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Your baby's nap schedule: how to nail it!

Want to give your baby the best head start? Good naps through the first 12 months may be the secret. Naps are vital for brain development. Plus, they help babies keep to a bedtime routine—even if they’re experiencing sleep regression. Take the quiz below, then pick your baby’s age to learn more.

0-6 weeks
2-3 months
4-6 months
6-10 months
10-12 months

What’s happening: 0-6 weeks?

Newborns typically cycle between feeding and sleeping: from 0-6 weeks, they’re awake for only about an hour at a time (sometimes even less.) That’s important, since almost all baby brain development happens during sleep.

But before the 2-month mark, issues may arise that interfere with good napping, such as afternoon fussiness and Moro (startle) reflex.

Is it normal?

For them, yes. But you could probably do without the added sleep deprivation. Learn about baby sleep cycles here. Then check out baby’s nap schedule below—and the action steps to help you stick to it.

My baby’s ideal nap schedule

# of naps

Nap duration

Nap times

Bedtime

Avg. daily sleep

 4-5 naps

15 minutes - 3 hours

Every 30 mins. - 1 hr, 25 mins.

9:30-11 pm

16-20 hrs.

How to make it happen

How do you get your baby to nap? A simple formula: (1) notice sleepiness cues, (2) add ambiance, (3) put baby down drowsy, and (4) stay consistent. In short: N-A-P-S. Here’s how to incorporate it at 0-6 weeks.

Overtiredness

An overtired baby has raised levels of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. This can keep your baby awake, turning nap time into a struggle. Learn more about soothing an overtired baby, here.

Action step: Notice sleep cues

Head off fussiness by putting baby down for a nap when you notice these sleepiness cues:

Trouble settling

Newborns are particularly sensitive to changes in light, noise and temperature, and that can make it difficult for them to fall asleep.

Action step: Add ambiance

Choose one consistent, safe spot for naptime, and create the right ambiance. Make sure the room is dark, quiet and not too hot or cold. The right sleepwear can also help baby settle faster. Learn more about sleep ambiance here.

Mid-nap wakeups

Newborns may startle awake with Moro reflex. Then they cry, wondering where you are, because they’ve not yet developed object permanence: the knowledge that something exists even if it isn’t seen.

Action step: Put baby down drowsy

Put baby down on her back, when not fully asleep, so she can see you leave the room, in a Zen One™ swaddle, gently weighted to soothe wakeful babies. Here’s a video with more tips on how to get baby back to sleep.

Short naps

Your baby wants to wake up and be with you! But experts agree: staying consistent with your nap schedule is vital to creating healthy sleep patterns and ensuring your baby gets deep sleep.

Action step: Stay consistent

It’s never too soon to establish positive nap associations: a warm bath, a gentle massage, and a lightly weighted swaddle can help you define a consistent nap schedule. Help your baby look forward to naptime.

 

Expert tip

“Sometimes when sleep cues show up it is too late! If you notice your little one getting sleepy, make note of how long it has been since the last nap. Then try to get them down 5 to 10 minutes earlier the next time.”

Maggie Moore, Pediatric Sleep Consultant 

New mom hacks you’ll love

Safety first

Click here for a summary of safe sleep practices from The American Academy of Pediatrics.

What’s next?

Naps change after 2 months. Are you ready? Read ahead to be prepared for new nap schedules.

What’s happening: 2-3 months?

Close to the 3-month mark you can eliminate the evening nap, move bedtime to 8 pm, and expect longer stretches of sleep at night. (Check out our bedtime chart here). Ahhhh. There is a sleep goddess.

But at this stage, babies are still startling awake, and new developments like increased alertness, growth spurts and a first tooth can trigger nap wake-ups. So, it’s a good time to work toward independent sleep. You’ll be glad you did, when the 4-month sleep regression hits!

Is it normal?

For them, yes. But you could probably do without the added sleep deprivation. Learn about baby sleep cycles here. Then check out baby’s nap schedule, below—and the action steps to help you stick to it.

My baby’s ideal nap schedule

# of naps

Nap duration

Nap times

Bedtime

Avg. daily sleep

4 naps

 30 mins. to 3 hrs.

1 morning nap

2 afternoon naps

1 evening nap

8-9 pm

15 to 17 hrs.

How to make it happen

How do you get your baby to nap? A simple formula: (1) notice sleepiness cues, (2) add ambiance, (3) put baby down drowsy, and (4) stay consistent. In short: N-A-P-S. Here’s how to incorporate it at 2-3 months.

