Baby naps and nap schedules, explained

How long and how often your baby naps depends on their age. Here's everything you need to know.

A sleeping baby
Photo credit: Anna Palma for BabyCenter

You might be surprised by how much of your life with a baby revolves around their naps. Those hours of rest give your baby much-needed downtime – sleep is essential to a child's growth and development. Naps also help prevent your baby from becoming overtired, which can make it difficult for them to fall asleep at night. Plus, naptime gives you a chance to rest and recharge, as well as get a few things done at home.

Helping your baby get good daytime sleep is often key to peaceful days and restful nights for everyone. But napping doesn't come easily to every baby. It can take time for some babies to settle into a routine, and it may take some work on your part.

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How many naps do babies need?

It depends on their age, natural sleep habits, and other factors. In general, newborns nap constantly in between feedings. By 4 months, they'll get into a more consistent rhythm, napping two to three times a day.

Most newborns will sleep for stretches of 30 minutes to three hours at a time throughout the day and night. At this stage, don't expect any sort of napping pattern. Just let your baby sleep as much as they need to.

When your baby is 6 to 8 weeks old, they'll likely start consolidating sleep, which means sleeping less frequently and for longer stretches at a time. They'll probably need two to four naps a day, or perhaps more.

At 3 to 4 months of age, many babies begin to follow a more predictable pattern of daytime sleep. This is a good time to start developing a nap schedule (see our tips below).

Do your best to give your baby a chance to nap at the same times each day. But keep in mind that their temperament and natural rhythms will help determine how and when they nap. Some babies nap for long stretches every day and settle easily into a pattern. Others do just fine taking shorter naps or napping at less regular times.

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When do babies transition to one nap?

At some point between 10 and 18 months, most babies drop their morning nap but continue to snooze in the afternoon. The timing and process is different for each toddler.

The most obvious sign that your child is ready to take just one nap is when they fuss at having to take a morning nap. Or they might be very slow to fall asleep and quick to wake up. You can help them transition from two naps to one by gradually shortening the morning nap by five to 10 minutes at a time. If your child goes to daycare, they may need to give up their morning nap when they transition to the toddler room.

When do children stop napping altogether? Again, the timing is different for each child. In general, kids tend to shorten naps or stop napping altogether by around age 3, although some don't stop napping till they're 5.


Baby nap schedules

Although every baby is different, most tend to fall into predictable napping patterns as they reach certain ages. Here's a general overview of baby naps by age – how many daytime hours of sleep babies need at each stage of development, and how long they last:


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These are typical patterns, but not all babies follow them. Every baby has their own distinct sleep habits. For more information, check out our sample baby sleep schedules.

Sleep training for naps

Sleep training involves a variety of techniques that parents use to help their baby learn how to fall asleep on their own. These methods work for naps as well as nighttime sleep.

Some methods, like "cry it out" and Ferber, involve letting your baby cry for a period of time before responding to them. Ignoring your baby's cries can be hard to do, but it could pay off in the form of a smoother bedtime and naptime routine. You can also try "no-cry" methods like gentle sleep training and the fading method.

Once your baby learns how to self-soothe to sleep at night, they'll use the same skills to fall asleep on their own during naps. Putting them on a consistent nap schedule can help with the process and ensure that both your baby – and you – sleep well at night.

For more help teaching your baby to fall asleep independently (including customizable advice from a top pediatric sleep physician), check out our premium course, Baby Sleep 101Opens a new window.

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How to help your baby nap well

Read the signs

Pay attention to your baby's sleep signals. Do they begin to rub their eyes and get fussy midmorning or right after lunch? Do they often fall asleep in the car in the early afternoon? Do you notice a difference in their alertness and overall mood when they sleep for longer or shorter periods?

You might want to keep a record of your baby's sleep signals and naps for a week or two. This will help you see your baby's patterns so you can anticipate naps.

For example, if your baby gets cranky and ready to nap by 10 every morning, you can ease them into it before they get overtired. Start 15 to 20 minutes before you expect their sleep signals to show up – feed, change, and rock them quietly, turn down the lights, and keep your voice low. That way they're already on the road to sleep when that tired feeling overtakes them.

Stick to a schedule

Consistency is the goal: Try to schedule your baby's naps for roughly the same time every day. If you routinely put your baby down for an afternoon nap at 3 one day and right after lunch the next, your child will have more trouble developing a regular sleep pattern.

Try to avoid activities that conflict with your baby's nap schedule. If your baby yoga class happens during naptime, for example, see if there's one offered at a time when your little one tends to be more alert. It isn't always possible to make everything work with your baby's nap schedule, but do what you can.

