We all want our babies and toddlers to take long, restorative naps at regular times each day, right? Judging by how popular our nap articles are with all of you, I’m betting you answered ‘Yes!’ to that question!
But here’s something to consider – are the expectations you have for your baby or toddler’s naps unreasonable? How can you be sure that your nap expectations are reasonable, and are in keeping with what your baby or toddler is capable of? Sometimes, when we work with parents who say they are struggling with naps, it turns out that the problem has more to do with mom and dad’s nap expectations, and less to do with their little ones’ napping habits!
3 Signs Your Nap Expectations Are Unreasonable
1. The amount of nap sleep you expect from your baby or toddler far exceeds the average sleep totals that are appropriate for her age.
Think about how much sleep your baby or toddler typically gets at night. Now, think about how much nap time sleep you expect from your little one each day. Add those two numbers together, and then compare them to the following average sleep amounts in a 24-hour period:
- Newborns: 15-18 total hours of sleep
- 1-4 Months: 14-16 total hours of sleep
- 5-8 Months: 13-15 total hours of sleep
- 9-10 Months: 12-15 total hours of sleep
- 11 Months-3 Years: 12-14 total hours of sleep
- 3-5 Years: 11-13 total hours of sleep
How do your totals look? Keep in mind by the time your baby is 4 or 5 months old, the majority of her sleep should be happening at night, and by the time your baby is 6 months old, he will need just a few hours worth of nap sleep during the day.
2. You expect too many naps from your baby or toddler, given his age, and/or you expect the naps themselves to be too long
A baby’s nap needs change A LOT in the first year, so it’s understandable that we parents sometimes have a hard time keeping up with exactly how many naps our babies need, and how long those naps should be. It’s possible that you are expecting too many naps from your baby, or that you are expecting naps that are too long for her age. Take a look at the list below, and compare these totals with your expectations:
- Newborns: Newborns take many short naps throughout the course of a day. Your newborn will spend more time asleep than she will awake, which is normal.
- 1-3 Months: Your baby will take 4-5 naps per day, and each of those naps will usually be about an hour long (give or take 15 minutes or so). Shorter catnaps are considered normal at this age.
- 4-5 Months: Your baby will take 3-4 naps per day. The length of each nap varies, but each nap should be between 45 minutes and 90 minutes long. At this age, your baby needs about 3-4 total hours of nap sleep per day.
- 6-8 Months: Your baby will take 2-3 naps per day, and each of those naps should be about an hour long.
- 9-15(or 16/17) Months: Your baby or toddler will take 2 naps per day (although some toddlers transition to 1 nap around 12 months, we usually recommend that parents try to stick with 2 naps until 15-18 months). Each nap should be at least an hour long – preferably longer. At this age, your baby or toddler needs 2-3 total hours of nap sleep per day.
- 16 (or 17/18) Months-3 Years: Your toddler will nap once per day (although some toddlers give up their naps before age 3, the average age to drop the afternoon nap is between 3 and 4 years old). Your toddler’s afternoon nap should be 1-3 hours long.
- 3-5 Years: Your toddler will likely drop the nap at this point. When that transition happens, you can institute an afternoon ‘rest’ hour in place of the nap.
3. Your expectations about nap timing don’t line up with your child’s morning wake-up and bedtime, or with the average wake time totals for her age.
Along with number and length, the timing of your baby or toddler’s naps matters too – this is important to remember. Be sure that you aren’t squeezing your little one’s naps too close together, and failing to leave enough wake time in between. And make sure you time your little one’s naps around the morning wake-up and evening bedtimes – these two fixed points in your child’s schedule will help ‘set’ the rest of the nap times.
Use the following wake time averages to help you time up your child’s naps with morning wake-up time and bedtime:
- Newborn-2 Months: Wake times should be kept short at this age – between 45 and 90 minutes, generally.
- 3-4 Months: Babies this age can usually stay awake for about 1-2 hours between naps.
- 5-8 Months: The average wake time for babies this age is about 2-3 hours.
- 9-10 Months: At this age, most babies can stay awake for about 3 hours between naps.
- 11-15 Months: Most babies and toddlers this age have wake times of between 3-4 hours.
- 15 Months-3 Years: At this age, toddlers can generally stay awake for about 5 hours.
- 3-5 Years: Most toddlers and preschoolers at this age, who have dropped their afternoon naps, can stay awake for 11-12 straight hours during the day.
How To Create A Reasonable Nap Schedule That Will Work For Your Baby or Toddler
For even more nap and schedule help, check out these members-only resources, found in our VIP Members Area:
- Mastering Naps and Schedules e-Book (unlimited VIP member access at no extra cost!)
- Custom Schedule-Maker (unlimited access – make as many schedules as you’d like! Includes meal times)
- Nap Transitions audio course with Nicole Johnson
- Short Naps audio course with Nicole Johnson
- How To Put Your Child on a Schedule audio course with Nicole Johnson
- 5 Tips To Manage Nap Transitions [EXPANDED VIP MEMBER-ONLY VERSION]
- 5 Tips For Handling Tough Daycare Nap Schedules [EXPANDED VIP MEMBER-ONLY VERSION]
- Day-by-Day Nap Training Plan
- Downloadable Sleep/Nap Coaching Plan Workbook (learn how to create your own nap coaching plan!)
- Printable Sample Schedule Shifts Forward (great for daylight saving time change)
Not a VIP member? Not a problem! Join today, and you’ll receive instant access to our vast online library of sleep coaching resources, including our “Ask the Author” feature giving you answers to your specific questions by a sleep consultant!
Get Personalized Baby Nap Help You Can Feel Good About, With The Baby Sleep Site®
Don’t feel up to working on your baby or toddler’s nap challenges on your own? While our VIP Members Area is great for DIY moms who prefer to tackle sleep challenges on their own, we know that other moms much prefer to go straight to one-on-one help. Well, good news – we offer that, and you can start getting the personal help you need TODAY! Check out our consultation packages!
Want FREE nap help that you can put to use right away? Download a copy of our free guide, 7 Common Napping Mistakes! The guide is available to download instantly, which means you can start using the techniques in it as early as your baby or toddler’s next nap. So download now, and learn why your little one is struggling with naps – and what you can do about it.
Longer, better naps are just a click away. So don’t wait – download now, and start your journey to better sleep right now!