Overtiredness

An overtired baby has raised levels of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which create fussiness. Switch bedtime to 8PM for longer night sleep. Learn more about soothing a tired baby, here.

    Action step: Notice sleep cues

    Head off fussiness by putting baby down for a nap when you notice these sleepiness cues:

    • Yawning
    • Rubbing eyes
    • Fluttering eyelids
    • Crying
    • Lack of interest in feeding

    Trouble settling

    At 2-3 months, babies become much more alert to their surroundings, so changes in light, noise and temperature, can make it difficult for them to fall asleep at naptime.

    Action step: Add ambiance

    Choose one, consistent spot for naps and create the right ambiance. Make sure the room is dark, quiet and not too hot or cold. The right sleepwear can also help baby settle faster. Learn more about adding sleep ambiance here.


    Mid-nap wakeups

    At 2 to 3 months, babies still often startle awake with Moro reflex. Then they panic, wondering where you are, because they’ve not yet developed object permanence: the knowledge that something exists even if it isn’t seen.

    Action step: Put baby down drowsy

    Put baby down drowsy, but not fully asleep, so she can see you leave the room, and begin learning to self-soothe to sleep. Put her down in a Zen One™ swaddle, gently weighted to calm wakeful babies. Here’s a video that may help.

    Oversleeping at naptime

    Babies between 2-3 months of age experience growth spurts, which can make them nap longer, throwing naps and bedtimes off schedule. Counterintuitive as it seems, that can cause overtiredness.

    Action step: Stay consistent

    Be flexible, but try to stick to your nap schedule: the routine will be comforting. Continue to reinforce positive associations with napping: a soothing, lightly weighted swaddle can help provide more restorative sleep.

     

    Expert tip

    “As your baby approaches 4 months, bedtime becomes earlier and earlier. The goal is a bedtime of no later than 6:30 pm at four months.”

    Maggie Moore, Pediatric Sleep Consultant 

    New mom hacks you’ll love

    Safety first

    Click here for a summary of safe sleep practices from The American Academy of Pediatrics.

    What’s next?

    Naps change a lot after 3 months. Are you ready? Test your knowledge—then read ahead to be prepared.

    Do you know the top 8 napping mistakes most moms make? Take the quiz and find out where you stand.

    What’s happening: 4-6 months?

    Finally: your baby’s internal clock has kicked in, so setting a nap routine is a whole lot easier. Your baby should be down to 4 naps and moving to 3 naps at 5-months. She should be sleeping about 10 to 11 hours at night.

    This is good news—But when babies nap less they can become overtired, which can affect nap schedules and good naps are more important than ever now. These are also the months many babies start to experience teething, swaddle transitioning issues and sleep regression. Fun!

    Is it normal?

    For them, yes. But you could probably do without the added sleep deprivation. Check out baby’s nap schedule, below—and the action steps that can help you stick to it.

    My baby’s ideal nap schedule

    # of naps

    Nap duration

    Nap times

    Bedtime

    Avg. daily sleep

    3 to 4 naps

    90 minutes

    1 morning nap

    2 afternoon naps

    (possibly 1 evening nap)

    8 pm

    15 to 17 hours

    How to make it happen

    How do you get your baby to nap? A simple formula: (1)notice sleepiness cues, (2) add ambiance, (3) put baby down drowsy, and (4) stay consistent. In short: N-A-P-S. If you’re headed back to work, you’ll also want to be sure your caregiver knows how to incorporate it.

    Overtiredness

    An overtired baby has raised levels of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. This can keep your baby awake, turning nap time into a struggle. Learn more about soothing an overtired baby, here.

      Action step: Notice sleep cues

      Head off fussiness by putting baby down for a nap as soon as you notice these sleepiness cues:

      • Yawning
      • Rubbing eyes
      • Fluttering eyelids
      • Crying
      • Lack of interest in feeding

      Trouble settling

      At 4-6 months, babies can tell the difference between day and night. So, they’re particularly sensitive to daylight, noise and temperature, and that can make it difficult for them to fall asleep at naptime.

      Action step: Add ambiance

      Choose one, consistent spot for naps (the crib is best) and create the right ambiance. Make sure the room is dark, quiet and not too hot or cold. The right sleepwear can help baby settle faster. Learn more about adding sleep ambiance here.

      Mid-nap wakeups

      At this stage, babies may experience a 4-month sleep regression—night wakeups due to developmental leaps— that can really mess with nap duration. At the same time, babies starting to roll may be transitioning from the swaddle, which is a strange new feeling.

