Naps are synonymous with mommy sanity. Back in the day, there used to be a comic strip called “Family Circle” that showed a bleary-eyed mom dragging her toddler by the hand up the stairs. The caption underneath read, “Mommy, why do I have to take a nap when you’re the one who’s tired?” The struggle is real! But there is more to a baby nap routine than just a break for mom. The proper amount of sleep is important to the development of all babies and toddlers and adequate rest leads to a better night’s sleep. Daytime sleep, in the form of a baby nap schedule, will build a dependable rhythm into your baby nap routine, so that the whole family sleeps peacefully at night.
Baby Nap Schedule: What’s the Best Nap Schedule for Baby?
Experts agree that a newborn sleep schedule should not begin until babies are 4 to 6 months old. Newborns will sleep 14-17 hours per day and will need to feed 10-12 times per day. Newborns will take lots of little naps (for up to 8 hours a day). The daytime cycle is 1 to 2 hours of awake time then 1 to 2 hours of napping. Use these early weeks to observe your baby’s sleep/wake/feed cycle and respond as needed.
A typical 2-month-old sleeps a total of 14 to 17 hours a day, including four to six naps. Day-night confusion should be subsiding, with 60 to 90 minutes of wake time followed by a baby nap of 30 minutes to two hours.
A typical 3-month-old nap schedule will require 3 to 4 naps totaling 4 to 6 hours and between 14 and 17 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. However, it's also normal for 3-month-olds to sleep a little more or less than that. Your 3-month-old may sleep for longer stretches at night, possibly five hours (or even a bit more) at a time. Some babies still wake to eat every few hours at this stage.
The 4-month-old nap schedule will include 3 to 4 hours of daytime sleep out of the 12 and 17 hours of sleep per day they require. It’s still normal if your child sleeps a little more or less than that. Your 4-month-old has a stronger grasp on day and night now and may be able to sleep for 6 to 8 hours overnight, but this varies greatly. Sleep regression is common in 4-month-olds as well, so be flexible.
Your 5-month-old should sleep around 12 to 15 hours a day. Some 5-month-olds might still wake up a few times, but generally sleep about 10 to 11 hours of solid nighttime hours and 3 naps that last 30 minutes to 2 hours each. Keep in mind that your baby’s sleep schedule is changing as much as he is, and is likely to still be in major flux at this age.
Six months and beyond, you can begin to follow a flexible schedule for their feeding, naps, and wake time. This can be accomplished with gentle nap training. The following chart is a helpful tool for determining the “normal” nap schedule by age. The word “normal” is used cautiously here, as sleep regression is common between the ages of 4 and 6 months and every baby is unique. What works one week may need adjustment the next. Follow your baby’s cues.
Sleep Training for Naps
Babies who don’t get adequate sleep end up having a stress response — an increase in adrenaline and cortisol — making it trickier for them to wind down for bed. Nap training can help facilitate sleep training at night because baby is not overtired and stressed.
Begin by watching for sleep cues, including eye rubbing, yawning, and being distracted or disinterested. Toddlers and preschoolers may act tired after lunch, or about six hours after their initial wake time. These cues help you discover when your baby is ready for sleep.
Typical sleep training for naps means putting baby down when he’s drowsy but awake, then leaving the room. You can apply whatever sleep training method you use at night, but possibly abbreviated. If he cries and you're using the Ferber method, you can go back for a quick check — but no picking up or feeding — every few minutes, increasing the interval between check-ins until he falls asleep.
How Long Should Baby Nap?
Newborns who sleep for longer stretches should be awakened to feed. How long should a newborn sleep without feeding? Wake your baby every 3–4 hours to eat until he or she shows good weight gain, which usually happens within the first couple of weeks. After that, it's OK to let your baby sleep for longer periods of time at night.
During the second to third month, your baby will most likely be sleeping 4 to 6 hours per day in 4 to 6 naps. If your baby's nap goes over 1.5 to 2 hours, it's not a bad idea to wake him for a feeding. Long naps mean less eating during the day, which means baby may be hungrier at night.
By the time your baby is 6 months they will sleep 3 to 4 hours per day in 3 or 4 naps. Older babies sleep 2 to 3 hours in 2 to 3 naps and toddlers and preschoolers will typically sleep 1 to 2 hours in one good daytime nap. Any longer could interfere with their bedtime routine.
Tips to Get baby to Nap
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. Use your bedtime routine at baby nap time. Modify it if necessary but provide your baby with some of the same sleep cues from your bedtime routine, such as their favorite Woolino blanket or a Woolino Sleep bag.
- Consistency. Your baby will sleep better during naptime if he has a comfy, consistent place to rest. It’s ideal if your baby falls asleep in his own bassinet or crib. It also helps to put them to bed around the same time every night, put him down for naps around the same time each day, and have consistent feeding and playtimes.