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If your baby is in daycare during the week and has a regular nap schedule while there, follow a similar schedule on the weekends when they're at home with you.

Don't stress over interruptions

You won't be able to arrange it so your entire household revolves around your baby's nap schedule – especially if you have other children. Life events will interrupt your schedule, and if naps are skipped or delayed from time to time, it isn't a disaster. If you have a regular structure that you can rely on, it'll be easier to get back on track after the inevitable disruptions – including time changes.

Figuring out the best nap schedule for your baby will take some trial and error, and it will change as your child grows and reaches new developmental milestones. You'll need to assess your baby's sleep needs and habits regularly and alter the schedule accordingly.

Start a naptime ritual

A naptime ritual is a good idea, for the same reason it's recommended at night: It helps your baby wind down and signals that sleeping time is approaching, so your baby is prepared to rest.

Your naptime ritual can be shorter and less elaborate than the bedtime ritual: a story, a song, and a cuddle, for example. Newborns often find comfort in being cozily swaddled. Give your baby a pacifier to suck on if they find it soothing. Once you've developed a routine that works for you and that you both enjoy, stick to it as closely as possible.

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What to do if your baby won't nap

No matter how much of a routine you've established, there will come a day (and likely several) when, for whatever reason, your baby just won't sleep. This can be a frustrating experience, especially if you were really counting on those few precious hours to yourself.

Here are a few things you can do to encourage your baby to sleep at expected nap times:

  • Keep playtime before your baby's nap quiet and low-key. Avoid loud noise and stimulating play that could make it hard for your child to settle down and go to sleep.
  • Newborns tend to sleep on the go – they may sleep best when you're wearing them in a carrier or driving with them in their car seat. But as your baby gets older, try to put them down for a nap in their crib or bassinet rather than somewhere else. You want your baby to associate their bed with going to sleep. Also, it's important for babies to sleep in a safe place. So if your baby falls asleep in their car seat, swing, bouncer, or somewhere else, be sure to move them to their crib or bassinet to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Make naptime the same time each day, if possible. Have a naptime ritual, just as you do at bedtime, to give your child the cue that it's time for sleep. You might sing them a lullaby or read a story together.
  • If you're going on a trip, be sure to pack books, a white-noise machine if you use one, and anything else that's part of the bedtime ritual. This will help you maintain your baby's sleep routine wherever you are.
  • Try not to wait until your child is overly tired before beginning your going-to-sleep routine. If you do, your child may be too wound up to sleep well – or even to go to sleep at all.
  • If your child isn't much of a napper, don't blame yourself or your parenting skills. All you can do is offer your child the opportunity to sleep by preparing them and putting them down on a consistent schedule.
  • Your baby may be a natural catnapper, consistently napping for less than an hour at a time. As long as they don't seem too tired or fussy during waking hours, your baby is getting the sleep they need.
  • Resisting naps can be a sign of a sleep regression. It's normal for babies to settle into a sleeping and napping routine, only to regress and backslide into poor sleep. During these regressions, naps can suffer along with nighttime sleep. Fortunately, most babies get back to their previous routine after a week or two. If yours doesn't, dive back into sleep training to help them become better sleepers again (and talk to their doctor if they're still not sleeping well after two weeks).
  • Poor napping has other possible causes worth looking into. Babies who are overtired have more trouble falling asleep. Your little one might also be hungry, teething, or sick. Investigate all the possible causes and ask your pediatrician for advice if your baby's nap schedule doesn't straighten out.
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BabyCenter's editorial team is committed to providing the most helpful and trustworthy pregnancy and parenting information in the world. When creating and updating content, we rely on credible sources: respected health organizations, professional groups of doctors and other experts, and published studies in peer-reviewed journals. We believe you should always know the source of the information you're seeing. Learn more about our editorial and medical review policies.

Mayo Clinic. 2022. Baby naps: Daytime sleep tips. a new window [Accessed September 2022]

Nemours Foundation. 2020. Naps. a new window [Accessed September 2022]

Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital. Undated. Naps. a new window [Accessed September 2022]

Stanford Medicine. Undated. Infant Sleep. a new window [Accessed September 2022]

Cleveland Clinic. 2022. Infant Sleep Regression: What Parents Need to Know. a new window [Accessed September 2022]

Stephanie Watson
Stephanie Watson is a freelance health and lifestyle writer based in Rhode Island. When she’s not busy writing, Watson loves to travel, try new cuisines, and attend as many concerts, shows, and plays as she can fit into her busy schedule.