Nap Schedule By Age: A Guide To Nap Success From Newborns To Toddlers
When you have a baby, everyone talks about sleeping through the night as the holy grail of sleep. But as any parent holding a fussy, overtired infant in her arms quickly learns: daytime sleep is essential, too. What’s the right baby nap schedule?
Plus, improving the quality of your baby’s naps will actually translate to better sleep at night. So, whether you have a squirmy newborn or rambunctious toddler, here’s everything you need to know for setting your little one up for nap-time success.
In this article, read about recommended baby nap schedules according to your little one’s age, tips for sticking to the schedule, and when you can take a “Nap Pass.”
We’ll also share general tips for putting your little one down and making naptime as comfortable and safe as possible.
Let’s start with what you need to know about baby nap schedules by age.
Baby Nap Schedule by Age
What You Should Know
Your newborn is growing and developing at such a rapid rate that they require sleep pretty much around the clock. Between feedings, diaper changes, short periods of wakefulness, more diaper changes, and naps, newborns rarely follow a predictable schedule — and that’s OK!
The key to having a well-rested infant is offering naps 60 minutes after each time they wake. Many parents assume that keeping their baby awake for long stretches during the day will translate to longer sleep at night, but this is simply not true. Sleep begets sleep.
The better your baby naps during the day, the more smoothly your nights will go. The length of your baby’s naps will vary from 20 to 30 minutes to an hour or more, but I recommend capping naps at no more than 2 hours long.
Yes — I’m telling you to wake your sweet, snuggly, sleeping baby. The reason? You want your baby’s longest stretches of sleep to happen at night because if it occurs during the day, then it can cause more frequent waking at night.
Limiting naps to 2 hours long also offers more time during the day for tummy time as well as getting outside and exposing your baby to natural light, which is key for helping your baby learn to distinguish day from night.
Finally, limiting naps to 2 hours will slowly help you fit in more feedings during the day so your baby can eventually lengthen the time between feedings at night.
Nap Start Time
Nap 1: 8:30/9:00 a.m.
Nap 2: 12:30/1:00 p.m.
Nap 3: 3:00/3:30 p.m.
What You Should Know
By 4 months old, your baby’s circadian rhythms are developing and their sleep habits are becoming more predictable. Four to 9-month-old babies should be on a 3-nap-a-day schedule at the times listed above.
These times occur during your baby’s sleep windows, which is when your baby is starting to become sleepy and will have an easier transition into sleep.
If your baby is taking short naps (less than an hour long), you can begin nap training starting at 4 months from your baby’s estimated due date.
The goal with nap training is to help your baby learn how to link sleep cycles so that when they wake after a short period of time, they can return to sleep on their own and ultimately take naps lasting an hour or more.
To do this, you’ll apply the 60-minute rule. The 60-minute rule means that you’ll keep your baby in the crib for naps for at least 60 minutes from the time that they’re placed down, even if they’re not asleep.
If your baby falls asleep but wakes after a short nap, apply a sleep training method of choice until they fall asleep or until it’s been 60 minutes from the time that they were first placed down for the nap — whichever happens first.
(If your baby doesn’t fall asleep after the 60 minutes has passed, then go ahead and end nap time.)
It’s important to note that you only need to apply the 60-minute rule to Nap 1 and Nap 2. When your baby is on a 3-nap schedule, the third nap is typically a shorter 25- to 45-minute nap that helps bridge the gap to bedtime.
Between 7 and 9 months old, babies transition from three naps to two. You’ll know it’s time to move to two naps when your baby regularly starts boycotting the third nap.
Just be sure to compensate for the decrease in daytime sleep with an earlier bedtime — as early as 5:30 or 6:00 p.m. — while your baby transitions to their new 2-nap-per-day schedule.
Nap Start Time
Nap 1: 8:30/9:00 a.m.
Nap 2: 12:30/1:00 p.m.
What You Should Know
If you’re struggling with short naps, be sure to apply the 60-minute rule (see the previous section) for Nap 1 and Nap 2 and check that you’re offering naps at the times listed above.
Even if your baby seems sleepy, putting them down for a nap prior to the nap start times above can result in short naps. Similarly, keeping your baby awake beyond those start times can backfire — your baby is likely to become overtired, which makes it harder to fall asleep.
So, even if your baby’s first nap is long, say from 9:00 a.m. to 10:45 a.m., you should still start the second nap no later than 1:00 p.m. Around 12 to 14 months, many babies may skip their second nap and parents often assume that it’s time to transition to one nap.
Hold steady with offering 2 naps per day and this phase will likely pass (they’re usually working on a developmental milestone, such as walking, that temporarily interferes with their sleep). Most babies still require 2 naps per day well past 1 year of age.
14-19 Months Old
Nap Start Time
Nap 1: 12:00/1:00 p.m.
What You Should Know
Toddlers (yep, you have a toddler now!) transition to 1 nap between 14 and 19 months old. You’ll know that the transition from 2 naps to 1 is upon you if 1 or both naps have become shorter than usual, or if your child starts regularly skipping either of their naps.