      Action step: Put baby down drowsy

      At this stage, the right sleep associations are key. Avoid feeding to sleep, but put her down drowsy so she learns to soothe herself to sleep—and back to sleep, mid-nap. Dressing her in the right sleepwear can also prevent wakeups.

      Swaddle transitioning

      When rolling starts, swaddling stops—and it’s time for a sack. This may make your baby anxious, after being wrapped as snug as a bug.

      Action step: Stay consistent

      Have a swaddle transition plan to help you stick to your sleep routine. Dress your baby in a lightly weighted Zen Sack™, designed with soothing Cuddle Pads™ for uninterrupted sleep, to make the transition seamless.

      Expert tip

      “4-months is a great age to teach your little one the importance of independent sleep. Work on making sure your little one is more and more awake when you put her down. Start this at night, then apply it to naps.”

      Maggie Moore, Pediatric Sleep Consultant 

      Safety first

      Click here for a summary of safe sleep practices from The American Academy of Pediatrics.

      What’s next?

      Naps change a lot after 6 months. Are you ready? Test your knowledge—then read ahead to be prepared.

      What’s happening: 6-10 months?

      You’re getting there! At 6-10 months, many babies sleep through the night (if your definition is flexible), and just need 3-3.5 hours of maximum daily sleep (twice a day, plus an optional ‘catnap’ before 5 pm.) But new skills are kicking in—babies can roll, prop themselves up—and there’s lots to see and do!

      With so much new stimulation, naptime may be a struggle: babies may wake too early, and losing that third nap can be an adjustment. Some babies also experience an 8-month sleep regression.

      Is it normal?

      For them, yes. For you, not so much. At this stage, sleep training at night is key to maintaining naps and staving off sleep deprivation. Check out baby’s nap schedule below—and the action steps to stick to it.

      My baby’s ideal nap schedule

      # of naps

      Nap duration

      Nap times

      Bedtime

      Avg. daily sleep

      2 to 3 naps

      1.5 to 2 hours

      1 morning nap

      1 afternoon nap

      1 catnap

      8 pm

      14-15 hours

      How to make it happen

      How do you get your baby to nap? A simple formula: (1)notice sleepiness cues, (2) add ambiance, (3) put baby down drowsy, and (4) stay consistent. In short: N-A-P-S. Here’s how to incorporate it at 6-10 months.

      Overtiredness

      An overtired baby has raised levels of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. This can keep your baby awake, turning nap time into a struggle. Learn more about soothing an overtired baby, here.

        Action step: Notice sleep cues

        Head off fussiness by putting baby down for a nap as soon as you notice these sleepiness cues:

        • Yawning
        • Rubbing eyes
        • Fluttering eyelids
        • Crying
        • Lack of interest in feeding

        Trouble settling

        At 6-10 months of age babies are very alert and developing lots of new motor skills—and sometimes this can be overstimulating for babies, making it difficult for them to settle at naptime.

        Action step: Add ambiance

        Choose one, consistent spot for naps (the crib is best) and create the right ambiance: a dark, quiet room that’s not too hot or cold. The right sleepwear can soothe baby to sleep. If wakefulness persists, try eliminating the ‘catnap.’

        Separation anxiety

        Developmental leaps can trigger separation anxiety. If you wait until your baby is asleep to put her down for a nap, she may cry if she wakes up mid-nap and doesn’t see you.

        Action step: Put baby down drowsy

        Start sleep training to develop positive associations with ‘sleep time’. Dress her in Zen Sleepwear™, lightly weighted to help babies settle and prevent wakeups. Then put her down drowsy, so she can see you leave the room.


        Mid-nap wakeups

        An 8-month sleep regression, due to a surge in brain development, may cause nighttime sleep interruptions and shorter naps during the day.

        Action step: Stay consistent

        Be flexible, but try to stick to your nap schedule as much as possible so you don’t backslide: the regression lasts only about 2 weeks. A soothing, lightly weighted sack can help provide more restorative sleep in the meantime.

         

        Expert tip

        “At this age, it’s common for babies to practice new skills like crawling, sitting and rolling—when they should be sleeping. It’s very important to stay consistent with your routine, to help your little one focus on sleep.”

        Maggie Moore, Pediatric Sleep Consultant

        Safety first

        Click here for a summary of safe sleep practices from The American Academy of Pediatrics.

        What’s next?

        Naps change a lot after 10 months. Are you ready? Read ahead to be prepared.

        What’s happening: 10-12 months?

        The hardest part is behind you! At 10-12 months, your baby is down to 2 long naps, can settle herself to sleep and is sleeping ‘through’ the night. It’s all about sleep training, now.

