Does Your 6-Month Old Baby Need 2, 3, or 4 Naps?

 
Does Your 6 Month Od Baby Need 2, 3, or 4 Naps?

There is a lot of confusion about how many naps your 6 month old baby needs. The short answer is “It depends on the baby.” This article will go into more detail about how many naps your 6 month old baby needs for her development.

During a recent sleep consultation, I was contacted by a mom of a 6 month old who was only giving her baby two naps per day. When I asked her why, she said a competing website’s product said that 6 month old babies don’t need more than two naps and she was trying to lengthen her daughter’s naps. I immediately recommended she go back to three naps because her baby sounded overtired, and once she is caught up on sleep, she would need to tweak her schedule, in general, to get those longer naps (those in-between schedules can be tricky!). As I was typing this up, I decided to check in with this mom to see how she was doing and she had this to say:

“Hi Nicole, Thank you for checking in. My daughter is napping a lot better. She still has the odd day when either her morning nap or afternoon nap is short but for the most part she sleeps for an hour and a half in the morning and afternoon. Now that she is a little older, she most often is just taking two naps now, but sometimes needs a third. She’s also sleeping a lot better at night! She used to wake 2-3 times, now most nights she only wakes up once between 2 and 3 to nurse, goes right back to sleep, and then wakes up for the day between 6:30 and 7. Thank you so much for your suggestions, they really did work!”
-Nadia

One thing to keep in mind is that all babies aren’t the same and some transition to two naps at 5 months while others still have 4 shorter naps, at the same age. Some transition to 2 naps at 6 months old and others not until 9 months and I even had a mom with a 12-month old still taking three naps! All babies vary.

A very popular sleep book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Weissbluth, says that only 17% of babies need a third nap after 5 months old. I can imagine this might be one of the sources of that competing website. I very much learned a lot from this book and recommend it often, however, you must still keep in mind that studies are often on very small samples (groups of people) compared to the fact that over 12,000 babies are born daily, in just the U.S. alone.

In my experience with countless parents, more than 17% of 5 and 6 month old babies still need three (or four) naps. In fact, I would say it’s rarer for me to find a baby who needs less than three at such a young age, but even my sample is “tainted” by the fact that I hear about the babies with trouble sleeping, not those that might transition to two naps just fine at 6 months old and sleep two hours each time.

I can’t tell you how often I hear that a parent is skipping the third nap so “baby is tired enough at bedtime”, but I assure you, this often does more harm than good. Too much over-tiredness at bedtime usually sabotages efforts of sleeping through the night. Regardless, most 6 month old babies can take a catnap at 4:30 p.m. for 30 minutes and still go to sleep by 7 or 7:30 p.m. and still sleep 11-12 hours. Having a baby up from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m. at such a young age can be the equivalent of you getting up at 4 a.m. for an early flight and going to bed at 11 p.m. at night without a snooze in between. It’s a loooong day! More frequent sleep is better for your 6 month old baby’s development (if she needs it) and to ward off any crankiness, if your baby is prone to that.

How Do You Know if Your 6 Month Old Needs 2 or 3 naps?

First, consider your 6 month old baby’s behavior. Any fussiness or crankiness is a sure sign of a baby being overtired. They don’t play well and some don’t even eat well. Some may be happy, though, and that can make it tougher to tell, but if she isn’t napping at least 2 to 3 hours in the daytime, that is a sign she needs more sleep. You need to first encourage your baby to nap longer because a baby who is short-napping most often will need more naps in the day to make it through. If she’s napping as long as she can (at least one hour each for the first two naps), it is easier to transition to two naps, when it’s time. Being overtired at nap time can lead to shorter naps, because it’s harder for your baby to get through that first sleep cycle.

Having said that, keep in mind that your baby might not take longer naps until she has transitioned to just two naps. This is because a baby can only sleep so many hours in a day, so as long as she is napping three times, it is possible her other two naps are as long as they can get. In this case, you need to use your cool mommy instincts and decide whether she is sleeping well for her age or not. It’s okay if the neighbor’s baby is napping three hours per day and yours is only napping two, if that’s all he needs. Just like your 4-month old went through brain development that affected her night sleep, your six month old needs to go through brain development to help her nap longer (the first nap is generally the first to lengthen).

