The first year of your little one’s life is filled with fun milestones–from the first smile to the first tooth to crawling. Sleep also plays a significant role in the first year of life and beyond.
Arguably, sleep is sought after and discussed more than most topics surrounding a new baby, and for a good reason. Sleep is crucial to your baby’s happiness and health, as well as yours. That’s why ensuring you’re creating the proper habits from the get-go is vital. And that starts with naps.
Summary of Naps Throughout Baby’s First Year
Over time, your baby’s nap schedules will naturally evolve; here is what you can expect in the first year.1,2
Birth to Four Months
Many babies sleep up to 16 hours daily in the first few months. Naps last between 30 minutes and three hours and are usually scheduled around feeding times. Awake windows are generally 1 ½ to 2 hours, and total day sleep can range from three to five hours.
Most babies at six months old are comfortable with just two to three naps per day. It is also quite possible that those naps will be shorter, lasting 45 minutes to 2 ½ hours.
By the time they reach their first birthday, daytime sleep ranges from two to three hours (more for higher sleep needs babies) and is usually divided between two naps. Experts recommend keeping the morning nap between 45 minutes and an hour and a half. This is so the afternoon nap will be longer and enable your little one to make it to bedtime without becoming overtired.
How to Schedule Baby’s Naps
Creating a nap schedule in the first three months is difficult as babies have no sense of their circadian rhythm. However, they can start to tell the difference between night and day by the time they reach three months. This is when you can start implementing a routine for your little one.
First, figure out how many naps your little one should have based on age and how much wake time they need each day. Factor in that many children sleep for a slightly longer stretch during the night’s first half. This will help you determine the correct sleep ratio to wake time ratio.
Here is a quick breakdown of what you can expect when scheduling naps for your little one:3
- 3-4 months: 3-4 naps lasting up to 2 hours each (1 ½ to 2 hours in between naps)
- 4-6 months: 2-3 naps lasting up to 2 hours each (2 to 3 hours in between naps)
- 7-12 months: 2 naps lasting up to 2 hours each (2 ½ to 4 hours between naps)
Tips for Nap Times
Here are some tips to keep in mind for nap times:3,4
Create a Nap Routine
Create a soothing routine that lets your baby know that naptime is coming. This can include small activities like looking at a book together, snuggling, changing their diaper, and putting on a sleep sack. Providing swaddles and sleep props like pacifiers can help establish a routine.
The important thing is to be consistent with the same routine before every nap.
Make the Room as Dark as You Can
Light is not conducive to a great sleep environment. Make sure to keep the room as dark as possible. You may need blackout curtains and sturdy blinds, or it might be as simple as rearranging their room so the sun does not hit their crib mid-afternoon.
Use White Noise
Especially if you have other children in the home, it might be helpful to block out the hustle and bustle of the rest of the house. One way to block out the sounds of conversation, cooking, music, and anything else is to place a white noise machine near the crib.
Meet with a Sleep Consultant
Setting your little one up for successful sleep is essential if you want them to get the rest they need during naptime. Your little one can benefit from quality sleep time regardless of how old they are. These guidelines can help you institute a naptime routine and schedule that suits your child’s age and stage of development.
If you still struggle with how to get your baby to nap, consider meeting with a pediatric sleep consultant for personalized feedback on your baby’s nap schedule. This can be an invaluable tool to help you set your baby up for success regarding naps, nighttime sleep, and more.