Baby Naps: How Long and Often

Baby Naps: How Long and Often

So much worry and attention is paid to getting your baby to sleep through the night, but what about that daytime sleep?  Getting your baby on a consistent nap schedule is just as important as a consistent nighttime sleep schedule.  Regular, quality naps will not only help your baby make it through the day with a smile on her face, but it will also help her sleep better at night.  With that in mind, let’s take a look at setting a nap schedule that both you and your baby can sleep with.


The Importance of Naps

We already hit on the two main reasons to make a nap schedule for your baby; to get him or her through the day cranky-free and to help them sleep better at night, but here are some reasons you might not have known.  Babies that are better nappers also tend to be better eaters, better learners, and they tend to get sick less. Sleep is important to help babies focus, grow, and to help their immune system function.  A baby’s body has a lot of stress placed on it to grow and learn, so it’s no wonder that allowing it time throughout the day to rest and recharge is essential.


How Many Naps Does Baby Need Per Day?

We all know that there is variation in nearly every aspect of a baby’s growth and development, the same is true for nap frequency and duration.  Your baby doesn’t have to follow a universal nap plan as long as she is getting the amount of sleep she needs in total hours per day.  Some babies will sleep longer at night with fewer, longer naps during the day, while others will prefer to sleep for short bursts more often.  Just make sure that your baby’s total sleep adds up to the recommended amount.


Nap Guide For Babies and Toddlers

This is just a general guide, not set in stone.  Again, every baby is different in their nap needs.  Just make sure your baby’s total sleep per day comes close to the recommendations and adjust as necessary.


  • Anything goes at this stage.  Most babies under four months of age are hard to tie to a schedule of any kind.  During this time babies don’t know day from night so naps tend to be whenever needed, around the clock. 


4 to 6 months:

  • This seems to be the sweet spot when it comes to napping.  By four months of age, most babies are capable of understanding the circadian rhythm and will tend to be awake more during the day and sleep more at night.  Baby is also old enough to start to train to a schedule.  During this time babies will take two to three naps per day; in the morning, early afternoon and sometimes evening for a total of 3 to 4 hours.  He will hopefully be sleeping for longer stretches at night for a total around 12 hours equaling 15 to 16 hours overall.


6 to 8 months:

  • Some babies will go through a sleep regression phase at this age because of all the exciting things they are learning to do.  When she is learning to crawl and stand that may be all she wants to do which leaves no time for naps!  Try to persuade her to still take two to three naps for a total of 2 to 4 hours. She should still be sleeping around 12 hours at night as well.  This means 14-16 hours per day.


8 to 12 months:

  • He still needs two naps at this point no matter what he or others try to tell you.  Naps may be shorter, down to 2 to 3 hours total, but one in the morning and one in the afternoon will make the day go more smoothly.


12 to 18 months.

  • A lot of parents or child care providers will try to cut your baby down to one nap after their first birthday.  The truth is, however, that most babies aren’t really ready for this until around 16 months old.  Pay attention to your baby’s cues.  If a morning nap makes an afternoon nap difficult, try shortening the length of the morning nap or rearranging your wakeup and bedtimes to accommodate more rest during the day.  Most children, if given the opportunity, will naturally transition to one nap when they’re ready.


18 months to 5 years:

  • Most toddlers will take one nap per day until they start kindergarten.  Even if it’s just a quick hour-long rest, naps are still important to keep young minds focused and ward off meltdowns and illness.  Again, most children will naturally drop naps when they’re ready or provide you with not so subtle signs (crankiness, irritability, meltdowns) that they’re not.


How to Create a Nap Schedule

Similar to developing a nighttime sleep schedule, consistency is key.  Set up a naptime routine comparable to your bedtime routine with reading, songs, rocking, or massage, just make sure to lay your baby down while she is still awake.  Set the mood just like you would at night by pulling the shades, using a noise machine or putting on the Kyte BABY Sleep Bag or swaddle.  Offer a pacifier if she’ll take one, but no toys or blankets in the crib.


To determine when your baby needs naps, keep track of the time.  Know the cues that your baby is getting sleepy, such as eye rubbing, yawning, or blank staring, so that you can put him down before he becomes overtired and fussy.  Track the time between when baby wakes up and when he gets tired again so you’ll know when to start the nap routine to stay ahead of his tiredness.  Most young babies are only awake for 30 minutes to an hour before they need a nap, while older babies stay awake for 2 to 4 hours in between sleep.  Again, keep it consistent.


Getting your baby on a proper nap schedule can be as difficult and seemingly impossible as getting them to sleep through the night.  But with a little persistence and patience, you can have your baby napping reliably making your day go more smoothly and your nighttimes more restful.


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