Take a look at our sample baby sleep and feeding schedules and decide whether it looks realistic to put your 6-month old on the 9-month old sample schedule (sleep-wise only, excluding amount of food). Can your 6 month old comfortably stay up 3-4 hours until bedtime or are you having to ward off crankiness by 5 or 5:30 p.m.? Is he falling asleep eating his dinner (it happens! (video))?

Lastly, are you “fighting” for an hour for a 20-30 minute catnap in the late afternoon every day? If getting your baby to take a third (or fourth) nap is a fight not worth fighting anymore, then it is probably time to permanently transition to fewer naps. Save your frustration and his! Or, has bedtime become too late (typically past 8 p.m. is “too late” but all families have different schedule requirements)? Make sure you make changes to his schedule to compensate for the loss of the nap, though. Missing one nap on one day is one thing, but chronic over-tiredness can make sleep unravel over the course of 3-4 weeks.

My personal story is my eldest son (who inspired this site) still took four naps until a bit over 7 months old because he was extremely sensitive to being overtired and CRANKY to show it. But, then, he transitioned to three naps at that age and then to two naps at 8 1/2 months old just that quickly. He also transitioned to one nap at 12 months (rather than the 15 to 18 month average) and stopped napping at 2 1/2 (average is 3 to 4 years old). So, even though it might feel like you are stuck in the house napping with your 6 month old all day, things change very quickly in the first two years of your baby’s life. Enjoy it now because before long you’ll have a non-napping preschooler energizer bunny like I do and you’ll want need a nap yourself! :D

Get Baby Nap Help You Can Feel Good About, With The Baby Sleep Site®

You don’t have to figure out your baby’s naps all by yourself. We are here to help! You could start by taking a look at our sample baby and toddler sleep and feeding schedules for guidance. Many parents tell us they use our sample schedules as templates, to create a custom schedule for their own children.

bss_ebook_masteringnaps_leftYou may also want to consider picking up a copy of our napping e-Book, Mastering Naps & Schedules. This e-Book is stuffed full of napping tips and strategies, and it contains over 45 sample schedules by age. The sample schedules in this e-Book are more specific and comprehensive than the sample schedules we offer on the site, so if you are really struggling with naps, Mastering Naps & Schedules may be a great solution for you!

Of course, if you want a personalized touch, and would prefer to have someone create a Personalized Sleep Plan™ that would include a nap schedule – we offer that, too! We can put you in touch with one of our expert sleep consultants today; she will read through your family’s sleep history and use it to create a sleep plan that’s customized to meet your child’s unique needs and to fit with your parenting goals and philosophies.
 
Click here to see all our personalized consultation packages.
 
Once you purchase, you will immediately receive access to the Helpdesk, and you can set up your account, fill out your Family Sleep History form, submit it to a consultant, and get started on the journey to better sleep!

Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers. You can also take a tour of the Helpdesk.

How many naps did/does your 6 month old need? Share with others!


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Comments

  1. Lainie says

    My daughter turns 6 months on Saturday and takes 3-4 naps a day. More often than not, she takes one long nap (like 90 minutes) and the rest of her naps are pathetic naplets.

    Thanks for the article! It reminds me that I don’t have to stress about her getting on a two-nap schedule just because she’s hit the 6-month mark.

  2. AmyR says

    I definately agree all kids are different! My daughter took 3 naps until she was well over 12 months old whereas my son dropped the 3rd nap around 7 months.

    In our house, good naps + early bedtime = well rested family!

  3. Liska says

    My daughter is 7 months old and she still needs 3 naps a day. One usually is 1 1/2 hours, the second is often just an hour and the third is just a catnap at 45 minutes. I tried extending the two to leave out the third. Not a good idea! We had a cranky little girl for the two days and I quickly realized she was not ready!
    2 hours between naps and she’s pretty much maxed out.

  4. Jaime says

    My daughter, now 16 months, NEVER consistently took more than 2 naps. When she was an infant, we would get the occasional 3 nap day, but by 6 months we were lucky to get 2 good ones. This has been the cause of much stress and anxiety, both because of my worrying that she wasn’t getting enough sleep and because I really could have used the extra break.
    She transitioned to 1 nap at 14 months and for the most part has done much better on that schedule. Nighttime sleep has finally gotten ot track (6:30 pm-6:30 am), so the 1 nap seems to be the right fit. Just another example of every baby having slightly different needs when it comes to sleep.

