By about 5 months of age, most babies sleep 12 to 15 hours a day, including a morning and afternoon nap. However, not all babies develop at the same pace or have the same sleep behaviors and habits. Many situations and conditions can interfere with nap time and keep your baby from getting a sound sleep.
Napping is often difficult for a 5-month-old who is learning motor skills, such as sitting up and crawling. The excitement to practice these new skills makes it difficult to fall asleep or causes her to wake up during nap time. Putting your baby down for a nap before she is ready or laying her down late when she is overtired also can block sleep and make nap time difficult. In addition, improper atmosphere, such as putting your baby down for a nap in the living room instead of in her bedroom, can trigger sleep difficulties.
Establish a sleep schedule by setting a specific nap time and sticking to it. Put your baby down right when he starts exhibiting signs that he is sleepy, such as rubbing his eyes or pulling on his ears. If necessary, allow him to fuss for a few minutes until he falls asleep on his own. Alternatively, pick him up as soon as he starts getting upset and soothe or play with him for a few minutes before laying him down again. Your main goal is to teach your baby how to fall asleep at nap time on his own.
Tips for Success
Put your baby down for a nap in the same place that she sleeps at bedtime. Draw the blinds to make it dark and play soothing music or a "white noise" machine. If your baby wakes often or refuses to sleep at nap time, she might be ready to eliminate her morning nap and switch to a single daily nap. Even though this sometimes means that your 5-month-old gets less sleep until she adjusts, her afternoon nap will more than likely become longer as she becomes accustomed to the new schedule.
Although it often sounds like your baby is awake at nap time, the KidsHealth website notes that this is not always the case. Babies moan, groan, cry out and even laugh -- all while asleep. And if your baby does wake up during a nap, give him a moment to resettle and fall back to sleep on his own before going into the room to tend to him.