3 Signs Your Baby or Toddler Nap Expectations Are Unreasonable

Are Your Baby or Toddler Nap Expectations Unreasonable?

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

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21 thoughts on “3 Signs Your Baby or Toddler Nap Expectations Are Unreasonable”

  1. My daughter turned 2 a few weeks ago. A week before her 2nd Birthday we said farewell to her paci. She has always been a happy waker and takin anywhere from 30-2hr naps. Ever since we took the paci away she has only taken one 30 min nap a day and wakes up crying. She goes to sleep at night fine and wakes up fine- 10,11 hrs every night. It’s just the wake up from her short naps that’s a struggle. It’s been about 3 weeks of the 30 min/grumpy wake, and naps.

    • Hi Bianca,
      Thank you for using The Baby Sleep Site as a resource! I’m sorry to hear your daughter’s having so much trouble dropping the paci. Some kids do just take a couple of weeks to find new, more positive sleep associations, and then they are able to extend their naps again. If you keep having trouble with short naps, you may want to look at whether there could be a scheduling issue (is she not tired enough, or overtired?), or a different sleep association causing trouble. I hope this helps – good luck!

  2. My 6 month old has always taken short naps when he is with us on the weekends. You can almost set a clock against him to wake up at about 30 minutes. He is fully awake and won’t go back to sleep. At night he will get anywhere from 10.5 to 12 hours of sleep. At day care he apparently naps twice a day anywhere from 1 hour to 2 hours long each. Sometimes he will take a third ‘nap’ while he’s nursing. Any suggestions on how to extend his naps to an hour long on the weekends? Thanks

    • Hi Marie,
      Thank you for reading The Baby Sleep Site! I’m sorry to hear you’re having trouble lengthening your son’s naps at home. It might be worth talking to your son’s daycare providers to see what kind of routine and schedule they’re using – it might be something in the environment or schedule that’s helping him sleep longer. You might also like our article on the wake to sleep method, which works for some families: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/wake-to-sleep-help-baby-short-naps/
      Good luck!

  3. Hi, I have been reading your site since my baby was born; she is now 5.5 months. She has always struggled with naps. She hates going down for naps and usually fight it for 10-30 minutes (or longer), but will eventually put herself to sleep. Her naps are often 30-45 minutes, though she has napped for longer than that and I know she’s able to consolidate and move between sleep cycles.

    She is still waking up for a night feeding/s but lately has been sleeping for 10-12 hours at night. So, I’m trying to reconcile points 1 and 2 of your blog post. If she’s getting 12 hours at night and then a couple 30 minute naps, she’s getting enough total sleep per point 1–but she’s not getting the proper number or length of naps per point 2. I know that naps of at least 1 hour are the good, restorative kind, and she rarely gets those.

    Is her sleeping okay, or do we really need to keep working on getting her to take longer, better naps? It’s a struggle, especially with daycare.

    • Hi @Anne, thank you for visiting the Baby Sleep Site. I am sorry you are struggling with your daughter’s short naps! I struggled with naps with each of my sons until they were closer to 9 months old, so I feel your pain, but also want to let you know that it is possible for things to improve from the constant nap battle! Here is a link to a sample 5 month schedule so you can see if the timing of the naps is happening at an age appropriate time (you of course can adjust the times based on your daughter’s wake up): https://www.babysleepsite.com/schedules/5-month-old-baby-schedule/
      If things don’t improve soon, let us know! Our sleep consultants would love to help you through this and can even provide tips for how to work through this with daycare as well. Here is a link to our services if you are interested: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-toddler-sleep-consulting-services/
      I hope this helps and you see her naps lengthen out for you soon!

  4. My 5.5 month old has slept beautifully from birth, waking only once for a feed. (Unlike her brother!) she will sleep for 12-13 hours at night.
    She has 4 naps during the day for about 40min (average) each.
    She has started to refuse her last nap and I’m wondering if she is trying to tell me she wants to drop a nap?
    I didn’t think she could last more than 1.5 hours of awake time as she seems to get grumpy so I feel like I’m constantly putting her down for naps. Should she be able to last 2-3hours of awake time? If so how do I transition her? Than you

    • Hi @Vicky, thanks for writing. I am glad to hear you have an amazing sleeper but am sorry you’ve been struggling recently with her last nap. Some 6 month old’s are able to drop the 4th nap (or only take it some days) while others need to hold onto it so it is tough to say without knowing your full situation. We have a free guide on naps that may help provide more in sight. You can sign up to receive it here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/free-baby-nap-guide
      If you find you need more help we have an ebook all about naps & schedules that you can read about here if you are interested: https://www.babysleepsite.com/mastering-naps/
      I hope this helps!

  5. If my 5.5 month old takes 1.5-2 hour naps twice a day, is that too much day time sleep? With consolidated naps like that she generally only takes two naps and maybe a little catnap. She goes to bed at 7, but normally won’t sleep all the way until 7. She will want to eat around 5 or 6. But she’ll go back to sleep until I get her up.

    So should I shorten each day time nap to help her sleep 7 to 7? Or will that not really change that? Should we start our day at 6 in the morning? If so, I feel like she’ll need an additional nap to make it through the day, but that perpetuates the problem of too much day time sleep….

    • @ Ashley – great question! To start, 2 naps is definitely on the “fewer” end for an almost-6-month-old. Many 6 month olds are still on 3 naps (and some are still taking 4, w/ that 4th one being a shorter catnap). Now, that said, if the 2-nap schedule works for your little one, then don’t feel pressured to change it! But since she’s only taking 2, it makes sense that they’re on the long side. You figure that if she’s likely getting the same amount of nap sleep (3-4 hours) in 2 naps that many kids get in 3-4 naps, so it’s likely that she’s not prone to getting overtired very quickly, and that she’s figured out fairly early how to nap “efficiently” and consolidate her nap sleep 😉

      If she’s waking a bit earlier than you’d like (which is what it sounds like is happening), what you could try to do is to simply shift your child’s schedule a bit, so that the naps and bedtime are happening slightly later. If you’re interested, we offer a free e-book in our Member’s Area that deals with this very topic – it’s called Shift Your Child’s Schedule. You can read more about the Members Area here.

      Hope this helps, Ashley! Best of luck to you and to your family 🙂

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