  5. Tanya says

    Three naps!
    My daughter is nearly 6 months, she naps for about 45-90 minutes in late morning and early afternoon, then snags a quick 30min nap around 6p. (Bedtime is 8:30, as Daddy does not get home till about 7:30/8p) Then at night she sleeps thru till about 5:30a, when I pull her into bed with us and nurse. She then goes back to sleep till about 7:30/8a. It’s working well for us!

  6. Grechen says

    Natalie will be 6 months tomorrow and I have been working with Nicole for about a month and a half. We started with night sleep and then worked on naps. Her advice has made a world of difference in our house! Even if I just needed some encouragement, Nicole was there as my cheerleader!
    Natalie is still not consistent on the number of naps she takes a day. It is usually 3, but some days she needs 4 if her naps are short. If the last nap needs to occur at 5 or 5:15, then I know it will most likely be a fight if we try it in the crib. So, we usually go on a walk or a car ride. That last nap is the “get it any way I can” nap. If the last nap needs to occur at 5:30, then I usually just skip it and put her to bed at 6:30. It is not worth the fight!
    This article is a good reminder that no two babies are alike and that I need to do what works best for my kiddo!

  7. Sonia says

    My son takes 3 naps but he is such a bad napper. 30 mins tops and then he needs me to rock him back to sleep. At night after around 2/3am he is up every hour. How can I help him sleep longer? He is rocked to sleep and I think that is the root problem for naps and night time.

  8. Michelle says

    My daughter is now 9 months old but when she was 6 months old she used to take 3 naps a day. One in the morning, afternoon and then a 30 min. power nap around dinner time. I enjoyed those power naps as it allowed my husband and I 30 min. to eat dinner if I timed it right!

  9. Angela says

    My son was always a “catnapper”, but since he slept well at night I just did what I could during the day. Up until 8 months he did great with 3 short (40-60 minutes) naps, going to bed about 7/7:30 and sleeping through until about 6:30. Then one day at about 8 months old he just wouldn’t take his 3rd nap. He didn’t cry, didn’t fight it, he just WOULD NOT sleep. For several days we tried rocking him to sleep, moving the nap a little later, simply leaving him in the crib for an hour, and instead of sleep he would just play and entertain himself. We finally realized he was trying to tell us something, and now at 10 months he takes 2 good naps (1-2 hours each) a day.

  10. says

    My son is now 10 1/2 months old. When he was 5 months he was taking 3 naps consistently. When he was about 7 months he just naturally got rid of the third nap – which was a short catnap at around 5pm. Until he was about 9 months it was GREAT! 2 consistent naps each of at least 1-11/2 hours long!
    After he turned 9 months, however, his naps have been a challenge again. He was taking 1-2 hours to go down for his afternoon nap! He’s in his crib and usually just playing/babbling not crying. Sometimes he’ll poo and I’ll have to change him, but after the 1-2 hours of chill time he’ll fall asleep for at least 1 hour. The morning nap was always reliable and consistent. In order to preserve the afternoon nap I was cutting his morning nap shorter (45mins) but now he’s struggles with both naps! He’s taking at least 20-30 mins to go down in the morning and he’s still taking 1-2 hours in the afternoon! Sometimes he doesn’t wind up sleeping at all in the morning.
    At bedtime he falls asleep between 6:30-7:00pm usually and doesn’t wake up til 5-6am.
    Do you think he’s transitioning to 1 nap? Should I keep him up through the morning and try to have him go to sleep only once?
    What do you think?

  11. Sally says

    My son is 61/2 months old and has 3 sleeps during the day. 2 hours in the morning, 1 hour in the afternoon and 1 hour in late afternoon usually at this time I get out and walk him in the pram. He goes down at 7pm and wakes at 7am. We are very lucky he loves his sleep and is always a happy contented baby. For us I think consistency and routine was the key.

  12. Nathaly says

    My son is a little over 7 months and takes 3 naps during the day for a total of 3 hours. He gets really tired by 6:45-7:00 pm and falls asleep pretty easy but for the past few weeks he has been waking up at 5-5:30 am. He also wakes up about 1 or 2 am for a feeding and goes right to back to sleep. My husband and I think he is getting too much sleep during the day and therefore wakes up early. We are struggling with what to do. Any suggestions?

