When we brought our first child home, I remember wishing that parenting came with some kind of a manual. Or at least some sort of a FAQ book – especially when it came to knowing things like how many naps or when to put them down for naps or how long they would sleep at at time. Or better yet, how to help them get the best rest possible!
Because while I’d read an awful lot of parenting and sleep training books, it felt like all I was getting was general advice. Which, don’t get me wrong; it was a lot of great information. It just wasn’t as specific as I needed (or wanted!).
Thankfully, I’ve learned a lot about how to make that general information specific – so let me share it with you.
How many naps does my child need?
Now, the first thing I want to start off by is reminding you that the age guidelines are general. Just because your baby hits their 6-month mark doesn’t mean that they’re going to magically change schedules overnight.
Rather, it’s going to be a process – and it could take some time. Even so, knowing the general guidelines is important so that you’ve got an idea as to what’s statistically average at your child’s age.
And “statistically average” just means it works for many babies at that age. If your baby doesn’t fit in that group? It’s not a huge deal – it just means your baby needs you to adjust things a bit for them. And even if your baby does fit in the statistically average group? You’ll still need to adjust things for them.
So let’s look at averages by ages. Oh, and a quick medical disclosure.
How many naps does my newborn need? (newborn to 6 months)
From birth to about 6 months of age, most babies will sleep about 14-18 hours each day.
Of that sleep time, 9-12 of those hours will be at night – and there may be several wake-up calls during that to feed or nurse.
That means your baby may take between 2-3 daytime naps anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours in length.
Does that mean if your baby takes a 3-hour daytime nap that things will go wrong at night? Not necessarily. Maybe your baby’s doing better at consolidating naps faster than night sleep.
Remember: every baby is different – and that’s normal.
How many naps does my baby need? (6-12 months)
From about 6-12 months, babies usually need about 14 hours of sleep each day.
Of that sleep time, anywhere from 9-12 hours of that can be at night. And it still may be interrupted sleep for night feedings or bottles, depending on factors like growth spurts.
That being said, many babies at this age may not need to feed at night.
That means your baby could be taking between 1-2 naps each day. Those naps may be as short as 20 minutes or as long as 2 hours.
At this age, remember that separation anxiety can become an issue – as can sleep regressions.
How many naps does my toddler need?
Toddlers usually need 12-14 hours of sleep each day. Of that, 9-12 hours of that sleep may be at night.
That means your toddler could be taking an afternoon nap of 1-3 hours.
Just make sure that those naps aren’t getting too close to bedtime – or bedtime will become a struggle!
How many naps does my preschooler need?
Preschoolers need 11-13 hours of sleep each day. Most of that will come at night, but they still may need an afternoon nap.
If they can get that sleep all at night, they may not need a nap at all.
How many naps does my school-aged child need?
School-aged kids generally don’t need a nap unless they aren’t able to get their 10-11 hours of sleep each night.
However, if your schedule is such that late bedtimes and early wake-ups are part of life, naps may be a necessary part of your school-aged child’s sleep schedule. Or if your children are able to adjust to sleeping 10-12 hours at night sooner, they may drop the naps sooner.
How do I know if I need to change things?
Many kids stop napping by 2 and most kids are done napping by 5. That being said, watch for the various sleep signs and nap signs.
In other words, if your child is still acting cranky, tired, or has trouble focusing, they may need more sleep. And if an earlier bedtime isn’t possible, you’ll want to look at scheduling a nap for them.
If your set nap times aren’t working, though, you may want to shift what time they’re at. For example, what worked really well for us was moving naps forward, or earlier in the day. You see, kids who are overtired have a harder time sleeping.
So if your kids are having a hard time making it to the “average” nap times of most kids (like mine did), shift those times forward. It’ll mean better naps and happier, better-rested kiddos.
On the other hand, if bedtime seems to be an issue, that doesn’t mean they’re not getting enough sleep. They could still be mildly overtired or catching a “second wind” because they’re tired. That’s why I love our bedtime routine – it’s just simple enough that it helps me quickly determine if they need more sleep – or a nap the next day.
If your baby is too tired, it’s time to change things. Here’s how to help your overtired baby get enough sleep.
From there, change things up. If in doubt, move bedtime up by 15-20 minutes. That’s enough time to help your child settle in for a better night’s sleep that you should see a big difference in the morning!
And if it does help? You can try moving it again – or leaving it at that new time. That way, everyone is getting better sleep.
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