By three months, most babies can sleep for about six hours a night and are more ᴀʟᴇʀᴛ during the day. If your baby isn’t napping regularly, you should start working on a sleep schedule. Sʟᴇᴇᴘ ᴇxᴘᴇʀᴛs ᴀɴᴅ ᴘᴀʀᴇɴᴛs agree that the key to successful napping is to be ᴄᴏɴsɪsᴛᴇɴᴛ: Baby ɴᴀᴘs at the same time, in the same place, with the same routine each day. Tʜᴇ ᴛʀɪᴄᴋ to getting her to sleep when and where you want her to and not according to her own whims is to stick to a schedule.
One ʀᴇᴄᴏᴍᴍᴇɴᴅᴇᴅ sʏsᴛᴇᴍ, according to Mindell, is to set nap time according to the hour baby awakens each morning, remembering that your little one will need to go down for a nap roughly two hours later. Another is to choose a nap time by the clock.
If your baby doesn’t wake up at the same time every day, her morning nap could fall anywhere from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., leaving you little ability to schedule your morning time. A nap at the same time every day means that your baby needs to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, something younger babies may not do yet.
Regardless of how you choose to schedule ɴᴀᴘs, getting baby into her crib before she’s exhausted is key. “The biggest mistake parents make is waiting too long for the morning nap,” says Mindell. If you’re looking for sɪɢɴs ᴏF ᴛɪʀᴇᴅɴᴇss, ʟɪᴋᴇ ᴇʏᴇ ʀᴜʙʙɪɴɢ, ʏᴏᴜ ʀɪsᴋ ʟᴏsɪɴɢ your window of napping and may wind up with a ᴄʀᴀɴᴋʏ, ᴏᴠᴇʀᴛɪʀᴇᴅ ᴄʜɪʟᴅ ᴡʜᴏ’s ʀᴇᴀᴅʏ ᴛᴏ ᴇxᴘʟᴏᴅᴇ.
While timing is important, you shouldn’t discount location. “Ideally, your baby should nap where she sleeps at night, in her crib or bassinet in a dark room,” says Mindell. How she drops off to dreamland is even more vital for her ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Case in point: If your 3-month-old ᴅᴏᴢᴇs each morning in the swing, you’re going to be sᴛᴜᴄᴋ ʀᴏᴄᴋɪɴɢ ᴀ ᴍᴜᴄʜ ʜᴇᴀᴠɪᴇʀ child in your arms when she outgrows the swing several months later.
Babies learn through repetition,” says Greenip. “Pʀᴇᴅɪᴄᴛᴀʙɪʟɪᴛʏ gives babies a sense of comfort and security.” Sitting with your baby in the same chair for a prenap story or singing a favorite song each day signals to her that it’s nap time.