The Surprising Importance of Your Baby’s Naps
I am currently mother to a baby who is not fond of naps.
You know the type, right? Your baby is energized with a refreshing assortment of 20- to 40-minute “cat naps,” never sleeping for a longer session and just giving me a tantalizing taste of time that I may accomplish anything at all with more than one hand.
It's a frustrating place to be, not only for doing anything crazy like eating or feeding my other kids, but also because napping isn't just a nice little indulgence for babies. For babies, napping is work.
As The New York Times pointed out a few years back, “napping in children actually is a complex behavior, a mix of individual biology, including neurologic and hormonal development, cultural expectations, and family dynamics.” Or, in other words, napping is kind of a big deal.
A few fast facts about napping:
- Some kids are genetically born with less need for sleep. (I know, I know, this is sad news, but it's true.) Conversely, some babies nap more than others. At the moment, I'm pretty jealous of my sister-in-law, who has a 3-month-old, who she reports naps from 11:30 to 4:30. Every. Single. Day. What the what!?
- A new study also states that napping boosts baby's memory. Playing with your baby right before he/she naps can help solidify new skills in their brains.
- Skipping nap time — even once — can be harmful. Scientists can pinpoint less cognitive engagement in a baby's brain from skipping even one nap.
- Losing nap time is a sign of brain maturation. In babies and toddlers, the need to nap is a biological one. Their brains literally can not tolerate being awake for that long during the day. But as the brain grows, so does its ability to maintain wakefulness during the day.
- Your baby's growth happens when he/she naps. Those longer naps may mean your baby is about to go through a growth spurt. It takes a lot of energy doubling your birth weight in a month!
- Breastfed babies are more likely to sleep in shorter bursts. Ah, so maybe this my daughter's problem, but one study found that breastfed babies are more likely to take short, frequent naps than formula-fed babies, due to how much more quickly breast milk is digested.
How long does your baby nap?