Babies…Just when we think we have them figured out, BOOM they change their needs again.
We’re going to talk about how many naps, age appropriate naps, and if/when your baby actually needs to change nap schedules.
Your baby’s first nap routine is going to be with four naps. Babies typically are in this routine by 1 month and stay in this routine until around FIVE MONTHS. For more on this routine check out our Eat. Play. Sleep blog. Here’s a sample:
Sample schedule for a 1-5 month old: [Your baby will vary awake time from 60-120 minutes]
When to Drop:
Typically happens around 5 months old. You will know when this nap isn’t working because your baby will start being awake for longer stretches. With these longer stretches awake your baby will sleep past their feedings. Generally your beautiful 3 hour eat play sleep will fall apart and you’ll be wondering why! To be ready for three naps your baby also needs to be able to take at least one long nap a day. Three 30 minute naps will not cut it, your baby will end up overtired from less total sleep.
Once your baby is five months old they should be ready for the three nap schedule. This is a short lived routine and generally will get you until around EIGHT MONTHS. For some babies this is 7 months and some babies may not be ready until nine months. Typically 1-2 hours for each of the big naps and a short cat nap in the afternoon lends for the best schedule. But some babies take their short naps at other times of the day. Just try to have your baby wake from their last nap 2.5-3 hours before bedtime.
Sample Schedule of a 5-8 month old
When to Drop:
You will know when this schedule stops working because of the awake times changing again. A 5-8 month old can often only stay awake for 1.5-2 hours in the morning, and up to 2.5 hours in the late afternoon. To be able to move to a 2 nap schedule your baby needs to be able to be awake for around four hours in the afternoon. If your baby starts melting around 3 hours, they likely are not ready for this transition yet. If your baby is fighting one of their three naps, try shifting times around a bit. Sometimes an earlier morning nap can actually be the ticket! And sometimes they need awake time stretched out more. Naps are trial and error.
Your 8-16 month old will likely be on a two nap schedule. This nap routine brings calm to so many parents because you can put your baby down 3 times a day at the same time every day. After 8 months of trying to time out the day’s naps, type A parents can finally breathe here. This nap will stay consistent for some time. Possibly even for a year. It will consist of 2-4 hours of daytime sleep. Typically 1-2 for each nap. If your baby is taking 30 minute naps they may be overtired or unable to self soothe.
Sample Three Nap Schedule
When to drop:
You’ll know when your baby is ready to go down to one nap because they will begin fighting going down for one or both of their naps. Or bedtime may begin to become a struggle. A baby is ready for one nap between 15-20 months old. In America many babies are put on one nap around a year because of daycare classroom guidelines. Our feelings is that this is inappropriately early, if you can hold your baby off until even 14 months everyone will be much happier! This is the most difficult nap shift. Once your baby clearly shows signs of not needing both naps, choose a few days with nothing to do to “train” her to adjust to one nap. You may need to move bedtime earlier for a couple of weeks to compensate. Toddlers generally adjust between 2-5 days and begin to get sleepy at their new nap times.
Generally this nap is around 1.5 years old until 3. Some children need naps until they are four but many parents cut naps before children are ready. Naps vary based on family schedules and the age of the child but generally 1-3 hours of a nap anytime midday while waking at least four hours before bedtime is a recommended schedule.
When to drop:
This is the trickiest nap to know when to drop. Two and three year olds may go through multiple nap strikes, where they refuse to nap for days or even weeks. I STRONGLY recommend that parents and caregivers still keep this “rest time” as part of the routine. Most of the time the stubborn toddler will start napping again. Even when children do not need to sleep it is beneficial for them to lay down in a quiet area and rest for a bit. For older children this may mean looking at books or playing with stuffed animals in bed.
The true test of if your child needs to drop a nap is if they are unable to fall asleep at bedtime. Ideally your 2 year old is getting 12-14 hours and your 3 year old is getting 12-13 hours. If your little one is happy all day [not showing tired signs around 2/3pm and acting cranky from 3-bedtime], and they are getting 12 hours of sleep at night, then they are probably ready to drop their nap!