  13. Valerie says

    I have twin 7 month olds that are taking 3 solid 1.5 hour naps and then a cat nap in the evening. Usually last feeding is at 7:30 or 8:30 and they are in bed between 9-10. How do I put them down earlier? Do I just skip the last feeding and put them to bed. I guess I’m so confused on how to get them to sleep earlier.

  14. Nene says

    My 7 month old is taking 3 naps a day (sometimes 4 if it is a cranky day) and usually averages 3 hours or so for naps. It is the nighttime that is driving us crazy. He will go down to sleep and then wake up 40 minutes into his “bed time” – either wide awake and refusing to go back to sleep, or screaming like crazy and he won’t stop until he nurses. Either way, he doesn’t really fall asleep until sometime between 10-11.
    His last nap is usually from 4:00-5:00, sometimes he sleeps as late as six. I hate to wake him up as I’m sure he’s recovering from being up so late the night before…

  15. Sarah says

    Scarlett had 3 short naps usually at this age, a couple of times a week one would be longer – 2 hours. She has always been at the lower end of the sleep needs spectrum though. She has a 12 hour night so 2 hours day sleep is usually plenty. She takes if she needs it. Now at 10 months she has 2 naps, usually 1 long and 1 short, occasionally if she sleeps in she will just have 1 long nap but never more than 1 day in a row.

  16. Susan Strom says

    Our 7 month takes three 30-minute naps (at best) during the day, and wakes more and more often at night wanting to nurse before going right back to sleep. By reading up on this site, I’ve realized that this must be a symptom of being over-tired. This was not obvious to me as she is a very giggly, happy baby for the most part whenever she is awake, and I am an exhausted Mom, not thinking clearly enough to put the clues together!).

  17. Susan says

    Our 7 month takes three 30-minute naps (at best) during the day, and wakes more and more often at night wanting to nurse before going right back to sleep. By reading up on this site, I’ve realized that this must be a symptom of being over-tired. This was not obvious to me as she is a very giggly, happy baby for the most part whenever she is awake, and I am an exhausted Mom, not thinking clearly enough to put the clues together!.

  18. says

    At 7 months my guy is dealing with needing/not needing/not wanting nap number 3. Can’t wait until we can really drop it. At 5-6 months he was still taking 4 naps but right around 6 months his naps started to get better and longer (when he started sleeping on his tummy). Now the naps are 1-2 hours long and we have a good schedule going. I wish I’d listened to your advice that good naps often don’t come until 6 months and stressed about things less. Live and learn.

  19. Virginia says

    My son is 7 months old and still needs 3 naps a day. He has two 2 hours naps and one 20 minute nap before dinner. He sleeps from 7.30 pm till 7.30 am. I do think he will drop the last nap soon though. Some times he just plays in bed for the 20 minutes and that is enough rest for him to be happy the rest of the evening. I do notice that when he doesn’t get good naps, he usually wakes in the night or takes longer settling at bedtime. I love my sons naps. They make him a happier boy.

  20. Jen says

    Thanks for the article! At six months I transitioned my daughter to a 2 nap schedule and since then she has not slept through night, she is now seven months. (Which she had been sleeping through the night since she was 6 weeks old.) My husband I couldn’t figure out why and have tried EVERYTHING. She wakes up crying every night and it has gotten so bad. I am going to try to go back to 3-4 naps a day and let her transition herself- when she is ready to two naps. Great article! I hope it works.

  21. Kelley says

    Thank you so much for posting this! I kept stressing that my little boy at 5 months wasn’t taking enough naps. He takes two naps a day averaging 1 1/2-2 hours each (we usually wake him at 2 hours) and I wasn’t sure if that was enough for him. He is sleeping just fine at night and doesn’t seem to be overtired so I’m assuming he’s just one of the few that doesn’t need that 3rd cat nap. I used to give him a nap at around 4:30 and he would sleep for about 30 minutes but then it started to be difficult and take longer to get him to sleep for that 30 minutes than he was actually sleeping so I just stopped trying and he doesn’t seem to need it anymore. We did adjust his betime though so he is asleep by 6:00 (6:15 at the VERY latest). I’m a first time mom and my husband is deployed so I feel like I have no clue what I’m doing! ha ha! I’ve decided to just follow my little guy’s lead and as soon as I see him yawning or rubbing his eyes then we start his bath and get him to bed. Seems to be working great! Although, I jinxed myself the other day and he woke up 3 times at night to “play.” Little stinker just layed in there and talked to himself all night. :) My next hurdle (which I will take any advice) is getting him to sleep in his crib instead of his bouncy seat. He has acid reflux so he doesn’t do well laying flat. I’ve tried the wedge under the mattress but he moves around so much that it’s pointless. I’m scared to try to have him sleep in his crib since he’s sleeping so well now. I think I’m just going to have to try to have him nap in his crib and then move to nights but I’m afraid I’ll screw up the schedule that I just FINALLY got to work for him!

