Baby nap time 101: An easy guide to the right number of naps at the right age.

by | Jun 17, 2023 | Improving sleep, Newborn, Top tips

Did you know, until your little one gets to about 3 years of age, they’re likely to spend more time asleep than awake?! Nap time brings relief, allowing your baby to rest and for you to have a bit of down time, or just catch up on those million other things on the to-do list!

Daily naps provide your little one with some much needed rest throughout the day. Think about your child’s growth, it is exhausting! Naps allow those little bodies to recover and brains to process everything they’ve learnt.

Naps are as important as sleep at night and give us our total sleep duration (day sleep + sleep at night), check out my handy nap chart below.

Newborn babies nap time schedules can be completely erratic, possibly spending more time sleeping in the day than at night in the early stages. Then, gradually, over the next 12-18 months you’ll watch as they grow older and stronger, able to manage longer periods of awake time between naps and get through to bedtime without becoming an overtired mess!

They’ll then transition to one good sleep in the middle of the day, and most tend to grow out of nap time completely around the 3 year old mark.

Note: Every child is different, sleep durations and frequency is indicated in this guide as a typical or average suggestion for nap time for a child of that age. Your baby’s sleep needs may be different.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links and I receive a commission if you visit a link and buy something on my recommendation. Purchasing via an affiliate link doesn’t cost you any extra, and I only recommend products and services I trust and it doesn’t influence what I promote. All opinions are my own.

How many naps do babies need?

In the early newborn days, baby’s naps are highly variable. Your baby may nap for 10 minutes or multiple hours! As the nap duration varies so much, so does the number of naps needed. It wouldn’t be unusual to need anywhere between 4-7 naps a day. You may also notice your baby falls asleep almost anywhere although most likely it will be during a cuddle!

Typically by 4-6 months of age babies are starting to follow more of a ‘by the clock’ schedule and more predictability is seen. At this point, most will be on 3-4 naps a day.

Around the 7-9 month mark the third afternoon nap will start to disappear, leaving your little one on a 2 nap day. They may have a few weeks where they are transitioning and will have some two nap days and some days with three naps before settling into a new routine.

The transition to 1 daytime nap can happen anywhere between 12-18 months of age. Don’t rush it. Most babies are ‘more ready’ to transition around the 15 month mark.

Sometimes kiddies can look like they’re ready to transition at 12 months but they’re actually just having a bout of FOMO! Why would they nap when they could be playing?!

Most children no longer have nap time around the 2.5-3.5 year mark. Occasionally some kiddies will still nap until about 5 years.

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How long should naps be?

In the early weeks naps can be anywhere from 10 minutes to hours long. This makes aiming for a daily schedule pretty impossible.

When babies have passed the four month regression and their sleep is in more distinctive ‘sleep cycles’ you’ll start to notice a 45 minute (or so) pattern forming with a baby waking after that period. They may wake refreshed, or upset and need a little help getting back to sleep.

Shorter naps (cat naps) can be problematic for babies who constantly wake upset and struggle to make it to the next nap.

Naps should consolidate (when sleep cycles stitch together) and lengthen over time (note, this isn’t easy for most babies and takes a bit of practice).

Most families like to cap naps around the 2 hour mark to stop any longer daytime naps affecting nighttime sleep.

Baby nap schedule: What’s the best nap schedule for baby?

Take a look at the nap chart we’ve included below. Remember, it’s based on averages, so use it as a guide baby nap timing.

Nap Chart

nap time baby sleep guide by age

Naptime routine

Now, this doesn’t have to be complicated. However, a short naptime routine will go far! Try to include some elements of the bedtime routine so your baby benefits from similar sleep cues and will start understanding what’s coming next.

If you can, consider their sleep environment. It’s worth trying to step away from the hustle and bustle of the day with all the distractions going on.

We find it hard to unwind after a busy day, and the same applies to babies. Try to factor in a 10-15 minute wind down before a nap at home.

3 top tips to get baby to nap

#1 Think of the ideal sleep environment and invest in some good blackout curtains or blinds! Sunlight can make the sleep environment bright, your little one may be distracted by their surroundings. (Blackout curtains also help stop the room heating up and keeping it at a better temperature for sleep)

#2 Be realistic and have a good plan B! If you’re working on extending naps or baby’s nap schedule and getting enough sleep then it may be worth knowing when to reach out for the plan B.

It’s great to work on independent sleep, but if you’ve been working on a single nap unsuccessfully for a while then it may be best to offer a little more support. That may be assisting your baby to sleep (feeding, rocking, patting) or using motion (lots of babies will sleep well in a stroller or car seat).

