Parents everywhere are wondering what is the perfect amount of nap for their little ones. And since sleep is related to development, there is only one clear answer. Research and studies can give us the best guess for most babies of a certain age, but your baby is unique and may need a unique amount of sleep to feel rested. Sleep is definitely important for healthy growth and development, but only for us to feel like our best self! The best indicator of whether your toddler is getting enough sleep is how he is feeling and acting! Do you have a happy little one? Then you are on your way!
When your baby is born for the first time, his circadian rhythm (the biological clock that determines the difference between day and night) has not yet been established and will not be for months! Your baby will look to you to help him recognize the difference between day and night by following your social signs. They will need a lot of sleep during the day and night, but as they grow, their sleep needs will decrease, giving them longer periods of sleep at night and longer periods of waking during the day.
As sleep develops and all babies reach these stages at different times, the best nap advice is to meet your baby where he is, not just by age.
Newborn cat naps
It is impossible to predict a newborn’s sleep schedule. They can sleep from 30 minutes to 3 hours, 4-6 times a day. Because they have such small stomachs, they wake up to eat often. So at this point, your nap schedule follows their hunger schedule. Around 12-16 weeks, their naps will begin to develop and their circadian rhythm begins to set, which means they should get less daytime sleep and longer stretches at night!
4 naps a day
At about 3-5 months of age, your young child will nap from 30 minutes to 1 hour with wake-up windows from 90 minutes to 2 hours. This is the transition period to a more consistent nap and is a sign that the nap is developing. This is also a great time to start introducing the concept of reassurance. Calmness usually develops closer to six months, so be kind to yourself and your baby as you practice. Give your baby access to his hands, a pacifier if he picks it up, and try to put him still awake before napping and going to bed when possible.
3 naps a day
At about 4-5 months, your baby will begin to stretch his nap closer to 1-2 hours and will extend his waking windows by 90 minutes to 2.5 hours. You will find that their fourth nap becomes shorter or closer to bedtime, or they refuse it altogether. It’s time to give up this fourth nap! Now that naps are getting longer, offering pre-nap meals can help with napping breaks from hunger. Your baby will need three naps before approaching or even after 8 months of age.
2 naps a day
When your baby shows no signs of drowsiness around his usual nap time and stretches his wake-up windows closer to 3 hours while maintaining a 1-2 hour nap, then you know it’s time to give up that third nap! This usually happens between 8-9 months. The transition can be uneven, some days they are happy with two, and the next they need three. Don’t worry, it’s normal to go back and forth, but after a few days they should be on their way to consistency. Retrieving bedtime earlier by about 30 minutes can be a great strategy for going through this transition.
1 nap per day
Reducing to one nap a day can happen at any time between 12-18 months. This is the longest range for the development of sleep, so it can be difficult to notice when it happens. If your child stays awake for more than 3 hours between sleep and then nap somewhere between 2-3 hours, then they are ready to switch to an afternoon nap a day. This usually falls between the waking time and the bedtime, which gives them equal windows to wake up between the two. Afternoon is a great time to take a nap, as their bellies are full and our bodies feel sleepy after a good meal.
Your young child may start to refuse a nap somewhere in the 3-5 years. Some days they decide, and some days they need more help to get the much-needed nap. Stopping earlier in the days without a nap can help them not to feel overtired. But just because your toddler is no longer asleep doesn’t mean you don’t need rest and a little quiet time. Leaving them alone in their room to play alone and quietly can help them rest sensually and help you spend some time in silence.
When you can’t follow their example
The number of naps needed can be determined by biological factors, but also by environmental or social factors. As busy parents, we sometimes fail to take care of our baby all day. For example, some kindergartens have determined sleep time based on age. If your baby needs three naps, but has moved to his room for two naps, then he only gets two naps. And that’s absolutely right! Follow the schedule of your daily care and guide the days when you have the baby, because consistency is the key to great sleep. School can be another reason why we need to correct naps. This usually happens when your young child wants two naps, but should have one because of school. Plan to go to bed earlier to help them get the sleep they need to feel happy and healthy.