As a parent of a newborn, establishing a consistent nap schedule is essential for your baby's development and well-being. Sleep is crucial for babies, with newborns sleeping up to 17 hours a day. As your baby grows, their sleep needs will change, but naps will continue to be an important part of their daily routine. In this article, we'll look at baby nap schedules and how to create one that works for your family.
Importance of naps to your baby’s sleep & development
Naps are an essential part of your baby’s total sleep. The mix of REM and NREM sleep in a given sleep cycle differs, depending on when the sleep cycle takes place.
Other reasons naps are important:
Promotes physical growth: Sleep is essential for the physical growth and development of babies, and naps play a crucial role in helping babies meet their sleep needs.
Improves mood and behavior: When babies are well-rested, they tend to be happier and more content. Naps can help reduce fussiness and irritability and improve overall behavior.
Boosts cognitive development: Sleep is essential for cognitive development, and naps can help babies process and retain new information, improving learning and memory skills.
Supports immune function: Sleep is critical for the functioning of the immune system, and naps can help support the immune system, reducing the risk of illness and infections.
Prevents overtiredness: Babies can quickly become overtired , which can lead to fussiness and difficulty sleeping. Naps provide a chance for babies to rest and recharge, preventing overtiredness and helping them sleep better at night.
How to approach developing a nap schedule for your baby
Developing a nap schedule for your baby can be challenging, but with a little patience and trial and error, you can establish a routine that works for your family.
Did you know that the morning nap is more mentally restorative and the afternoon nap is more physically restorative. When your baby naps is just as important as how long they nap for, that’s why a balanced nap schedule is so important!
Here are some tips for developing a nap schedule:
Observe your baby's sleep patterns: Start by observing your baby's natural sleep patterns, such as when they tend to get sleepy and how long they sleep. This will give you an idea of when your baby is most likely to nap and for how long.
For help with tracking and to get sleeps in sync with your baby’s natural rhythm, download the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers app – this easy-to-use app offers a dynamic schedule that updates as you track sleeps, so you always know when it’s the perfect time to put baby down for a nap!
Consider your baby's age: The nap schedule will vary depending on your baby's age, so it's important to consider their developmental stage when creating a sleep schedule.
Follow a consistent routine: Establish a consistent routine for naps that includes a quiet and calm environment, a diaper change, and a feeding before nap time. This routine will help your baby's body clock get into a regular sleep pattern.
Respond to sleepy cues: Pay attention to your baby's sleepy cues, such as rubbing their eyes, yawning, or becoming fussy. Responding to these cues promptly can help make sure you get your baby down when their sleep drive is highest, helping them fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer!
Adjust gradually: As your baby grows and their sleep needs change, be prepared to adjust their nap schedule gradually. Sudden changes can disrupt their routine and make it harder for them to nap.
NOTE: Remember that every baby is different, and what works for one baby or family may not work for another. Be flexible and willing to adjust your schedule as needed to meet your baby's changing sleep needs.
What’s the best sleep environment for naps?
- Safety first – make sure your baby is put to sleep on their backs, in a crib or bassinet that is free of loose bedding and completely empty.
- Dark – use black out shades and keep the space as dark as possible. Any light at all can play havoc with naps.
- Peaceful –Use white or brown noise to block out any background noise
- Cool – keep it between 68-72 degrees
True or False: Daytime naps should happen in a light room to help your baby distinguish between night and day….
FALSE! Since the circadian rhythm is governed by light, daytime (and overnight) sleeps should happen in a pitch dark space. Your baby will naturally regulate their understanding of daytime and overnight during their first few weeks of life.
Age Appropriate Nap Schedules for Babies 0-24 months
The age of your baby plays a big role in determining their nap schedule. It's important to establish a consistent nap routine with naps at roughly the same time each day – ideally in line with your baby’s internal body clock.
- Newborns will sleep in a 24 hour cycle, waking every 2-4 hours to feed and be changed. They don’t really have a nap schedule until closer to 3 months.
- 3-6 Month old babies will typically take three to four naps a day, with each nap lasting between 30 minutes to two hours. Sleep waves fall at 9am, 1pm and 3pm.
- 6-12 Month old babies usually take two to three naps a day, with each nap lasting between 30 minutes to two hours. They will transition from 3 to 2 naps around 8 months – napping at 9am and 1pm.
- 12-24 Month old babies will typically take one to two naps a day, with each nap lasting between one to two hours. It’s not uncommon for parents to transition to 1-nap too soon. I recommend waiting as long as possible, the 2- nap transition should happen around 15-18 months. Once your baby is on 1 nap, it will shift to around 12noon and they will stay on that nap until they drop naps altogether at 3 or 4 years old.
Here is a table of naps by baby age at a glance:
How to establish a good naptime routine for your baby
Establishing a good naptime routine can help your baby get the sleep they need and make it easier for them to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Here are some tips for creating a good naptime routine
Keep it consistent: Establish a consistent naptime routine that you follow every day. This routine should include a few simple steps, such as changing your baby's diaper, reading a book, and singing a lullaby.
Keep it short and sweet: Keep your naptime routine short and sweet, lasting no more than 30 minutes. Too much stimulation or activity can make it harder for your baby to fall asleep, so keep the routine simple and calming.
Follow your baby's cues: Pay attention to your baby's cues and establish a naptime routine that works for them. For example, if your baby tends to get fussy at before a nap window it may be a good time to start the routine.
Stick to a schedule: Establish a consistent nap schedule that works for your baby and stick to it as much as possible. This will help your baby's body clock get into a regular sleep pattern and make it easier for them to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Be flexible: Remember that every baby is different, and what works for one baby may not work for another. Be willing to adjust your naptime routine as needed to meet your baby's changing sleep needs.
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2016). SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths: Updated 2016 recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/138/5/e20162938
Sleep Foundation. (2021). The importance of naptime for kids. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/children-and-sleep/napping
How We Wrote This Article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.