If nap times and sleep patterns have been all over the place then just getting your little one through to bedtime without becoming an overtired mess will be the priority.

#3 Watch wake windows. Especially for little ones. Working on a baby nap schedule is HARD. However, some of the pressure is taken off when we start to look at wake windows. When the window is drawing to a close start aiming for a little wind-down with the aim to get them to sleep. This helps avoid both under-tired and over-tired scenarios. You can see the suggested wake windows in the nap chart guide above.

FAQ

When do babies transition to one nap from two naps?

Most toddlers transition to a one nap schedule between 14-18 months of age, however may have a long transition from two to one naps, some days with both and some days with one.

During this transition, without two naps, they may struggle to get through to the bedtime routine without becoming overtired and will probably benefit from an early bedtime.

When Do Kids Stop Needing Nap Time?

Typically around the age of 3 most children will start to drop their nap. Like other nap transitions, there is likely to be some days with a nap and others without. Try replacing nap time with quiet time to allow them an opportunity to rest. Again, you may want to consider an early bedtime when those afternoon naps disappear.

What’s the best 0 to 4 month nap schedule?

This age is highly variable. Nap length is unpredictable and baby’s nap schedule is hard to define. Many babies in the early weeks will take short naps and may nap up to seven times a day.

Often naps in this age group will be contact naps. That’s fine! Enjoy those newborn snuggles and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re making a rod for your own back!

Nearing 4 months of age you may start to see patterns emerging and a sleep routine becomes a little more predictable. Daytime sleep may be across three to four naps by four months of age.

Why won’t my baby fall asleep in the day?

If your baby is having trouble falling asleep in the day, it may be due to a few things. Are they tired enough? Is their morning nap timed too closely to their morning rise time?

Another aspect to consider is FOMO! Why would your baby sleep when there’s lots of other interesting things to do. Make sure you factor in that wind down time.

Are they really reliant on support to fall asleep and stay asleep? Whether that’s feeding, rocking or patting. All babies need support in the early stages, but for better sleep all round (with older babies) it helps to support them to find ways to fall asleep without assistance.

You could consider any of the sleep training approaches to help with independence and then when they’ve mastered this skill they may be more likely to take a good nap and have more sleep overall.

Also consider the sleep environment, is it too light and bright? Temporary blackout blinds could help.

Short or non existent afternoon nap?

Argh, this is hard. I’ve worked with lots of clients who struggle with baby naps in the afternoon. It may be worth considering if your sleep schedule needs a tweak.

If your little one is approaching 7-9 months of age then they may be ready to drop their afternoon naps. You’ll want to space the other two out a but and probably offer an earlier night start for a smoother bedtime as they become accustomed to dropping this nap.

If your baby isn’t in this age group and still struggling with poor sleep or short naps in the early afternoon then it may be worth considering taking this nap time as an on-the-go nap. Falling asleep may be easier in a baby carrier or buggy and you’ll get the added benefit of some fresh air and exercise.

If all else fails with nap time, then schedule in an early nighttime sleep, starting bedtime that little bit earlier.

Tips for Creating a Nap Time Routine

So the focus here is on wind down. You can take elements from your nighttime sleep routine so you’re offering up sleep cues. That may be closing the curtains, saying night night to the toys in the room, changing their nappy and getting them into their sleeping bags before popping them down.

Soft music and dim lights can help make a gradual transition. Usually less distractions the better. If you’re looking for recommended baby sleep aids then you can find them here.

Both nap time and bedtime routines are great for helping your baby sleep. When you reach toddler stages, they become vital for your child’s sleep to help them manage the transition between night and day, and all the expectations that come with it!

If bedtime is difficult with a toddler then you may find my flashcards helpful for the bedtime routine.

Naps on the go!

Sleep is sleep. Well, sort of. I’m a realist. Yes, ideally, we’d aim for baby’s nap to be at home in their sleep space so they’ve got every chance of falling into a nice deep sleep, connecting sleep cycles and having a good stretch of daytime sleep. However, most of us are trying to accomplish a huge amount of things and alongside baby, we also have a busy schedule!

Naps on the go are useful at any point throughout the day. It may help to guarantee some daytime sleep or help calm a fussy baby. A sling or pram can be really helpful as your plan B, particularly if you’ve been listening to baby cry as their overtired. The last nap of the day is often a bit of a challenge and this approach can help make baby’s naps a little easier.

Get in touch!

Struggling with baby sleep? Whether that’s how they fall asleep, where your baby sleeps, nap time sleep or are you considering sleep training? Please get in touch – I’m here to help.

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Hi, I’m Gemma, your sleep consultant

I am a certified baby and child sleep specialist who works with families all over the world.

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