Or Sling – 7 Styles to Choose From and 4 Babywearing Safety Tips – Keeping Baby Visible and Kissable!
#3: Contact napping
It’s a term coined by Sarah Ockwell-Smith, author of The Gentle Sleep Book, “contact napping” describes how many mothers spend nap time with their babies and toddlers: with all or part of their child’s body in contact with their own.
Sitting on the couch catching up on Netflix or Facebook, these parents have come to terms with their young child’s need to touch them while they sleep and have accepted this downtime during daytime sleeps as part of life, for now.
It’s not always accepted as easily by family, friends – or others who feel their opinion should be important to you! The parents in your mother’s group or playgroup might never admit they do it…and you might not either! But once you embrace this opportunity to take a break in your day, you might soon come to anticipate and look forward to it.
The average sleep cycle of a baby is roughly the same as one episode of a favorite TV series! If you are prepared with remote controls, mobile devices, a water bottle, and a snack, you can settle in for the duration.
Your older child can also come to look forward to this “quiet time” in the day if you allow toys or activities normally off-limits when your mobile baby or inquisitive toddler is awake! Break out the playdough, the Lego, the pop-up books, or the puzzles with lots of pieces and they will be less inclined to wake the sleeping sibling!
Don’t let anyone tell you that contact napping will create problems in the future. All children naturally decrease their need for daytime sleep as they grow up and many will find comfort in a favorite toy to snuggle to sleep with instead of you.
Your breastfed toddler will wean and no longer need to feed to sleep. Your high-needs baby will become less dependent and you will soon have time to empty the dishwasher and fill the washing machine while they sleep, or continue your own daily routine of quiet time for mummy!
Some people would have you believe daytime sleep needs to happen only in a cot, in baby’s own room, in the dark – anything else is just “junk sleep” and is as bad for your child as junk food.
But what is the evidence to support this idea? Find out more in our article Does Your Baby Junk Sleep? 4 Surprising Facts About Baby Sleep