“Where should my baby nap during the day?” Believe it or not, you’re not the first mom (or the last) to wonder about this. Newborns sleep a good 16 hours a day. Figuring out where to put them can be downright tricky.
In this post, we’ll chat about the best places for your baby to nap at home and on the go, plus a few tips to make that nap last longer!
Conflicting advice sucks, especially for new parents trying to figure out the swing of things. One question I could never seem to get a straight answer on was, “Where should my baby nap during the day?”
Some moms told me that their baby falls asleep in a dark room with zero sound. Others took a polar opposite approach: get that baby used to noise and park ’em right in the middle of the living room.
So, which is it?
Five years and another baby later, I’ve adopted a laid-back, common-sense approach to naptimes. I’m excited to share it with you.
In this post, we’re going to talk about where to put your baby for daytime naps. We’ll look at the best practices for getting your baby to nap at home, as well as on the go.
By the end of this article, I want you to feel confident that whatever life throws at you, you’ll have a plan in place that will allow your baby to get that restorative sleep they need.
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Where to Put Baby for Naps (At Home)
When you’re at home, where should babies sleep during the day?
The best infant sleep occurs when a baby rests in a space that meets the following conditions:
- Flat sleep surface (i.e. a crib or bassinet)
- Very dark
- A comfortable temperature
This could mean your bedroom, a closet, the bathroom, or the nursery. Whatever works for you and your baby. I had a friend that didn’t move her baby out of the master bathroom until he was at least a few months old. But it worked for their particular living situation!
Some babies can (and will) fall asleep anywhere. But getting them to stay asleep? Or worse, fall back to sleep? That’s another matter. The fact is, a baby slumbering in a swing in the middle of your room will usually only catnap. Restorative sleep occurs for babies just like it does for us: in a dark, cozy room with limited interruptions.
Below, we’ll go over exactly how much sleep your baby needs during the day. For now, let’s unpack these conditions so you can create the perfect slumber room for your baby.
I don’t have to tell you how important your little one’s safety is. I’m sure you’ve already done your due diligence and read through the AAP guidelines for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome prevention.
Here are some of the most important ones to keep in mind:
- Baby should lay flat on his back
- Sleep surface should be free of strangulation or suffocation hazards: blankets, crib bumpers, pillows, lovies, and loose-fitting sheets
- Room share for the first 6 months at least
- Independent sleeping is safer than bed-sharing
- Remove excessive clothing (bibs, hats, or loose swaddles) before bedtime
Most of us adhere to these guidelines for bedtime, but we tend to fudge a little for naptime.
I totally get that. When your little one is not getting the rest he needs, it can be so tempting to put him in the baby swing, but studies show that SIDS can occur during the night and day sleep, and relatively quickly into your baby’s nap time.
That said, if you do choose to let your baby take a little siesta in an infant swing, it’s important to supervise him.
Flat Sleep Surface
A crib is probably the best place to let your baby snooze during the day. Ideally, your crib should be no older than 10 years old, follow the CPSC guidelines, and be equipped with a new crib mattress and fitted sheets (here’s a helpful article where we talk about cribs and other nursery essentials you’ll need).
I found that my girls slept best in a crib. This is just a theory, but I think it provided more space for them to wiggle around, and the firm surface was probably more comfortable than their bassinet.
The AAP recommends that parents sleep in the same room with their baby until 6 months of age.
A bassinet is a compact, safe bed for babies from newborn to roughly four months. They’re handy because they are less cumbersome than a crib (therefore, easier to use in your bedroom), and the mattress tends to be much higher than a crib’s.
If your baby likes a little motion, you could try the SNOO. The SNOO is very convenient because it rocks automatically when it senses your baby’s cries. It is a little pricey though.
We used the Fisher Price Soothing Motions bassinet. The sides are mesh, you can glide it manually, and it vibrates.
