As a pediatric sleep consultant, I want to make sleep a thing in your home! Many of the parents I work with wonder how much sleep their child should be getting with naps during the day.
In this blog post, I want to share about what expectations you should have for naps and daytime sleep for each age for your child, from a newborn to age 3. If you have a 4 or 5-year-old, and they are still napping, we will talk about that too!
If your child is experiencing short naps, early mornings, or night wakings, this nap guide is going to give you so much help.
Anytime I work with a family that has a sleep issue, I always ask about their daily routine. The sleep routine can reveal a lot about what’s going wrong in sleep.
Do you know your child’s schedule? I want you to take a moment right now and type it in your notes app or jot it down on a notepad. This is going to help us figure out how long your child’s naps need to be.
Let’s start with our newborns. I classify newborns as 0 to 15 weeks old, or roughly 3 months old.
So for newborns, you do not have a nap time total. But as an aside here, I encourage you to go grab our newborn sleep course. Our newborn class is going to give you the education on how to help your newborn sleep. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that newborns sleep anywhere between 14 to 18 hours within a 24 hour period. With newborns, we don’t say they need a certain amount during the day and night. Simply put, they’re going to have an average of anywhere between 14 to 18 hours of sleep within a 24 hour period.
In my years of sleep training, I have seen a realistic average of around 15-16 hours out of 24 hours in a day.
Does this mean you need to go absolutely crazy and mark down with a timer to the second how long your newborn is sleeping? I want you to feel free to enjoy your newborn, but I knew that my baby was going to be awake for about 45 minutes before her next nap.
Ready to learn more? Get our Newborn Course!
Next, we are looking at four months olds, and their daytime sleep needs. This is the only age where there are four naps totaling four hours! In a perfect world, your baby would take an hour nap, but your baby’s not perfect. Normally what we see are two long naps and two short naps.
Generally, the first and third naps of the day are going to be your longer naps.
This is just what I have recognized as a pattern in babies over the years. The first nap of the day is usually the longest because your child has a lot of sleep pressure from the night before. Sometimes these short naps are 20-40 mins and the long naps are between 1 and 2.5 hours.
If your child has reached 4 hours of daytime sleep and they still have the final nap, I’d ask you to wake them early or skip that nap altogether.
If they get too much daytime sleep, you’re probably going to experience night wakings, early morning wakings, and maybe even fighting bedtime because they technically had too much sleep that day.
Trust me on this one—a four month old needs four hours of daytime sleep.
For a five-month-old, we are looking to get around three and a half hours of daytime sleep with three naps per day. So this could mean three naps at 1 hour each. If your child is getting more than three hours of sleep and still has a final nap for the day, I’d ask you to wake them from those naps early. This will give them a better nighttime sleep.
Around 6-7 months old, you are going to start to notice that your child is beginning to fight sleep. They might especially be fighting that third nap. It’s time to drop it and transition to 2 naps.
So between 6-7 months and all the way up to 12-14 months, your child will have two naps with a total of three hours. This could mean a perfect split of 1.5 hours per nap each, but sometimes the morning nap is easier to extend.
Now is the time that a family can feel like they have a good schedule!
Finally, my parents are saying, “My child gets up at seven. They go down at 9:30, and later, they go down at 2:00 for their second nap, and later, 7:00 for bedtime.”
Around 12 to 14 months, your little one is ready to transition to one nap. They are going to finally keep this one nap schedule until almost three years old when they outgrow their need for a nap.
Breathe a sigh of relief! You’ve spent their first year of life constantly transitioning their nap schedule!
For a 12- to 24-month-old, your child needs about 2.5 hours of daytime sleep for that one nap. If they are sleeping beyond that, I’d ask you to wake your child so they will be ready for their evening routine.
For ages between 2 and 3, I’d recommend between 1.5 and 2 hours of sleep. Two hours is a sweet spot for this age. If your little one is only napping for 1.5 hours and is waking happy and their mood is fine, then don’t stress!
Napping too much is going to take away from their nighttime sleep, so be sure to wake them if they are sleeping too much.
After the age of 3, daytime totals will be 0. Typically, if they are napping at this age, they are going to be sleeping less at nighttime.
If your child is over 3 years of age and napping at daycare, I would discuss this with your daycare to avoid getting too much daytime sleep. Read more about how to handle daycare and naps here.
From 4 months old until older elementary age, your child still needs 11-12 hours of sleep.
That is not a wish. That is not a fantasy. This is actually what your child needs and that’s not going away any time soon.
So as we look back at the schedule you wrote down at the beginning of this post, are you needing to kind of shift some totals around?
Are you finding that your little one is getting too little or too much daytime sleep? Does your child need to transition to one less nap?
I hope this was a helpful blog post for you. Please forward this to a friend who is struggling with their child’s daytime sleep. Ready to make sleep a thing in your family—check out our sleep programs!
Sweet dreams. See you next time.
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