- Don’t over-schedule. Over-scheduling your day makes it difficult to establish a nap schedule and it means you’ll be rushing around instead of easing your baby into naptime. Give yourself a break and avoid trying to pack too much into the day.
- Be active between naps. The more active your baby is when he’s awake, the more ready he’ll be to rest come naptime. Talk, coo and sing to your baby to keep him engaged. Enjoy ample tummy time and then move him to his back for a change of scenery. Whatever activity your baby favors is great for burning energy while he’s awake so he’s ready to snooze later.
- Recognize the signs. Rubbing the eyes or starting to get cranky means that naptime is imminent. Put your baby down to nap at the first sign of sleep readiness: droopy eyelids, yawning, fussiness and rubbing the eyes.
- Meet basic needs. Empty diaper and fill the belly so nothing stands in the way of a good nap.
- Ease into naptime. Give your baby time to unwind before naptime. Close the shades, cuddle and play soft music to begin to coax your little one off to dreamland.
- Keep it cozy and comfortable. For added comfort, swaddle your little one in their Woolino swaddle blanket or 4-Season sleep bag, especially if they are sleeping in a crib rather than a bassinet. Woolino Sleep bags help regulate baby’s temperature, so they are not waking up overheated or cold. Note that even during naptime, babies should always be placed on their backs.
- Run interference. If your baby wakes up too early into his nap, see if you can extend nap time further by gently stroking him and saying soothing words without picking him up. This may help your baby fall back asleep and help him get the extra rest he needs.
- Don’t sacrifice naps for a good night’s sleep. You won’t score more sleep at night by giving up naps during the day. You’ll just end up with an overtired baby who can’t sleep at all.
Should you Wake a Sleeping Baby?
Sometimes it really is better not to let sleeping babies lie. If you are asking, “should I wake baby from their nap?”, consider the following suggestions:
*Wake your baby if they are less than 3 months and have been napping, without eating every 3 hours.
*Really long naps can confuse your older baby’s sleep cycles, making it difficult to build up enough time awake before bed or for the next nap. Wake your baby if your baby (any age) has been sleeping longer than three hours for any nap during the day.
*Wake your baby if your baby is sleeping in past 8 or 8:30am, even if you’ve had a sleepless night. Babies can start to rely on that morning sleep instead of the night sleep they should be getting. It can also affect their entire nap schedule, shifting it forward or leading to a late bedtime.
*Optional would be to wake your baby for a dream feed (feeding a sleeping baby by waking them just enough to latch on or take a bottle without waking up completely) if this will help them sleep longer at night. The typical recommendation is to dream feed between 9:30pm and 10:30pm. This is not necessary but is helpful for some hungrier babies.
How to get baby to nap longer
Develop a nap ritual. A naptime ritual is a good idea, for the same reason it's recommended at night: It helps your child wind down and signals that the sleep period is approaching, so your baby is prepared to rest. Your naptime ritual can be shorter and less elaborate than the bedtime ritual: a story, a song, and a cuddle, and getting into their favorite Woolino sleep bag for example. Once you've developed a routine that works for you and that you both enjoy, stick to it as closely as possible.
When Will Baby Drop Naps?
After 6 months of age, and again at around 1 year old, your baby will most likely drop a nap from his daily schedule. They will progress when they are ready. There is no right timing.
When Will Baby Go to One Nap?
Toddlers and preschoolers, ages 18 to 36 months, will go to one nap if they are sleeping well at night and napping well during the afternoon. By 18 months, most children give up their morning nap altogether but continue to snooze in the afternoon. They'll continue with this pattern until they're 3 or 4 years old, although some don't give up napping altogether until they are 5. Be careful not to extend that one nap to close to bedtime. You don’t want to interfere with your successful nighttime sleep routine.
When Baby Won’t Nap?
If your newborn won’t nap, it might be that they are not used to sleeping on their back. Make the crib experience a little cozier by using the infant swaddle for naps. Woolino swaddle blankets are perfect for calming baby in the first couple of months. Transition to a soft, cozy, temperature regulating Woolino sleep bag in the following months and baby will be snug and secure at naptime.
Older babies might find it hard to calm down during midday noises and distractions. If that’s the case, make the nursery feel more like it does at night, with blackout shades and a white noise machine.
Sometimes teething pain can keep babies from dozing off. Try offering a chilled teething ring or a pediatrician prescribed dose of Acetaminophen to ease their discomfort.
Wind down playtime well before you want baby to be ready for a nap, so they are not overstimulated. Storytime and a lullaby can help relax most babies. Allow your baby to get drowsy but put them down awake whenever possible to foster self-soothing.