10 Must-Know Baby and Toddler Nap Facts. (#7 May Surprise You!)

must know baby and toddler nap facts

We’ve written quite a bit about baby and toddler naps here on the blog, so if you’ve been following our site for a while, you’ve had the chance to read a lot of baby and toddler nap tips and tidbits. But, some of you are new moms or new to The Baby Sleep Site® and we strive to educate all of our parents on the importance of good sleep and how to achieve it!

Today, we’re presenting you with 10 must-know facts about your baby’s or toddler’s naps. Think of it as your nap “cheat sheet”. 😉

10 Things You Need To Know About Baby and Toddler Naps

  1. The first nap of the day is the most important. This isn’t to say that other naps aren’t also important. But the first nap of the day tends to be the most restorative, setting the tone for the day, and it’s generally the one that produces the best sleep for babies and young toddlers.
  2. Most babies don’t transition to one nap at 12 months; most transition to one nap between 15-18 months. There seems to be a prevailing opinion out there that at the one year mark, babies should suddenly transition from two naps to one. And some will, with no problem. But we’re here to tell you that making the 2-to-1 nap transition at 12 months isn’t the norm for most babies. In fact, most babies aren’t ready to move to one nap a day until 15-18 months.
  3. Most 6 month old babies aren’t ready for just 2 naps per day; most still need 3 (or even 4). Just as there’s a misconception that all 12 month old babies are ready to transition to one nap per day, there’s also a misconception that 6 month old babies are ready to transition to just 2 naps each day. We think this misconception is at least partly due to a recommendation that Weissbluth makes in his book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. In the book, Weissbluth states that only 16% of babies need a third nap after 5 months. Keep in mind this statistic came from a study of a limited number of children.

    We are not discounting Weissbluth’s studies, but we do take it with a grain of salt, since all babies vary in their ability (particularly mood-wise) to stay awake for long periods of time. In our extensive work with families, we’ve found that far more than 16% of babies appear to need 3 naps at 6, 7, even 8 months of age. Therefore, we usually tell parents not to rush into a 2 nap schedule with their 6 month old babies. Doing that increases the chances that their 6 month olds will become overtired, which will, in turn, affect their night sleep. We’ve found it’s better to stick to a 3 nap schedule (or even a 4 nap schedule) and then gradually transition to a 2 nap schedule around 8 months.

  4. Your child’s nap needs will change greatly between birth and 18 months. Greatly. This just makes sense if you think about it — newborns nap pretty much constantly during the day, while an 18 month old needs just 1 nap. That’s a lot of change during a relatively short period of time!

    So, how many naps does your baby or toddler need in the first 18 months of life? You can read this article for detailed information, but here’s the short version:

    *1-3 MONTHS — 4-5 naps per day, depending on how long his naps are and how long he can stay up between naps.

    *3-4 MONTHS — 4 naps.

    *5-8 MONTHS — probably 3 naps (though some will need 4 until after 7 months). A few babies will only have 2 naps at a very young age, but those naps are usually long.

    *9-15 MONTHS — 2 naps. Some babies will transition to 1 nap at 12 months, but that’s not common.

    *15-18 MONTHS — 1-2 naps. The transition from 2 naps to 1 usually happens in this window of time.

    *18 MONTHS-4 YEARS — 1 nap. 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.

  5. Nicole’s Note:
    “But, of course, my son was very NON-textbook. He had 4 naps until 7 months old, because he simply could not stay awake longer than 1 hour 15 to 30 minutes without turning into Senor Cranky Pants! It was simply NOT fun to even try. So, I rolled with it and he stayed home all day pretty much until he seemed to change overnight, taking 3 naps at 7 1/2 months old. He then dropped to two naps a short month later at 8 1/2 months. It happened so fast! He also transitioned to one nap early and away from napping early. I would never have guessed that based on our first 7 months. So, if your baby is struggling with staying awake for long periods, he’s not alone and it could change fast for you, too! :)”

  6. If your baby or toddler sleeps well at night, that doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll nap well during the day. Remember, nap sleep is different than night sleep. Naps happen during daylight hours, when the sun’s up and when it tends to be noisy and busy. External factors like that can make it hard for a baby or toddler to nap well. And many families struggle with keeping a consistent daily nap routine in place — because life tends to get in the way! That, too, can make it hard for a baby or toddler to nap consistently. Contrast that with nights — it’s dark, it’s (usually) quiet, and everyone is (usually) at home. That at least partly explains why many babies and toddlers who sleep just fine at night struggle with their naps.
  7. On-the-go, “moving” naps aren’t as restorative as naps that happen at home, in bed. This might come as a bit of a surprise, but it’s true — naps that happen “on the go” (in a moving car, for example, or in a moving stroller or shopping cart) aren’t as restorative as naps that happen on a non-moving surface (like a bed). They aren’t as long, for one thing, and during a “moving” nap, your baby’s or toddler’s sleep won’t be as deep. The occasional on-the-go nap isn’t a big deal, of course; sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do. But if the majority of your baby’s or toddler’s naps are happening in the car, or in a stroller, you may need to rethink your daytime routines and schedule.
  8. It’s possible for your baby or toddler to nap too much. Yes, we realize that this particular “problem” doesn’t plague most of you. 😉 But it’s true; some babies and toddlers nap too much, and it negatively affects their nighttime sleep. How much nap time sleep is too much? You can check out this article for details, but here’s a fast breakdown:

    *INFANT STAGE (birth – 4 months) — newborns will sleep 14-18 total hours during the day. To maximize nighttime sleep, limit naps to two hours, and try to keep your baby awake for 30 minutes between naps. (Need help with newborn sleep? Take a look at our newborn e-Book.)

    *BABY STAGE (4-12 months) — babies need 13-15 total hours of sleep during the day. 2-4 of these hours should be naps (depending on how much sleep your baby is getting at night.)

    *TODDLER STAGE (12 months – 3 or 4 years) — 1-3 hours of total naptime is considered normal and healthy.

  9. Educate yourself on when common nap transitions occur, and how to manage them. Nap transitions are likely to occur at the following times:

    *3-4 MONTHS — baby transitions from 5 naps to 4.
    *5-6 MONTHS — baby transitions from 4 naps to 3.
    *8-9 MONTHS — baby transitions from 3 naps to 2.
    *15-18 MONTHS — toddler transitions from 2 naps to 1.

    As for how to handle these nap transitions? We have loads of resources on that very topic in our VIP Members Area – keep reading for details!

  10. If a nap just isn’t happening, know when to give up and try again later. We end up dispensing this advice quite often to our consultation clients who we are working on nap training: don’t waste too much time trying to make a nap happen. No sense in spending 3 hours trying to force an afternoon nap to happen — at that point, you’re probably closer to bedtime than you are to naptime!
  11. When your toddler is finally done taking naps, consider replacing nap time with “rest time”. It’s always a little sad when your toddler finally ages out of his naps. Gone are those one or two hours of peace, when mom or dad could get some work done, catch up on chores, or take a nap themselves! However, the end of nap time doesn’t have to mean the end of your afternoon peace and quiet. Simply replace nap time with rest time.

BONUS NAP TIP: We like you so much, we’re squeezing in a bonus tip for you! This one deals with short naps, an all-too-common problems for the parents in our Baby Sleep Site® community. The fact is, short naps are normal for newborns and young babies, but by about 6 months of age, most babies are able to take longer naps. Want all the details on why short naps happen, and how to fix the problem? Check out this article on short baby naps.

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Are you struggling with any of these 10 points? Have nap tips to share? We want to hear from you!

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13 thoughts on “10 Must-Know Baby and Toddler Nap Facts. (#7 May Surprise You!)”

  1. My son will be attending private day care all the kids nap at the same time but he is the youngest at 14 months when we will be starting.
    He has two naps a day, how can I possibly transition him so early..I have worked so hard on his sleep training I don’t want to ruin it. Help!! Not sure what to do, or which package to choose from.

    • @Laura I’m sorry you’re feeling anxious about the transition to daycare. I don’t blame you! Starting daycare can be tricky and doing a nap transition all at once only makes the transition harder, but I want to assure you that many toddlers will transition just fine after a couple of weeks. We do find that daycares transition to one nap too early, though at 14 months it may go better than you think. 🙂 You asked about which package to choose from. For this specific of an issue and assuming you don’t have multiple sleep challenges, if you want to speak directly to a sleep consultant, I would recommend either a Basic e-Mail package or becoming a member of the site where you can live chat with a sleep consultant once a week in a group setting. You can find out more about our one-on-one options here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/services and our Members Area here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/diy/ . Good luck!!

      • Thank you, I appreciate your prompt reply and help! Xo I will be reviewing the packages ASAP!

  2. My daughter who is now 9months is going through a 3 to 2 nap transistion which messed up her day naps. She used to sleep 1.5 to 2 hours x3 naps prior to 7 months, but now it’s exactly 35mins max (often just 2 naps) after which I cannot get get to sleep no matter how much I try to comfort and console her back to sleep to make up the hour. Which is now causing the day to be very long, and an early bedtime latest 6pm. Thankfully she still sleeps ok at night 6pm to 6am. She is able to put herself to sleep, and no obvious sleep associations. Dark room, white noise and during the day her sleeps are almost always in her cot.Any suggestions on how to get her to nap for longer? TIA?

