We all know nap time is important, but actually getting your little one to take one and for the proper amount of time is one of life's biggest challenges when you're a new mama. It's confusing to know how many naps your baby needs and how long they should be. Baby and child sleep specialist Lauren Olson of Sleep and the City Sleep Consulting gives us the nap time breakdown of how long your little should be napping. Also, get Lauren's tips for getting your baby to nap longer and stronger (hint: DockATot is a must for her children!). Here, Lauren's nap breakdown from birth to 12 months old.
Nap Tips for Newborns (0-3 Months)
Although 0-3 month old infants are notorious for falling asleep on the job (i.e. breastfeeding) or in the car/stroller/swing, they should be napping every 45-90 minutes from the last time they woke up. Yes - EVERY 1.5 hours max that sweet little newborn needs a snooze. Wake windows tend to be on the shorter side in the morning between waking up for the day and nap #1, so try to keep errands for the afternoon. To time these naps correctly, watch for your little ones’s sleep cues: rubbing eyes, sudden fussiness, yawning. Your goal for your infant should be 3-5 naps throughout the day (depending on nap length).
Nap Tips for Early Infants (4 & 5 Months)
Hooray! You’ve made it! Melatonin production ramps up this month, and baby now has the ability to perfect his self-soothing abilities and connect those sleep cycles at naps. Depending on the length, these babes can take 3 or 4 naps a day, with that last catnap taking place between 5-6pm. I like to work towards 3 naps at this age with my clients, only because the 3rd nap is typically dropped between 6-9 months. Ideally, you’ll want to shoot for 3-5 hours of daytime sleep, with the first and second nap averaging at least an hour, and the catnap about 45 minutes (or a total of 3-5 hours). You’ll want about 2-3 hours after your child’s last nap so bedtime now falls between 7-8pm.
Nap Tips for Infants (6-9 Months)
The 3rd catnap should begin to disappear, this is where you’ll notice your little one increasingly has trouble going down (or falling asleep at all) for this last power nap. Once you notice this continuously happening over a course of 2 weeks, go ahead and increase his wake windows to at least 2 hours and drop that last nap. Over this transition, some days he/she will need 3 naps, some days only 2, but the transition only lasts about 2 weeks. Don’t forget when naps are dropped, you’ll want to move up bedtime by 30 minutes for at least the first week or you’ll have major bedtime battles. Overall whether it’s 2 or 3 naps, your child needs about 3 hours of daytime sleep, and has wake windows between 2-4 hours.
Nap Tips for Older Infants (10-12 Months)
Only two naps remain, averaging 1.5 hours each. If your child is sleeping through the night now, that first nap can begin about 2.5-3 hours after waking, earlier if not. Your wake windows are now about 2.5-3.5 hours! In the US, the majority of daycares will push children to one nap as he reaches the 12-month mark, but if you can hold off or at least give your child the chance to nap twice still on the weekends or after a big day, go ahead and do so. This is the age most children will have those meltdowns in public places, because parents mistakenly drop the second nap a little bit too early. Your child on average will finally drop to one nap between 15-18 months old.
Setting up a consistent sleeping environment (like the one DockATot can provide), and creating a routine are key foundations your child needs to attain those lengthy naps during the day; without it all sorts of things can fall out of whack: meltdowns at the store, hours of overtired crying, and overall resistance to nap time.
In the end, always be sure to use my “Sleep and the City” rules for successful sleep shaping:
Lauren founded Sleep and the City after completing her Infant & Child Sleep Coach course and helping numerous family members and friends with their infant and toddler's sleep issues. She is trained in numerous child sleep training methods as well as cognitive behavioral sleep therapy for adults. She gives professional help to families with baby, infant and toddler sleep training, schedules and routines, and nap problems.