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Nap times are important, both for the baby and the parent. Longer naps contribute to cheerful playtimes. A less cranky baby, a well-relaxed parent makes for a happier home, right? But with babies on board, things are easier said than done.
Knowing how long should baby nap and establishing a baby nap routine can make things much easier. Let’s explore how to do just that and everything else you need to know about baby nap time!
Is it common for babies to sleep a lot?
The first thing to know for any new parent is that babies sleep a lot. Babies require a lot of sleep and it is critical for the overall development and health of the newborn. Good sleep positively impacts baby weight gain, brain development, behavioral changes, and cognitive performance of the child.
A newborn may sleep for about 16 hours a day waking only for feeding and changing. It is hence relatively easier for anyone to take care of the babies in its initial 2-3 months since the baby just sleeps for the better part of the day. As months pass on and babies get older, they tend to sleep less during the day and more at night. Most babies begin to sleep through the whole night regularly only after turning 6 months old.
Why are Nap Times Important for Babies?
While the baby must have a night of sound sleep, it is as important for them to have daytime naps too.
Babies cannot tolerate being awake for long as adults do. Child development experts believe that the rapid brain development that happens during the early years tires out the babies. That’s why they insist on the importance of naps and how long should baby nap.
With no adequate sleep-
- the baby becomes irritable
- doesn’t take feed properly
- and may have frequent meltdowns
If a baby does not get enough sleep, coping with the consequences becomes difficult for the baby as well as the primary caretaker of the baby.
How Many Naps Does a Baby Need in a Day?
The number of nap times during the day depends on the age of the baby.
- Newborns need five to eight naps a day or more
- After turning 3 months old, nap times reduce to thrice a day
- After 6 months, most babies require only two naps during the day.
- It is also common for naps to be consolidated into one after the baby turns 1
Kids continue to have this one-time nap until they are 3 years old and that is when their sleep patterns become similar to that of adults. Most kids entirely drop the daytime nap after 3 years of age.
Best Baby Nap timings
There are generally no hard-and-fast rules for deciding the nap timings and it depends typically on the caretaker’s daily routine and work schedules.
Be informed about this age-appropriate guideline for the wake periods in between the naps of your baby
- 0-1 month – 45 minutes between naps
- 1-2 months – 45 to 60 minutes between naps
- 2-4 months – 1.5 to 3 hours between naps
- 5-8 months – 2.5 to 3 hours between naps
- 9-12 months – 2.5 to 4 hours between naps
How Long Should Baby Nap?
Every child is different and so, it is important to understand that the frequency and duration of naps vary from child to child. There is no such “ideal length” for naps. Very short naps (as short as 15 mins to 30 mins) and long naps (more than 3 hours at a stretch) – and everything in between (1.5 – 2 hours of good sleep) are considered normal.
The best nap length for your baby is one that is long enough to be refreshing. Sometimes long hours of sleep might lead to sleep inertia, a state of drowsiness after sleep.
The baby should wake up to be healthy and energetic – that’s all you need to watch. Whenever the baby is tired, he demands sleep and he will take enough sleep time for him to be up and active during the wake window. Let the child decide the length of its fulfillment naps.
When the baby is sick or is undergoing a growth spurt, they tend to sleep longer than usual. Of course, our bodies require more energy to deal with illness and nothing energizes the body as much as good sleep.
Benefits of Longer naps
While lack of sleep has its effects on babies, we never emphasize the benefits of longer naps. Napping has all of the following benefits.
- Conserves energy
- Improve the cognitive development of babies
- Enhances memory and learning ability
- Provides longer attention span
- Provides better emotional regulation
- Helps in having better nighttime sleep
Understanding the Changes in Baby’s Nap Times
With babies at home, it is not easy to predict the time your day would start. Babies decide the sleeping schedule of the family members too. However, the sleep schedule for babies keeps varying. The amount of sleep that the babies require, changes significantly as they grow old.
Get ready to expect new changes every month. Here’s a list of what to expect at each stage and a rough schedule on how many times and how long should the baby nap.
Newborns spend the majority of their time sleeping for around 14 to 18 hours a day. The infant is not yet set to the day and night patterns and you are unsure of when the baby would wake up again after the nap. Do not be worried about short and erratic naps during this stage. Instead, focus on establishing a sleeping routine for nighttime. Let the baby get used to having an extended night sleep and relatively shorter daytime naps.
How many nap times: 6 to 8 naps
How long should baby nap: 30 minutes to 4 hours
Usually, by three months of age, babies can stay awake a little longer between the naps. The baby’s sleep cycle changes and they begin to follow a more regularised sleeping pattern. Babies learn to fall asleep on their own.
