Your baby needs naps-your toddler does too.
Naps provide clusters of sleep throughout the day that help meet your child’s sleep needs in a 24-hour period. Since babies don’t sleep their entire needed amounts of sleep in one long stretch, naps and night sleep help fulfill those sleep needs.
Why so many naps?
Infants and toddlers have a shorter time they can tolerate being awake than adults. This is why naps are so cruicial. Not only is the sleep needed, but it is necessary to break up the day and help for a calmer evening and night. When children become exhausted throughout the day and head into the evening that way, nights can become rougher with increased wakings, irritability and less overnight sleep in general.
How many naps does my child need?
This varies by age and it’s important to note as newborn babies circadian rhythms begin to develop, their sleep and naps stabilize as well.
0-3 months: An average of 4-6 naps a day.
Naps occur throughout the day, not scheduled but rather as needed between feedings. These naps are mostly mixed between longer stretches and little cat naps. The last nap of the day is typically the shortest.
4-6 months: Average 3-4 naps daily.
Babies consistently move to 3 naps daily around the 4 months mark, where the 4th nap stays for a bit as the adjustment to longer time spent awake, thus less amount of naps, occurs. The last nap of the day is the shortest.
7-9 months: Average 2 naps daily.
As your baby adjusts to being awake for longer periods and naps lengthen out, the 3rd nap consistently goes away.
10-12 months: Average 2 naps daily.
There are major developmental milestones happening during these months which can make naps hit or miss. However, babies do not drop down to one nap so staying consistent will help push through any nap strikes.
12-18 months: Naps drop to 1 a day around 15 months.
Naps begin to shorten in the afternoon, eventually dropping to the one morning nap which stabilizes to a single mid-day nap around 15 months or so.
Some tips for successful naps:
Look at the timing of naps and watch for their tired cues to help plan accordingly. You can read more on tired cues here.
Set the tone for sleep with a white noise machine, dark room and a good sleep environment.
If you’ve been trying a nap for over 20 minutes or so with no success, it’s okay to pause and reset, trying nap again in another 30 minutes or at the next nap time, depending on the time of day and age of child.
When you seem to be in an “in-between” phase, waiting for a nap to drop or merge from 3 to 2 naps, for example, some days the last nap may or may not happen. This is okay and you can accommodate with an earlier bedtime.
Remember-naps and baby sleep in general are an evolving process. You’ve got this.