Pack n Play
Five years ago, if you’d have asked me where should newborns sleep during the day, I would’ve said–without hesitation–the Pack ‘n Play.
My oldest daughter slept in a Pack ‘n Play until she was 2 months old. I love Pack ‘n Plays because they are cheap, safe, ridiculously mobile, and can serve as a bassinet if you get the right one. And I do recommend getting the bassinet attachment if you’ll be using this for your newborn’s daytime sleep. It’s too hard to place your baby on the bottom when you’re a postpartum mama.
For my second, a Pack ‘n Play just didn’t work out. She’d wail and wail in it. I suspect that she was uncomfortable.
Having said that, I still think that a Pack ‘n Play is a good purchase to make simply its portability. It’s great for a quick trip to Grandma’s house or an overnight in a hotel.
Adults can get away with napping in a sunny room. Babies, on the other hand, might fall asleep in a bright room, but they’ll have trouble staying asleep there.
Most babies experience night/day confusion. That is, they’re used to being more active at night (when you slept), and sleeping while you moved during the day. In the early weeks and months of your little one’s life, falling asleep at night might be a little difficult.
However, as your baby grows older, his circadian rhythm (that biological clock that regulates your baby’s sleep cycle), will develop too. He’ll sleep more at night and get less sleep during the day. Until then, you can help your baby sleep by creating a dark environment for his afternoon naps and night sleep.
Thus, napping in a dark room often results in longer naps!
I recommend buying yourself a pair of 100% blackout curtains as well as blackout curtain rods to keep the room dark. For some babies, this might be enough. For others, you might have to perform “the hand test.” Basically, turn of the lights and hold your hand out in front of you. If you can still see your hand, it’s not dark enough.
If you don’t have the money for blinds or blackout curtains, you can also tape opaque construction paper to your window. It’s not classy, but it gets the job done.
RELATED POST: The Best Blackout Curtains for a Nursery
Are you concerned that your baby will be afraid of the dark? Don’t be! Think about the environment newborn babies come from. A womb is warm, cozy, and completely dark.
Infant and toddler sleep is totally different, however! Every baby is different, but chances are yours will not start developing a fear of the dark until she’s in her toddler years. For both of my daughters, that was around three.
Keep in mind, a nightlight can be very helpful for answering those piercing baby cries at night. Personally, I use the Hatch. I love that I can control it with my phone and the lighting is completely adjustable.
A motion-detection nightlight works really well too. Just make sure you avoid blue-tinted bulbs.
Where to Put Baby for Daytime Naps (On The Go)
Is it okay for babies to nap on the go?
Absolutely. In fact, it’s inevitable.
In an ideal world, your baby will take their naps in their room, free of distractions from the outside world. Life happens. Moms have to get groceries, go to doctor’s appointments and–most importantly–have fun outings.
Babies sleep a lot and if you want to have some semblance of a normal life, your baby will have to nap on the go.
In my experience, if you fudge on one nap, it won’t ruin your chances of your baby getting to sleep at night or completely derail your baby’s nap schedule. However, napping on the go doesn’t necessarily mean throwing away the principles we discussed above.
We want to create a dark, quiet, and safe hideout for your baby to sleep.
It’s no secret that a car ride can do magic for your fussy baby. The car is how we survived our eldest’s “witching hour” phase.
I am not recommending that you use the car as a crutch for sleep. However, when you are traveling, there are a few things you can do to maximize your little one’s nap length.
Here’s a few ways you can be successful with napping in a car seat:
- Create a dim space. You can use car blinds like these, or throw up a blanket to block sunlight, just make sure it’s out of reach and your baby is well-ventilated.
- Go through your bedtime routine. Sing a song, verbalize that it’s naptime, and ensure that baby is in pajamas or comfortable clothes
- Use a white noise machine (This is mostly optional though, your car’s tires and engine will probably do the trick).
