Day time naps are great. They serve two purposes. They give your baby the sleep that is vital to their growth and development, and they give you, the parent, the opportunity to take time out to catch up on household tasks, watch an episode or two of something on Netflix or iPlayer, or even take a much needed snooze yourself.
Some babies love napping, others tend to fight it, after all, there is a big world out there that needs exploring. Every child is different, but if you can get to grips with the basics of napping, then you can adapt to suit your own child.
How Often Should Babies & Toddlers Nap?
When your baby first arrives, you can expect him or her to require around 16 hours of sleep a day, give or take a few hours. By the time he or she is three years old you can expect them to need around 12 hours a day, with most of it, if not all, taken at night.
During the first couple of months of your baby’s life, your baby is unlikely to follow any set pattern for sleeping. Instead, he or she will wake every two to four hours for a feed, regardless of the time of day.
By the time your baby is two months old, you will hopefully see a pattern emerge with your baby taking around three or four naps a day at about two hours at a time with around eight to ten hours of sleep at night (not including night time feedings).
Sometime between the age of four and six months old, your baby will develop the ability to sleep through the night (although, it’s important to note that just because they can, doesn’t mean they will!) and your baby may shorten or drop naps. By the time your baby is about nine months old, they will probably be down to two naps a day with each one about one and half to two hours long.
At eighteen months old, your toddler is likely to only need one nap per day, usually in the afternoon, although some toddlers prefer a pre-lunch snooze.
When Do Toddlers Stop Napping?
Some children seem almost superhuman in their apparent lack of need for naps. Your child may stop napping all together by the time they are aged two years old or they may continue to need a nap right up until they start school. If your older toddler is still taking a nap, then it’s a good idea to keep the nap to no more than an hour and to make sure they are awake by 3pm, in order to guarantee that he or she is ready for sleep at around 7pm.
Is My Baby / Toddler Ready To Drop A Nap?
Over time, your baby will gradually drop each day time nap until the time when they are only sleeping at night. There are no set rules as to when you should change your child’s routine to drop a nap, instead it’s best to follow your baby’s cues. He or she will give you signs that they are ready to reduce the number of naps. These signs include:
- Taking longer to fall asleep for each nap, “fighting” sleep
- Not being tired around nap time
- Taking longer to fall asleep at night, resisting bedtime
- Waking up earlier in the morning
- Waking up during the night, when they previously slept through it
Of course, not every baby will have all of these signs, and it’s a good idea to rule out any other cause, such as teething, sudden big changes in their lives, etc. If you think your child is ready to drop a nap, you could try skipping one and seeing what the results are. If your child doesn’t show any signs of being overly tired or cranky, then they are probably ready.
You might find that your child adapts to a new routine straight away, or they may take a few days or weeks to adjust with some days requiring more sleep than others. Some parents find that even when their toddler has dropped the last nap, he or she still requires the occasional brief snooze if the day has been particularly busy.
What Are Some Sample Nap Schedules For Babies & Toddlers?
During the new-born stage, your baby is unlikely to follow any set routine and this can be incredibly stressful and difficult for new parents as they deal with the disruption to their own sleep. Rest assured that it doesn’t take too long for your child to settle into a routine and this will also help you to manage your own sleep needs. We have provided some sample nap and feeding schedules for babies at various ages to give you an idea about what to expect below. It should be noted that when it comes to routine, there is no “one size fits all” approach, and your baby may follow something completely different.
Sample Three Month Old Schedule
- 7am – Wake Up, First Feed
- 8.30am – Nap
- 9.30am – Wake Up
- 10.30am – Feed
- 11am – Nap
- 1pm – Wake Up. Feed
- 3.30pm – Feed, Nap
- 5.30pm – Wake Up, Feed
- 8.30pm – Feed, Bed Time
- Night time – Additional feeds
Sample Nine Month Old Schedule
- 7am – Wake Up, Milk Feed
- 8am – Breakfast
- 10.30am – Milk Feed / Snack
- 11am – Nap
- 1pm – Lunch
- 2.30pm – Milk Feed / Snack
- 3pm – Nap
- 4.30pm – Wake Up
- 5pm – Evening Meal
- 7.30pm – Milk Feed, Bed Time
Eighteen Month Old
- 7am – Wake Up
- 8am – Breakfast
- 10.30am – Snack
- 1pm – Lunch
- 2pm – Nap
- 3pm – Wake Up, Snack
- 5pm – Evening Meal
- 7pm – Bed Time
Tips For Getting A Baby / Toddler To Nap
Naps are important for your child’s development, and your baby is likely to become cranky and irritable if they are deprived of sleep. Furthermore, an over-tired baby will find it even more difficult to fall asleep, and, therefore, a lack of naptime can go on to affect night time sleep. There are steps that you can take to ensure your baby gets a healthy amount of nap time.
Have a routine and stick to it. It will help your baby to feel more secure and relaxed, enabling him or her to fall asleep easier. This includes having a place of sleep for nap times, rather than letting your baby fall asleep in a variety of different places.
Make sure your baby is not hungry before taking a nap, as hunger can make it difficult to fall asleep. During the newborn stage, it’s fine to feed your baby to sleep, but you will want to break that habit as they get older to make sure he or she doesn’t become too dependent on it. You could sing and talk to your baby as you feed them to make sure they stay awake, before then settling them down for a nap.
Learn Your Baby’s Signs Of Tiredness
Your baby may not be able to talk yet, but he or she is still very good at communicating their needs to you, it’s simply a case of you being able to recognise the signs. Your baby may start yawning, staring into space, or rubbing their eyes in the early stage of tiredness. If you respond to these early signs, you will find it easier to get your baby to sleep. If you wait until your baby starts to cry from tiredness and frustration, it will be harder for them to then fall asleep.
Teach Your Baby To Self-Soothe
Your baby can learn how to fall asleep without you rocking, cuddling, or feeding them from around the age of six to eight weeks old. There are a number of ways that you can do this, and we cover them in detail in our article When Do Babies Sleep Through The Night.