  3. My daughter is 18 months and although we’ve had a few ups and downs but over the past 3-4 mths things have been going really well. She’s been going to bed at around 7 and sleeping from 7:30/8 until 7/8 with only a few short lived wakes. She’s also been napping for 1.5-2 hours a day. Now suddenly for the last week she’s decided not to nap at her usual time of 11:30. I tried making it later so after lunch at around 12:30 but now she either doesn’t sleep at all or holds out til 4 and just passed out and wakes up incredibly grumpy at 5. She’s also started washing at 5-6, usually before my alarm! She looks exhausted with big bags under her eyes. I don’t know if this is this just a blip and I need to just push on with the routine our do I need to change things around

    • @ Kaz – definitely sounds like the 18 month regression to me!! You can read it about it here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-sleep-patterns/why-18-month-sleep-regression-can-be-hardest/ I’d suggest that you push on as usual, while making allowances for over tiredness (i.e. allowing a short cat-nap in early evening, if necessary). The early waking is a big bummer, but just do your best to not get your daughter up for the day before about 6:30 or so, and eventually, that should resolve itself. This really does get better – you’ll probably find that things return to their normal rhythm very soon 🙂

      Thanks for commenting, @ Kaz! 🙂

  4. My daughter is 2 yrs 9 mth and is resisting her lunchtime nap most days. She usually only naps once a week or less now. I still put her down at 12 noon but if she does sleep it usually happens after an hour of her being in her cot. If she doesn’t sleep she is a cranky pants by late afternoon and ready for bed at 6pm! Her normal bed time is 7pm and she sleeps for 12 hours (thanks to a personal sleep plan at 8 months old- thank you Nicole). Should I give up trying to get her to nap? This has been going on for around 3 months.

    • @ Dawn Gaze – oh, boy, do I sympathize. My daughter was just like this – in fact, for her whole second year of life, her afternoon nap was totally erratic. She’d go two weeks and not nap at all, and then she’d nap like an angel for a few days, and then back to no naps. It was crazy. However, I stuck with the nap time – I would just tell her that if she couldn’t sleep, she could sit quietly in her bed and play with toys/look at books. Would you believe that now that she’s three, she’s back to napping regularly, with only occasional missed naps?

      So, if I were you, I’d stick with offering the nap for now, but be flexible – allow it to be a rest time, if your daughter won’t sleep. Also, try offering bedtime closer to 6:30 on days when she doesn’t nap (that way, you split the difference between a too-early bedtime and her normal bedtime).

      Let us know if that works, Dawn! And thanks for commenting 🙂

  5. I’m pretty sure we’re going through a nap transition, and want to get some ideas on how to make this the smoothest. My son just turned 1 recently and had been taking two very regular naps a day. one between 9-9:30, and one somewhere between 2-3pm, and bedtime between 8-8:30. Suddenly today, out of nowhere, absolutely refused to take his morning nap. We tried for about an hour, with him in his crib most of the time before we gave up, and had a small bit of play time, then lunch, then a nap about 12:00. he slept for about 2 hours, and about 6:00, he was super tired (which is completely understandable). we obviously didn’t want to put him down for a nap then, so we decided to keep him up till about 7:30, but by the time that rolled around he was doing okay, and we did bedtime at 8. In hindsight, that probably wasn’t the best thing to do. so I was curious how early should bedtime be when he decides to do one nap? we’ll try again for two naps for a few days, see if this was just a blip (I’d love to keep two naps for a while, I’m not ready for just one nap :)), but if he decides to just do one nap, how much earlier should we put him to bed? we don’t want to put him to bed too early, and have him treat it like a nap, or wake up at 5:30 the next morning, but I don’t want to put him to bed too late either, and have him not sleep well from being over tired.

    • @Melinda – On the days when he’s missed a nap, an earlier bedtime is a safe bet, and that 6pm time that he appeared really tired may have been a good time to put your son down for bed. Typically, you can tell your child is experiencing a nap transition when he starts to consistently resist a nap for about a week or two, so if this was just a one-time thing, it may be just an odd day. Again, we recommend keeping two naps as long as possible, so if he went back to taking his normal two naps a day, then I wouldn’t push the transition. And it doesn’t sound like you’re ready either! 😉 Hopefully things improve for you all soon! Thanks for your comments!

  6. this is great advice…i thought a 2-3hr was roo much for my 18month old son…i also agree with the rest..my daughter is 6 and once her brother lies down for his nap an hr later she is either laying in her bed watching cartoons low or reading a few books thank you

    • @monique – Glad you found this helpful, and that’s great that you still offer some down time for your daughter while her brother naps. And hopefully that means a little break for you, too! 🙂 Thanks for your comment!

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