Keep in mind though, you will want to supervise your baby as much as you can. Remember, a flat surface is necessary to reduce the risk of SIDS. First of all, never leave the car seat unattended. Secondly, I recommend using a baby mirror or a car camera. We used this one and never looked back (figuratively speaking, of course).
Naps in the stroller are the best. The motion quickly makes your little guy drowsy and you’re able to discreetly peek in.
Here’s a few tips for helping baby nap well in the stroller:
- Use a portable white noise machine. This was the key to successful naps in the stroller. Unlike the car, you don’t have that nice rhythmic engine and road rumble. We tied our Yogasleep white noise machine to the handle and called it good.
- Use a travel system (i.e. an infant seat with a coordinating stroller). This can be magic if your baby is sleeping and you don’t want to remove them from the car seat. Just lock the seat into your stroller and pull the canopy into place.
- Pull the canopy over your little cutie to create a dark space. But…
- Make sure the sleep space is well-ventilated and cool. Some moms use portable fans set at the lowest setting.
In Your Arms
Most of the time, we’re trying to figure out how to get baby to nap without being held! However, once in a while, it’s totally okay to allow your baby to snooze in your arms. In fact, I encourage it. The bonding that occurs when your baby rests over your heart is unforgettable.
To help your baby nap for hours at a time in your arms, I recommend:
- Constantly staying in motion. Experts often say that motion can quickly become a sleep prop. While I do agree to a point, moving will let baby stay asleep longer when he’s asleep in your arms.
- Invest in a comfortable carrier. This is key. My favorite was the ErgoBaby360. The newborn insert seemed to support my daughter better and the material felt much more breathable. I also used the Baby K’Tan, which fit more like a shirt.
How Many Naps a Day Do Babies Need?
Okay, now you know where to put baby for naps, but just how many naps does a baby need?
That depends on your baby’s age. And which expert you ask. Cara from Taking Cara Babies is one of my favorites.
Here’s how often she says babies need to nap:
- 0-4 months: four to five naps a day
- five to seven months : three to four
- eight to fourteen months (ish): two
In a perfect world (ha) this would look like two hour naps, but some days, it’ll only be one to two hours. Somedays it’ll only be a half hour (those days are rough).
If you haven’t already, check out her website and her baby sleep courses. I also love that she provides sample baby nap schedules for every age.
The Best Way to Put Your Baby Down For a Nap: Create a Nap Routine
Okay, this is every bit as important as where to put your baby to nap. When I was a new mom, I thought the answer was more in line with handling a ticking time bomb.
Believe it or not, it’s a little easier than that.
I’m a big fan of sleep rituals. Not only do they help your baby develop healthy sleep habits, but it’s a little bit of routine that you both can appreciate on a chaotic day.
When it’s time to put your little one down for his afternoon or morning nap, you begin the same routine, day after day. This helps your baby track what’s going on and tells her little brain that it’s time to rest.
It’s easy to create a nap routine, but ours goes something like this:
- You see that it’s time for bed or you notice that your baby is tired
- Say “It’s time to nap”
- Dim the lights
- Turn on the white noise machine
- Change her diaper
- Rock her
- Sing her a lullaby
- Lay baby down when her eyes start to blink closed
- Baby should be drowsy but awake when you walk away.
I have what one would call a “dragon baby” and using naptime routines has been critical for her healthy sleep.
Where Does Your Baby Nap?
Where should I put my baby to nap during the day? In the end, you’re probably going to try a few different things before you figure out an arrangement that works for you.
Don’t sweat it. That’s basically how things go in the first year of your baby’s life. In any case, I sincerely hope this article helped. Or, at least makes you feel confident that you have some pretty flexible options.
Any space that is safe, dark, quiet, and set to a comfortable temperature will do nicely.
Veteran mamas, where did your baby nap? Please list your ideas below. New moms, let me know your questions below too. Maybe we can help! In the meantime, check out the other posts for more advice.
Good luck, Mama!
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