Changes in nighttime sleep, such as suddenly waking during the night (when they previously weren’t) or rising earlier in the morning, may also be signs that it’s time to transition to 1 nap because your baby’s daytime sleep is impinging on their sleep at night.
When your toddler is on a 1-nap schedule, the 60-minute rule becomes the 90-minute rule. This means that you’ll keep your child in their crib for at least 90 minutes from the time that they’re placed down.
Just like the 60-minute rule, if your child isn’t falling asleep or wakes after a short nap, then apply your sleep training method of choice until they fall asleep or until it’s been 90 minutes from the time that they were first placed down for the nap — whichever happens first.
19 Months And Older
Nap Start Time
Nap 1: 1:00 p.m.
What You Should Know
Try keeping your toddler on a 1-nap schedule for as long as possible. Many kids will continue napping until 4 years of age.
If your child is over the age of 3 and is starting to resist bedtime or takes a long time to fall asleep, is waking during the night, or is rising early in the morning, then you may want to consider shortening their nap.
For example, if your toddler currently takes a 2-hour nap, offer a 1 hour and 45 minute nap for 3 days. Then, shorten the nap to 90 minutes. Hold steady there. If a shorter nap helps with the sleep situation, then continue capping the nap at 90 minutes.
If after a few weeks of the shorter nap you’re still experiencing nighttime sleep struggles and your child is over 3 years old, then it may be time to consider dropping the nap.
However, be sure to offset the decrease in daytime sleep with a much earlier bedtime — as early as 6:00 p.m. — to make sure your child is still getting sufficient sleep.
The Nap Pass
While following a nap schedule is crucial for solving short naps and improving your baby’s day and nighttime sleep, We’re fully aware that life is busy and you may also be juggling your other children’s needs and schedules. That’s when the Nap Pass comes into play.
The Nap Pass means that up to 3 times per week, your baby can take a nap on the go. (This applies to babies over 4 months of age — most newborns sleep so much and so deeply that many of their naps inevitably happen on the go.)
Keep in mind that the Nap Pass only becomes an option once your baby is consistently taking naps lasting 60 minutes or longer during the day and is sleeping well at night. It’s important that you use your Nap Pass wisely.Here are three things to keep in mind:
- Only use the Nap Pass if your baby easily sleeps on the go. If your baby won’t fall asleep on the go then the Nap Pass isn’t for you.
- Avoid using the Nap Pass for more than one nap per day and avoid using the Nap Pass on consecutive days. So if you use the Nap Pass for your baby’s morning nap, then her next nap should be at home.
- If the Nap Pass interferes with your baby’s naps or nighttime sleep, then only use it when absolutely necessary.
If you use the Nap Pass and your baby skips that nap or takes a short nap, be sure to leverage an earlier start time for her next nap or bedtime — whichever comes first.
Tips For A Safe And Comfortable Nap Time
Now that I’ve gone over the basics of your baby’s nap schedule and the Nap Pass, it’s important to talk about making naptime safe and comfy, too.
Between naps and nighttime, your little one will spend a lot of time sleeping. For their wellbeing and your peace of mind, it’s essential that they are snoozing safely! Here are five ways to make your baby’s time in bed both safe and comfortable.
1) Check The Temperature
One of the first ways to make sure that your baby is sleeping as comfortably as possible is to ensure that the temperature is ideal — and that means checking the room temperature as well as what your little one is wearing.
As far as setting the thermostat, there’s no exact science for the ideal sleeping temperature for your little one. A common recommendation is somewhere between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
Alternately, you can go by how the room feels to you. For example, the Ohio chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a room temperature that “is comfortable for a lightly-clothed adult.”
Your Baby’s Clothing
Remember that keeping your little one at a comfortable temperature also depends on what they are wearing. When it comes to layers, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises to “dress your baby in no more than one extra layer than you would wear.”
While a cozy blanket sounds appealing, keep in mind that not only is it unnecessary to put your baby to bed with a blanket, but it’s also unsafe! We’ll talk more about this safety hazard later, but know that babies under a year should not be covered with a blanket or top sheet.
Instead, you’ll turn to swaddles (for newborns that haven’t started rolling over) and sleep sacks.
A swaddle is a light blanket that allows you to wrap your little one up like a burrito (a very cute burrito!). This helps calm their startle reflex, regulate their temperature, and prevents them from scratching themselves.
If you’re not sure how to go about wrapping your bundle of joy, read our article here.
Try a Newton Baby Organic Swaddle Blanket. This soft, hypoallergenic cotton keeps your baby comfortable all nap long! And the fabric is completely breathe-through to help keep your baby at the perfect temperature and avoid overheating.
The other great thing about these swaddle blankets? They’re multipurpose. Once you stop swaddling your baby, the swaddles can be used as a changing pad, stroller cover, burp cloth, or light blanket.
2) Create A Naptime Routine
If you are already in the swing of a bedtime routine with your little one, great! If you aren’t, don’t worry. The truth is it’s never too early or too late to start.
What do we mean by a bedtime routine? Doing the same calming activities in the same order before you put your baby to bed. This helps their mind and body clue into the fact that it’s time to wind down and get some rest.
