Naps B R E A K D O W N: How Many Naps Should my Baby Take (and When to Drop a Nap!)

How many naps does my baby and/or toddler need?  How long should they be? (Bookmark or PIN this page, trust me you’re going to want to come back!)  Let’s make your life just a little easier- grab a glass of Pinot and digest this nap breakdown from birth to 3 years old.

Naps will forever in my heart be a love-hate relationship.  While I LOVE getting a much-needed break to clean my house (orrrr catch up on Real Housewives & the Bachelor), sometimes I loathe not being able to attend a social function or leaving the beach early because I have to check into “napjail”.  However, consistency with naps is extremely important, and without it all sorts of things can fall out of whack: meltdowns in Target, endless crying, naptime battles, and sleeping the car for 2 minutes (and having to forgo your DVR date with the Bachelor because it’s given them enough juice to last another hour, ugh.)

Let’s start with the newborns. Although 0-3 month old infants are notorious for falling asleep on the job (i.e. breastfeeding) or in the car/stroller/swing, they should be napping every 60-90 minutes from the last time they woke up.  YES- EVERY 1.5 HOURS max that sweet little newborn needs a snooze.  This can work itself out to be about 4-5 naps throughout the day, and at this age they can virtually sleep anywhere, but it’s still a fantastic idea to get a least one of these naps in the crib if possible.  (Tips on newborn naps & crib transitioning can be found in our Newborn Sleep Survival Guide here.)

4-6 Months Old:  You've made past the first 3 months hooray!  Beginning on Month 4, your baby will pass through the dreaded 4-month regression, so taking naps at this age is particulary difficult for some families (help on getting through the regression, click here!)  Depending on the length of the naps, these babes can take 3-4 naps a day, with the last catnap taking place between 5-6pm.  I like to work towards 3 naps at this age with my clients, only because the 3rd nap is dropped within a few months.  Ideally, you’ll want to shoot for 3-5 hours of daytime sleep, with the first & second nap averaging at least an hour, and the catnap about 45 minutes.  If your baby isn't already sleeping in his crib for all naps, this is the ideal age to begin the transition. (*Note the AAP recommends room sharing for at least 6-12 months, so use your Mommy discretion here.)

6-9 Months Old:  This is the age you can FINALLY abide by a clock schedule, making your day more predictable. (For help on creating a schedule, click here).  The 3rd catnap should begin to disappear- this is where you’ll notice your little one increasingly has trouble going down (or falling asleep at all) for this last powernap.  Once you notice this happening over a course of 2 weeks, go ahead and gradually increase his wake windows to at least 3 hours and drop that last nap.  Over this transition, some days he/she will need 3 naps, some days only 2, but the transition only lasts about 2 weeks.  Don’t forget when naps are dropped, you’ll want to move up bedtime by 30 minutes for at least the first week or you’ll have major bedtime battles.  Overall whether it’s 2 or 3 naps, your child needs about 3 hours of daytime sleep.

9-12 Months Old:  Only two naps remain, averaging 45-90 minutes each.  Both naps should be in the crib, or begin doing so ASAP.

12-15 Months Old:  The majority of daycares will push children to one nap, but if you can hold off or at least give your child the chance to nap twice still on the weekends or after a big day, go ahead and do so.  This is the age most children will have those meltdowns in the Target dollar aisle, because parents mistakenly drop the second nap a little bit too early.  Mom tip: Always bring a snack as backup for a fussy toddler regardless.  (For help on creating a schedule, click here).

15-18 Months Old: The 2nd nap is beginning to disappear similar to how the catnap did when your babe was 6-9 months old (I know, I blacked out everything that happened in infancy already too).  You’ll notice over two weeks that the naps will become shorter, or your baby won’t be able to fall asleep easily.  You’ll want to slowly transition in 30 minute increments to eventually get to a 12pm or 1pm naptime.  This one nap should last 2-3 hours.

18 Months Old-3 Years Old: One nap remains, usually from 1-3pm in the afternoon.  After the 3rd birthday you will sadly notice this nap begin to disappear as well.  I recommend if your child stays at home to enforce “quiet time” in those hours still in their room with quiet activities, or you risk them accidentally passing out in the car coming home from dinner or having a complete meltdown by dinnertime.  (For help on creating a schedule, click here).

In the end, always be sure to use my “Sleep and the City” rules for successful sleep shaping:

  • The same sleeping environment is encouraged ( meaning one place over and over, or to start, at least one nap in the desired sleep place per day).  We LOVE the Dock-a-Tot Grand for my toddlers to achieve this no matter where we are! USE CODE 10EXIT for $10 off now! ;)
  • Swaddle (0-6 months) for nighttime and nap times as needed; we love how easy this is with the Ollie Swaddle and this link will get you 10% off ;)
  • Comfy outfits for nap time (who wants to sleep in tight pants or a dress?!)  We love pajamas from Finn & Emma, which are 100% organic and wonderful for sensitive skin.
  • White noise is continuously running; a one with low rumbling is best like our fave from Hatch Baby
  • Room is completely dark for naps & nighttime (nightlight over 2+ years ok)
  • Understand the Wake windows by age (For help on creating a schedule, click here).
  • Pause before rushing in to see if child can resettle on their own first if nap is less than 45 minutes
  • Feed upon WAKING from sleep, not before (bedtime is the exception)

For more professional Baby & Toddler Sleep Ideas and Help, visit sleepandthecity.com/instanthelp

 As always, contact me if you need any help and I'll be glad to take a look at your situation and recommend some great fixes that fit your lifestyle and child's temperament.  Have a great day everyone! ~Lauren