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Napping 101: How many naps and when to drop a nap [Plus Sample Nap Schedules]

Napping 101: Nap Schedules

Babies…Just when we think we have them figured out, BOOM they change their needs again. So Let’s talk Napping 101.

We’re going to talk about baby nap schedules. Which means how many naps, age appropriate naps, and if/when your baby actually needs to change nap schedules.

Four Nap Schedule

Your baby’s first nap routine is going to have 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. If reading isn’t enough, has videos that teach parents the ins, outs basics and not so basics on navigating newborn sleep!

Sample nap schedule for a 1-5 month old: [Your baby will have a wake window from 60-120 minutes]

Wakeup 7am

Nap 830-10

Nap 1130-1

Nap 230-4

Nap 5-530[cat]

Bedtime 7pm

When to Drop the fourth nap:

Dropping a fourth nap 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.

Three Nap Schedule

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 they are ready for three naps as early as 7 months and some babies may not be ready until nine months.  Typically a baby will nap 1-2 hours for each of the big naps and take a short cat nap in the afternoon. But, some babies choose to take their short naps at other times of the day. The main goal is to have your baby wake from their last nap 2.5-3 hours before bedtime.

If your baby isn’t sleeping well at night or for naps, we find that this is the ideal time to implement sleep training.

Sample Nap Schedule for a 5-8 month old

Wakeup 7am

Nap 9-1030

Nap 1230-2

Nap 4-430

Bedtime 7pm

When to Drop the Third Nap:

You will know when your baby needs to drop their third nap when this schedule stops working. Typically this is because their wake windows are 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 first before you make the transition. Sometimes an earlier morning nap can actually be the ticket! And sometimes they need awake time to stretched out more. Naps can be trial and error.

Two Nap Schedule

Your 8-16 month old will likely be on a two nap schedule. This nap routine brings a sense of ease 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 map out the day’s naps, type A parents can finally breathe here as their baby settles into a consistent routine. This schedule will stay dependable for some time. Possibly even for a year. It will consist of 2-4 hours of daytime sleep. Typically 1-2 hours for each nap. *If your baby is only taking 30 minute naps they may be overtired or haven’t learned self-soothing skills yet and therefore are not connecting sleep cycles.*

napping 101, baby nap schedules

Sample Nap Schedule for an 8-18 month old

Wakeup 7am

Nap 930-11

Nap 2-330

Bedtime 7pm

When To Drop the second Nap:

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 rather bedtime may begin to become a struggle. A baby is ready for one nap between 15-18 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” them to adjust to one nap. You may need to move bedtime earlier for a couple of weeks to compensate for the lost sleep. Toddlers generally adjust between 2-5 days and then will begin to get sleepy at their new nap times.

One Nap Schedule

Generally a one nap schedule is for toddlers from 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. If your baby is climbing out of their crib but isn’t ready to drop their nap yet, we can help with that too! Adventurous Toddlers.

napping 101, baby nap schedules

Sample Nap Schedule for a baby 15 months and older:

Wakeup 7am

Nap 1230-230

Bedtime 7pm

When to Drop the Last Nap:

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 after a short nap strike. 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!

Still having issues even after reading over napping 101?? We can help with that: sleep training with the Nightingales

Recap of Napping 101: How many naps and when to drop a nap:

One month old nap schedule: four [or more] naps

Two month old nap schedule: four naps

Three month old nap schedule: four naps

Four month old nap schedule: three or four naps

Five month old nap schedule: three naps

Six month old nap schedule: three naps

Seven month old nap schedule: three naps

Eight month old nap schedule: three or two

Nine month old nap schedule: three or two naps

Ten month old nap schedule: two naps

Eleven month old nap schedule: two naps

Twelve month old nap schedule: two naps

Thirteen month old nap schedule: two naps

Fourteen month old nap schedule: two naps

Fifteen month old nap schedule: one or two naps

Sixteen month old nap schedule: one or two naps

Seventeen month old nap schedule: likely transitioning to one nap

Eighteen month old nap schedule: Likely on one nap

Thanks for reading Napping 101!