        Easier said than done. Your baby has been going through a surge of motor skill development, and naptime is when she wants to practice her new moves. Oh, and she wants to practice them—with you in the room.

        Is it normal?

        For your baby, yes. For you, not so much. Check out baby’s nap schedule below—and the action steps to help you stick to it.

        My baby’s ideal nap schedule

        # of naps

        Nap duration

        Nap times

        Bedtime

        Avg. daily sleep

        2 naps

        up to 3 hours

        1 morning nap

        1 afternoon nap

        7 to 9 pm

        10 to 12 hours

         

        How to make it happen

        How do you get your baby to nap? A simple formula: (1) notice sleepiness cues, (2) add ambiance, (3) put baby down drowsy, and (4) stay consistent. In short: N-A-P-S. Here’s how to incorporate it at 10-12 months.

        Overtiredness

        An overtired baby has raised levels of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. This can keep your baby awake, turning nap time into a struggle. Learn more about soothing an overtired baby, here.

          Action step: Notice sleep cues

          Head off fussiness by putting baby down for a nap as soon as you notice these sleepiness cues:

          • Yawning
          • Rubbing eyes
          • Fluttering eyelids
          • Crying
          • Lack of interest in feeding

          Trouble settling

          At 10-12 your baby is active, super alert, playful and newly focused on social cues: faces, words, interactions. This can make it difficult for her to settle down at naptime.

          Action step: Add ambiance

          Reduce distractions: put baby in her crib, make sure the room is dark and quiet, and remove toys and stimulating objects. Dressing her in lightly weighted Zen Sleepwear™ will also help her settle faster.

          Separation anxiety

          Your baby is still learning ‘object permanence’—the concept that things exist even when unseen—so she may experience separation anxiety when you leave the room, fearing you are actually gone.

          Action step: Put baby down drowsy

          Put her down drowsy, so she can see you leave the room; give her one consistent ‘lovie’ to reinforce the routine, and leave smiling so she isn’t anxious. (Note: playing peek-a-boo will helps with object permanence.)

          Sleep training issues

          At this stage, learning to self-soothe is key. Most babies struggle with this off and on for the first 2 years—but a consistent nap schedule, a sleep training regimen and the right sleepwear can help.

          Action step: Stay consistent

          Make Zen Sleepwear™ a regular part of your nap and sleep training regimen; its lightly weighted Cuddle Pads™ help babies settle faster, soothe themselves to sleep more easily, and stay asleep longer.

           

          Expert tip

          “Your baby needs 2 naps until 15-18 months—but she baby may start trying to transition to 1 nap before she’s ready (refusing a second nap, waking up too early, etc.) To keep her on schedule, wake your baby by 7 am and cap the first nap so there’s enough time for nap #2.”

          Maggie Moore, Pediatric Sleep Consultant

          Safety first

          The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following safe sleep practices at naptime:

          • Sleep position: Make sure your baby naps on her back until 12 months old to reduce the risk of SIDS; side or belly sleep is not considered safe. Babies under 4 months old napping in a seated position (car seat, stroller) should be carefully monitored to prevent suffocation from blankets, etc.
          • Sleep surface: Use a firm sleep surface or sheet that fits the crib or bassinet perfectly. A mattress is firm enough when it does not conform to your baby’s head.
          • Crib objects: Keep soft objects away; pillows, blankets and toys should not be present in your baby’s crib or bassinet for the first year, as these items increase the risk of suffocation.

          Common questions from new parents

          We asked Maggie Moore and Lindsey Hennigar, Pediatric Sleep Consultants, for her answers to napping questions she hears most from new parents. For more info, check out the nap resources at the end of this blog.

           

          Other nap time resources

          Mayo Clinic: Daytime Sleep Tips

          American Academy Of Pediatrics: Childhood Sleep Guidelines

          Healthychildren.Org: Healthy Sleep Habits

          Zerotothree.Org: Sleep

           

          Blogs you might like

          Sleep Associations

          When Will My Baby Sleep Through The Night

          Simplifying Baby Sleep

          10 Tips For Surviving 4-Month Sleep Regression

          Bedtime Chart By Age

          3-Month-Old Sleep

          Sleep information for this article was drawn from leading medical journals and health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, and reviewed by Pediatric Sleep Consultants Maggie Moore, Owner of Moore Sleep and Lindsey Hennigar, Owner of The Sleep Ranch. 

          Meet our experts

          Maggie Moore - Moore Sleep

          Maggie Moore

          Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant, Founder & Head Sleeper of Moore Sleep


          Lindsey Hennigar

          Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant, owner of The Sleep Ranch