Meggan Hartman

Happy Mother’s Day! Mother’s Day is such a great time to pause and give thanks to all of the mothers, this generation and the previous generations of mothers who brought us to this moment.

As some of you may know, I am writing my dissertation on the development of the maternal identity. Recently, I had the good fortune to sit with eleven beautiful mothers as we explored several aspects of motherhood. Through them, some learnings were reinforced and new ones emerged.

Two of these learnings seem appropriate to share for Mother’s Day...

Meggan Hartman

One of the more popular questions at my workshops and from my clients is: do babies and toddlers really need naps? The answer is: absolutely yes! As more and more studies research the effects of naps on learning, behavior, and day to day functioning, a couple of points become clear.

First, learning is positively affected by naps. During naps, the new information acquired in the baby’s awake play time is being actively moved from short term memory into long term memory. This process creates a clean slate for new information to come in. Once the information is stored in long term memory, the lessons learned from play time are retained longer and can be applied to new and different situations. This is the beginning of the development of abstract thought.


 

Second, naps actually help the baby sleep better at night. This is related to the release of the stress hormone cortisol. When babies do not nap, the brain releases cortisol and it helps the baby “catch their second wind.” The problem comes when it is time to sleep at night and the cortisol is still in the body. It makes the baby a little wired and they do not sleep as well. Naps also aid in preventing baby and toddler behavioral issues. Having your baby sleep during the day will help elevate the late afternoon tantrums and meltdowns.

Throughout the first 18 months of a child’s life, naps are consolidating and moving around throughout the day. In the first days and weeks, babies sleep anywhere from 15-18 hours in a 24 hour period. The sleep comes in two to three hour stretches at a time. Around 3-4 months babies start getting more sleep at night, and the first morning nap starts to emerge. This nap happens between 1 1/2 to 2 hours after wake time. At this age they can have 3-4 naps a day. By 18 months, most toddlers are down to 1 nap a day.

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Meggan Hartman

During the first six months of a baby’s life there are numerous factors that influence the development of sleep. These factors highlight the way in which normal infant development and sleep interrelate. By having some of this knowledge, parents can have a better idea when to be more present with their little one at night, and when they can use gentle sleep methods to help encourage sleep.