Nap changes in baby’s first year
During baby’s first year of life there are significant nap changes that take place. Which makes sense when you consider the significant development that is also taking place during this time. There is so much growth during the first year, it’s hard to know when things should change with naps. So, here is my guide to what you can expect from your little one’s naps, from birth until they’re past their first year of life.
Napping is so important for babies and young children. There’s a lot more going on with sleep than just “resting”. So please don’t buy into the myth that a baby who doesn’t nap will sleep better at night! Naps aren’t always the easiest of sleeps, but they’re well worth working on.
It’s typical for a child to continue to need day naps until two and a half to three years of age on average. And some children still nap at five years of age. However, it’s in your baby’s first year of life that napping stages change frequently, so that’s what I’m going to focus on here.
Let’s look at day sleep in terms of age, number of naps and when your child is likely ready to drop a nap.
If you’re in the newborn phase, congratulations! Welcome to the wonderful world of parenting.
The newborn phase typically lasts around 12 weeks (give or take depending on gestation), and naps during this stage of life are typically disorganised and variable. That means that your baby may not nap the same as another newborn from your coffee group. And that’s OK. Every baby is unique. This time is all about getting to know them. There’s a lot of new learning going on here for both you and your little one, so feel free to take it slow.
In terms of day sleep, there should be a lot of it going on. The norm is anywhere between 14 and 18 hours of sleep over a 24-hour period. With that much sleep, there’s not a lot of awake time going on for a newborn.
A good rule of thumb for wake time between sleeps is 45 minutes to 1 hour, all going well. And depending on how long your baby naps for, you may get 4-8 of these naps in during the day.
Things start changing around the 3 – 3.5 month mark (if born around the due date), and it’s around this period that wake-time tolerance improves. Your little one can likely stay up for 1.5 hours between naps. You might still need to give them 4 naps during the day, especially if some are short, but other babies may start dropping to only three naps a day now (and 10-12 hours of night sleep, most likely with a feed or two still).
By five months, I’d expect most babies to have dropped the fourth nap and be on a maximum of three naps a day. Now your little one can likely handle a wake time of around 2 hours between naps.
There is still a great deal of individual variation here. Some babies can stay up for 2.5 hours between naps and can nap long enough to only need two naps a day at five months, but most don’t hit this milestone until at least six months.
After six months is when you’re likely see another nap transition. A baby is ready to drop to two naps a day when they can tolerate an awake time of 2.5 – 3 hours between sleeps. Good consolidated night sleep certainly helps with this process.
By eight months I’d expect most babies to be on two decent naps a day. And if getting good consolidated night sleep, their daytime awake tolerance can be 3 – 4 hours a day.
If you’re not already on clock-based naps, now is a great age to start. Your baby’s wake time tolerance is much better, and they’re less likely to be easily pushed into overtiredness (but you still need to be mindful of it). I find clock-based naps work best after 7 months, while wake times in association with tired signs can work better up until then.
These two naps will typically stay until your baby becomes a toddler and you feel they are ready to drop to just one nap a day.
Twelve months plus
Your baby could be ready to drop to just one nap a day anywhere from 12-months to 18 months of age. With most dropping around the 13-15 month mark. You’ll find more information on what to look for and how to go about the transition on my five tips to help the transition to two naps to one blog.
What’s a decent nap?
It’s all very well and good talking about number of naps. But how can you tell if a nap is good enough? A decent nap is one that lasts over an hour. I expect most naps to be over one hour in length to leave your baby feeling refreshed. Indeed from 3 months on, I’d be looking for at least one nap (if not all) to be closer to 1.5 hours in length.
Moreover, if you’ve dropped to just one nap a day, I’d expect that one nap to be at least 2 hours long until later toddlerhood.
The whole point of day sleep (naps) is to help a baby recoup from the fatigue that builds up as they go about their day. And I find that most children function better when the naps are evenly spaced throughout the day (based on their age-appropriate wake time limit).
If the naps are too short, then a baby will likely struggle to stay up long enough. And there will be times you need to manage this to help limit overtiredness (which is the enemy of sleep). It can take time for naps to fall into place. But with a little bit of work they do come right!
If you’d like a hand with naps or night sleep. Please book in a free initial call to learn more. I have packages to suit all budgets, and I’d love the opportunity to help you and your little one get more sleep.
Above all, sleep well everyone!