How long should naps be?
My baby’s napping. How long until they should wake up?
We’ve all heard those trying-to-be-helpful remarks from other people that we should do all the non-baby things in life while our baby is sleeping. However, those of us with children know that the length of time that our children sleep can vary, and it changes based on what’s going on, how old they are, and a variety of other factors.
Also, as a parent, it can be nerve wracking thinking about how long a baby nap should be. When should they go to sleep? Are they sleeping enough? Should I wake them up?
This guide can provide you with some milestones for thinking about your baby’s naps and how long a baby nap should be. While every baby is different, they all need to nap.
Nap Schedule by age
How long a baby nap should be really depends on the age of your child. As babies grow and develop, their needs evolve. One of those needs is how much sleep they need and when they get it. Let’s take a look at how long a baby nap should be based on the age of your infant. At a glance:
- 0-3 Months: 12-18 hours of sleep, multiple naps
- 4-6 Months: 3-5 naps, 45-90 minutes apieces
- 7-9 Months: 2-4 naps, 1-2 hours apiece
- 10-12 Months: 2 naps, 1-2 hours apiece
During these first four months with your baby, they will be sleeping all the time! Newborns don’t know if it’s day or if it’s night, so they will be sleeping around the clock. It’s hard to call any of this sleeping a “nap.” Basically, when your baby is tired, they’ll sleep. It’s not uncommon for a newborn to sleep 12-18 hours a day as they start to develop their natural rhythm.
Babies during this period may take up to 6 naps in a day. How long a baby nap should be during this period can be anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes before they will wake up and need your loving attention.
Once you’ve hit this milestone, you may start to find that your baby is developing a more natural routine. There starts to be a flow and a rhythm today, and naps are more easily set apart from longer periods of nighttime rest. Many recommend giving your baby the chance to nap at the same time each day starting in this period.
Most babies take between 3 and 5 naps a day during this period. These naps will last anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes. As they settle into this nap routine, how long a baby nap should be will start to become routine as well.
At six months, the shorter napping periods from the earlier points in your child’s development are coming to a close. How long a baby nap should be is starting to lengthen. Because of this, the nap routine will change and evolve as they sleep for longer periods of time during a shorter number of naps. Naps typically taper down to between and 2 and 4 a day during these months.
As your baby stays awake longer between naps, they should start to sleep about 1-2 hours every time they go down for a nap. Helping your baby adjust to a nap schedule that accommodates this new napping cycle will help them fall asleep and stay asleep.
Now that your baby is getting a little older, the number of naps they take will start to taper off. At the start of this period, they may be taking 3 or 4 naps a day. By the time your baby is a year old, the number of naps will drop to 2 each day. Typically, they will have one nap in the morning and then they will have another nap in the afternoon.
Your baby should be sleeping much more consistently now. How long a baby nap should be at this stage is about 1-2 hours. Over the course of the day, your baby will be getting 2-3 hours of daytime sleep to complement what they are getting during the night. This is preparing them for becoming a toddler and entering a 1 nap per day schedule.
What to do if your baby isn’t following the schedule
If your baby isn’t following the schedule above exactly, that is no cause for alarm. Every child is different, and each baby has their own unique temperament and energy. How long a baby nap should be depends on the baby. That being said, every child needs daytime sleep.
If your baby is consistently hitting the 2-3 hours of daytime napping starting at 5 months, then how long a baby nap should be is however long your baby is sleeping. If you’re concerned though, consult your pediatrician. They can give you the best advice on making sure your baby is getting the right kind of rest for their health and development.
Nap Regressions and Nap Transitions
Sometimes when you’re reading about how long a baby nap should be, you’ll come across two terms: nap regression and nap transition. Let’s explore what these mean.
A nap regression, also known as a sleep regression, is a period of a few weeks where the length of time your baby sleeps at a single time shortens dramatically as their body adapts to having sleep cycles. How long a baby should nap during this period shortens. This can be a trying time for parents, but this is a natural part of your baby growing and developing their sleep rhythm. During this period, your baby may resist naps, making it harder to get that needed daytime rest in.
Typically, many parents see nap regressions happening at the 4 and 8 month marks. However, some babies have their first regression as early as 8 weeks, and sometimes the second regression doesn’t happen until 10 months. They can last for a few weeks until your baby settles into a new way of sleeping. This typically means taking fewer naps for longer periods of time.
A nap transition is similar to a regression, but it can happen a little more gradually. Nap transitions occur every few months as your baby is growing and they gradually move from 6 or more naps a day to fewer and fewer. Typically by the time your child hits 18 months, they will only be taking 1 nap each day in the afternoon.
Transitioning from a larger number of naps to a lower number is a gradual process. It necessitates a change in your baby’s routine. It will also change how long a baby nap should be, creating a new standard with every transition.
Letting Your Baby Sleep
Napping is an important part of your baby’s development. During these early months, this rest is vital to their growth and development. However, when you’re thinking about how long a baby nap should be, remember that it’s less important how long any individual nap is. Rather, it’s more important how much total sleep your baby is getting.
Some naps are not going to be as long as others. Sometimes the phone rings, the dog barks, someone slams a door, or something else occurs that wakes your baby from their nap and they didn’t get their normal full naps. That nap time can be made up later, and it may change how long a baby a nap should be for that day.
Remember that these milestones and guidelines are averages and that every baby is unique. Don’t feel like you have to wake your baby up if they go over the “limit” or that you have to try to force a nap if it doesn’t seem like it’s going to work. Babies come in all forms, from those that sleep in many short snatches to those who naturally fall into longer naps. How long a baby nap should be depends on your particular situation, and you and your baby will find it together.