Shortly after 3 months when the baby is into the 4th month, many physiological changes begin to occur. This is the stage when the baby learns to roll over, absorb language, begin to recognize faces and become more active throughout the day. This can affect the sleep cycle of the babies and is commonly referred to as the 4 Month Sleep Regression. Babies might wake up frequently during the night, wake early from naps, and it might become harder for the parent to settle the baby before sleep.
How many nap times: 4 to 5 naps
How long should baby nap: 30 minutes to 2 hours
After the fourth month, babies’ napping times are reduced to three times a day. The waking window will be around two and half hours between naps. This is the time to introduce healthy sleep habits and a naptime routine to help the baby have a cue that the sleep time is coming.
In the sixth month, the baby should be sleeping through the night without breaks and naps not more than three times a day. While the nap timings become more predictable and consistent, falling into a routine, the nap length might be reduced. Babies begin to get stimulated easily and tend to wake up from naps early.
How many nap times: 3 to 4 naps
How long should baby nap: 30/45 minutes to 2 hours
Babies continue to have three naps a day until they are 9 months old. With three naps a day, the night sleep routine might get delayed a bit. Some babies drop the late afternoon sleep by the seventh month and have an early bedtime (around 7:00 p.m) during the night. Of course, they tend to wake up early too. But parents should feel grateful for the free time they can get during the night.
How many nap times: 2-3 Naps
How long should baby nap: 1 to 3 hours
At around 9 months, most babies have another round of sleep regression. Some babies have a nap transition and reduce their nap times from 3 to only 2 naps during the daytime. When the teething process has begun, the infant is undergoing a growth spurt and they tend to nap for long hours which is common. Of course, it is time for moms to have extra relaxing hours. There is an enormous energy demand at this stage and babies begin to eat a little more than usual.
How many nap times: 2 naps
How long should baby nap: 1 to 2.5 hours
By the time they reach the one-year timeline, babies should have developed a consistent sleep schedule around which parents could plan their day. At this stage, if the baby is still having erratic naps try to focus on having nap routines and achieve some regularity.
How many nap times: 1 to 2 naps
How long should baby nap: 1 to 3 hours
This is the stage where the baby gets ready for the 1 nap per day sleep transition. But please wait until they reach 15 months. Be natural with the timings and always follow what is comfortable for your baby.
18 Months - 3 Years
By now, your child is no more a baby but a toddler. At this stage, toddler independence is what they demand and their sleep schedule begins to replicate the adults of the home. Be careful to set your child’s only nap time correctly during the day (usually in the noon after lunchtime) so that the night sleep doesn’t get dragged too late. Most children tend to entirely drop their afternoon sleep around three years of age.
How many nap times: 1 nap
How long should baby nap: 1.5 to 2.5 hours
Nap Time Routine
Napping usually happens naturally because babies reach sleep homeostasis faster than adults. They develop sleep pressure and begin to exhibit signs of tiredness. The parent needs to understand the sleepiness cues of the baby and promptly put him to sleep. You do not have to wait for the baby to become cranky and demand a nap. Establishing a nap time routine makes things easier for the baby and the parent.
A nap time routine can be anything that calms your baby and settles him to sleep. It can be 5 to ten minutes long, enabling the babies to get into a sleeping mode.
Tips for Establishing a Baby Nap Routine
- Put your baby to sleep right after feeding and a diaper change. It makes the babies feel more comfortable driving them to a sleepy mood.
- Most breastfeeding mothers find it easier to put their babies to sleep because babies tend to fall asleep once their tummies are full with mother-fed milk. Breastfeeding naturally provides a soothing effect.
- Track your baby’s sleep and create an optimal environment for sleep – having a quiet room with low-level lighting helps.
Other Nap Time Habits That Helps
- Swaddling the infant before putting them in the crib
- Rocking the cradle in to and fro motion
- Gently patting over the baby’s back
- Caressing the baby lying on the bed
- Wrapping the baby on your shoulders and moving them back and forth
- Singing a lullaby song, or reading a story
- Have the same nap times every day.
- Once the baby gets into that sleep zone avoid picking the baby up again as it can re-stimulate the baby.
- Dress the baby in comfortable clothes while sleeping. Ensure that the bedroom temperature is according to his liking.
Look for what your baby prefers and loves. You can be creative to make the nap time routine convenient for you and your baby.
Naps are so vital that experts suggest the parents plan their entire day around the baby’s nap timings. Don’t wait for the baby to cry it out for naps. Know how long should a baby nap according to his age and prepare ahead for better parenting times.