Napping is a hot topic around The Baby Sleep Site, and it’s no wonder: most of us count nap time as our favorite time of the day! Of course, naps are essential for the health and development of your baby, but don’t count yourself out — you need a little downtime during the day, too! And naps offer the perfect opportunity for you to get a little breather.
One of the most popular questions we get around here (aside from “How can I get my baby to nap longer?”) is “How many naps does my baby/toddler need each day?”
All babies are different and your baby will develop at a different pace than other babies the same age. Even twins develop at a different pace, sometimes! Just like some babies will walk first and some babies talk first, the age at which your baby will transition to fewer naps will vary, too.
Newborns and Naps
In those first few months after your baby is born, it’s best not to worry much about a napping schedule. Your baby’s brain is developing, central nervous system maturing, and sleep is organizing. As we’ve previously shared:
In the beginning, your newborn sleeps most of the time and you don’t usually have to worry too much about naps. Your newborn’s sleep schedule and patterns are highly unpredictable, usually, so it’s hard to tell if she will have 5 naps or 8 on any given day. You’ve just given birth (or partnered the birth), so as long as she sorts out the difference between day and night, you probably won’t stress too much about it, unless she isn’t “sleeping like a baby.”
Once your newborn has become more social, you may begin to have more napping challenges. You may also want more predictability in your day. This won’t come easily for some babies, depending on age, but you can begin focusing on getting your baby to nap better and get on a schedule, especially if your baby won’t nap at all. No naps or short naps can lead to fussiness (for you and baby!) and make it difficult for your baby to sleep through the night.
How Many Naps Do Babies and Toddlers Need?
Here are some guidelines for how many naps your baby or toddler likely needs:
- From 1-4 months, the number of naps your baby takes will be variable, but will hover around 4-5 naps per day, depending on how long his naps are and how long he can stay up between naps.
- By 3 or 4 months old, she will lean towards just 4 naps, rather than 5.
- From 5-8 months, most babies will have three naps per day (though my son had four until after 7 months). They will start to resist the fourth nap, no matter how tired they are. There are a few babies who will only have two naps at a very young age, but those naps are usually long.
- From 9-15 or 18 months, on average, your baby will nap two times a day. Although many people believe most babies can transition to one nap at 12 months, the average age is actually 15 to 18 months.
- From 18 months to 4 years, toddlers nap once a day. The age to transition away from all napping varies a lot, from 2 to 5+ years old, but the average age is between 3 and 4 years old.
Remember, these are general guidelines and all babies are different. We have seen a few 10 month olds taking just one nap while others are taking three naps, still. Your baby’s sleep needs will vary. You should also know that a nap should be at least an hour to be considered restorative, except for any third or fourth nap of the day, which are almost always catnaps of about 30-45 minutes each.
My Baby/Toddler Won’t Nap — Help!
If you’re looking at that chart, shaking your head, and thinking to yourself, “I wish!” then it may be time to do something about it! Again, there’s no set of rules that your baby or toddler has to follow when it comes to naps, but the fact remains that young children need naps to grow and develop properly. So, if you know your baby or toddler isn’t getting the naps or sleep he needs, be proactive, and consider working on your baby’s nap schedule.
You may want to view and bookmark our sample baby sleep and feeding schedules by age. And, if you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 40 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.
Or, join our Members Area packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, discounts, peer support, and more! It actually costs less to join than buying products separately. For those looking for a more personalized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations. It’s not that you can’t make a plan; sometimes, you’re just too tired to do it yourself!