How Often Should Babies Nap?

By: J.Morgan

Newborns require about sixteen hours of sleep a day, with about half of that being made up of naps during the day.  Babies will usually sleep about two hours at a time at first, gradually sleeping longer at night.  However, most children still need naps until they are about four.  If a baby doesn't nap enough during the day, or too much, it will affect their night-time sleep. 

It is important to set up a nap routine, just as it is important to have a bedtime routine.  While these routines can have some steps in common, like having the pacifier or a lullaby, having slight differences is fine.  The nap routine should be a bit shorter, as sometimes the babies will become more awake and have a second wind and be harder to put down for a nap.  Your baby will start to give you hints that they are ready for a nap, beyond the obvious yawning.  They will rub their eyes, not want to play with their toys, and sometimes just start getting cranky.  Sometimes they will ask for their pacifier or to nurse, even if they aren't hungry.

So how often, and how long, should babies nap?  It varies by age and by child.  Newborns normally have a very "on again off again" schedule.  They normally sleep around two hours at a time around the clock.  As long as they are getting about sixteen hours in a twenty-four hour period, the length between naps may vary.  As the child gets older, the naps get longer and spaced further apart.

By about one month old, babies usually need about an hour less sleep and are able to sleep about three hours or so between feedings.  So they have about nine hours spread through the night with about six hours of napping by day.  They will adjust to the new schedule, so be aware that you may have to adjust your daily routine to fit their needs. 

Three months old is about the age when many babies are finally able to sleep through the night.  This is a huge relief for parents, as they are able to start getting more sleep as well.  Babies start sleeping about nine or ten hours at night, and only nap about five hours. 

At six months, babies usually only need about two two-hour naps during the day.  They will still be sleeping about ten hours or so at night.  You may find the baby waking during the night.  It could be that they just need reassurance that you are there.  It could also mean they need their naptime adjusted.  Sometimes children who nap too much during the day will wake up during the night.

After about nine months, most children only need one nap.  They will probably nap about three hours, maybe even only two, as they get closer to a year old.  They are much more active and the longer nap during the early afternoon will let them be rested for their activities for the rest of the day and not be too awake by bedtime.

As they become toddlers, many children are very resistant to a nap.  It is a good idea to at least encourage a "quiet time", when they snuggle up with you for a story time.  Or you could encourage them to be in their room and play quietly; a nap might sneak up on them. 

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