In the same way, a naptime routine can help signal the transition from play time to sleepy time. Your bedtime routine will probably be more extensive than your naptime routine, but both are helpful in their own way!
While a bedtime routine may include a bath, a baby massage, reading a few books, and singing a song, your naptime routine could be as simple as rocking and singing a song before laying your baby in their crib with a kiss on their head. Happy napping, little one!
3) Lay Your Baby On A Safe Mattress
Where your baby lays their head to snooze is of utmost importance! The Nap Pass concept means that your baby can nap away from home up to three times a week. Their other naps should be at home in their own crib.
You want their crib to be not only comfortable but also safe, and this has a lot to do with the crib mattress. Let’s take a look at three aspects of mattress safety to take into consideration.
A firm mattress might not appeal to you, but it’s the safest sort of mattress for your baby to sleep on. This is because it’s not safe to have soft items in the crib that could get in the way of your baby breathing. That rules out a soft, plushy mattress.
The crib mattress should be firm and bounce right back when you press on it. But firm does not have to mean uncomfortable. In fact, it shouldn’t mean uncomfortable!
Newton Baby’s Crib Mattress provides the right level of comfort and support for the best sleep possible. The Wovenaire core is made of 90% air, and the other 10% is the same food-grade material that yogurt cartons are made of.
Our crib mattress offers just the right firmness for babies and is comfortable enough for toddlers — there’s no need to switch the mattress as your baby grows. The Wovenaire core also means that this mattress is breathable, which brings us to the next point.
A breathable mattress is ideal since it means that if your baby rolls over onto their tummy in the middle of the night, they can breathe straight through the mattress. That’s safety for them and peace of mind for you!
Newton Baby’s Crib Mattress is 100% breathable, as is the Crib Mattress Cover and Waterproof Crib Mattress Pad.
Lastly, you’ll want to check the fit of the mattress inside the crib. Whether you have a standard or mini crib, there’s a Newton Baby Crib Mattress for you.
While the size of crib mattresses is regulated, there is a bit (⅝ of an inch to be exact) of variation in the size of a crib. So, just to be safe, pop your baby’s mattress in the crib and check the fit before you put your baby to bed for the first time.
You shouldn’t be able to fit more than two fingers between the mattress and the inside of the crib frame.
4) Remove Toys And Blankets
Earlier, we mentioned that it’s not safe for your infant to sleep with a top sheet or a blanket. This is because they can be choking hazards for your baby. And this goes for toys, stuffed animals, baby pillows, and crib bumpers, too.
As cute as these things can be, the safest thing to do is to keep all of them out of the crib.
Since loose bedding is a no-no, you’ll outfit your baby’s crib with a fitted sheet and nothing else! For breathable comfort for your sweet one, opt for Newton Baby’s Organic Cotton Sheets.
Our organic muslin cotton is not only cute to boot, but it’s also certified to the Global Organic Textile Standards. Plus, it is, of course, machine washable for the most hygienic sleep surface. And the all-around elastic guarantees a safe, snug fit for any crib mattress.
5) Put Your Baby On Their Back
While tummy time is essential during your baby’s waking hours, when it comes to sleeping, you should always put them on their back, not their side or their stomach. This goes for naps as well as nighttime.
Babies typically get the hang of rolling over sometime around 4 months old. When that happens, you’ll put your baby to sleep on their back, but you don’t have to tiptoe into the nursery to turn them over if they roll in the middle of their nap.
Become A Baby Nap Schedule Pro
There’s a lot to navigate as a parent. And as your baby grows and changes during the first couple of years, their nap schedule will change as well. This can be a challenge, but we have no doubt that with patience, you can become a baby nap schedule pro!
Follow the recommendations for naps based on your baby’s age, and keep your Nap Pass in mind.
And no matter how old your little one is, make every nap comfortable and safe by checking the temperature, putting them to sleep on a Newton Baby Crib Mattress, and keeping the crib bare except for a fitted sheet.
Do you have questions about your baby or toddler and want to learn more tips to improve sleep? Sign up for your free 15-minute sleep consultation with a certified infant & toddler sleep consultant by visiting dreambabysleep.com/scheduler.
By Carolynne J. Harvey – Baby Sleep Expert, Author of “Dream Baby Nights©”, Founder of Dream Baby Sleep® and the creator of The Sleep Lab class.
About Dream Baby Sleep
Dream Baby Sleep offers science-backed sleep solutions for any and every family. We use four sleep training methods, and each has been perfected by more than eight years of research and is supported by the science behind baby sleep and carefully calibrated timing.
All our consultants are certified by the Institute of Pediatric Sleep & Parenting, trained in all the methods we use, and have mentored directly under our founder, Carolynne J. Harvey. We guide families in choosing a sleep training method that will work best for them, taking into account the age of their baby, their parenting style, the temperament of their child and their family dynamic—not simply “crying it out.”
With our help, we can prevent babies from getting overtired, find a sleep training method that works for the parents and the child, and set everyone in the family up for success — and a great night’s sleep.
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