  22. Blaine says

    I cannot get my 6mo old to take a nap longer than 30-45min 3 times a day. I have tried to make naptime as relaxing as I possibly can but nothing works. She is on a good schedule, sleeps 12hrs at night, only waking 1 or 2 times for a feeding. How can I help my baby to extend naptime and turn it into 2 longer naps throughout the day?

  23. says

    My son is just now getting better at napping at daycare. He takes two naps a day and they are anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour. Every once in a while we’ll get lucky and he’ll sleep for 2 hours and they will actually have to wake him up. He’s just starting on solids and hasn’t taken to it very quickly but it’s getting better. He’s been sleeping pretty good at night but the past few weeks he’s been waking up at 3:00 am and WILL NOT go back to sleep unless I put him in bed with me. I don’t want to make this a habit but right now I’m a “single parent” (my husband is deployed) so I have to let him sleep so I can get ready for work. I know he’s teething and he hasn’t been feeling well but I’m really concerned that he’s going to start to expect to be put in bed with me. I’ll usually try for about an hour to get him back to sleep in his crib with no luck. Any thoughts or advice?

  24. Kimberly says

    @Kelley,
    The teething and not feeling well could definitely be contributing to his wake ups. However, while I can completely understand bringing him to bed so everyone can get back to sleep, it may, in the long run become a bigger problem for you. Have you tried giving him a bit of Motrin or ibuprofen before bed to see if that helps? Also, he could be going through a growth spurt. Does he eat at during the night at some point? If not, a short feed might assist with this 3 am wake up and getting him back to sleep. (Just don’t let him “fall asleep” while feeding and instead, feed just until drowsy then lay him back down.

    @Blaine- You might try going in right when she begins to wake and try shush/patting her back to sleep. Or laying her back down and then leaving the room to see if she resettle after 10-15 mins and go back to sleep. If she’s sleeping well at night and with three 45 minute naps per day, then as long as she’s generally happy and doesn’t seem overly tired, I wouldn’t worry too much but it’s certainly worth a try to see if you can help her learn to extend her naps.

  25. sara says

    I am having trouble getting me 8 month old twin daughters to nap longer than 30 minutes. Since about 4 months old, their naps have become super short, from 30 minutes to an hour at the longest and I was putting them down for 4 catnaps a day until about 7 months old because they would be so tired. I bumped their bedtime up earlier to make up for the lost sleep during the day but it usually results in an earlier wake time and earlier naps, which still are about 30 minutes on the dot, now 3 times a day, as they are resisting the 4th nap.

    I’m wondering if I should add the 4th catnap back in or just continue to bump the bedtime up. I’ve spoken to many other mothers who claim their child took 30 minute naps until they were crawling and walking and more tired. I’m not sure my girls will ever sleep longer because I’ve tried everything; shorter wake times, longer wake times, separate bedrooms for naps, back in the same bedroom for naps; keeping them in their cribs up to an hour even after they wake after 30 minutes, and so on and they still sleep for 30 minutes only. They wake up still tired so I’m assuming we have a self soothing issue on our hands. They use pacifiers because they have bad reflux and the sucking helped with that.

    I’m wondering if I should just deal with these short naps and wait it out to see if they lengthen on their own once they crawl/walk/etc or am I missing something very obvious here? It seems like most other babies in this age range take at least 2 longer naps a day. It’s exhausting but I worry about their sleep needs far more than my own!! I can drink coffee, they can’t!!

    Thanks for any help anyone can offer.

  26. Debbye says

    Hi Sara,
    Short naps are very common, they especially creep up around the 4 month mark. They may lengthen without your help, but if you do want to help a bit, try some nap training. Try going in right when your baby (or babies) begins to wake and try shush/patting back to sleep.
    I would continue to offer the 4th nap if bedtime is getting too early. They may not take it everyday, but I would not drop it entirely until they skip the 4th nap everyday for at least one week straight.
    Best of luck!!!