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Napping 101: Tips and Tricks for Managing Nap Schedules

Napping 101: Tips and Tricks for Managing Nap Schedules Napping 101: Tips and Tricks for Managing Nap Schedules

Napping is a huge part of your little one (and your) schedule. It’s a time for your child to get needed rest that supports their mental and physical development. It’s also a time during the day when busy parents can take some rest themselves or get things done! 


To better understand what napping schedules can look like for babies and toddlers, we tapped our friend Rachel, Pediatric Sleep Consultant and owner of My Sweet Sleeper. Here’s what she shared with us:

 

How many naps should infants be taking, and when? 

Infants four to 12 months old should be napping anywhere between two to four times per day. This depends on the age of the child as well as the length of their naps and what their developmentally appropriate awake windows are. 


For example, four month olds have shorter awake windows, between one to two hours and need more sleep and more naps throughout the day. Whereas, older infants, 11 or 12 months usually only need two naps will less total day sleep per day.


Here is a general breakdown of how often your infant should be napping and when:

  • Newborns: They should be sleeping every 60-90 minutes throughout the day between 15-17 hours in a 24 hour period
  • Four to six months old: Every one to two and a quarter hours throughout the day between three and four and a half total hours of day sleep
  • Seven to nine months old: Every one and three quarters to three hours throughout the day with two and a half to four hours of total day sleep
  • 10 - 12 months old: Every two to three and a half hours throughout the day with two and a half to three and a half hours of total day sleep

Is it normal for my little one to wake 30 mins into a nap?

It is developmentally normal for babies zero to six months to take short naps. For younger infants, their natural sleep cycle is between 30-40 minutes, and babies often wake up after they have completed one cycle. 


Around six months, their sleep cycles naturally start to lengthen during the day, so up until this point your baby’s short naps are “normal”. This doesn’t mean that you can’t try to lengthen them, but if you’ve tried everything, just know that a lot of this is because it is developmentally normal. For older infants who are still taking short naps, there is likely a deeper rooted cause such as an environmental factor, poor sleep hygiene, or an inconsistent sleep schedule causing short naps to occur.

What’s a typical range of sleep that I should aim for for my little one?

  • Zero to three months: 15-17 hours in a 24 hour period
  • Four to six months: 3-4.5 hours of total day sleep, 10-12 hours at night
  • Seven to nine months- 2.5-4 hours of total day sleep, 10-12 hours at night
  • 10-12 months: 2.5-3.5 hours of total day sleep, 10-12 hours at night

 

My baby will only do contact naps during the day. How should we transition to crib naps?

It is normal for babies to want to contact nap, as you are much more snuggly and warm than a firm crib mattress! While I do encourage one contact nap during the day to ensure your baby gets enough sleep, exposing your baby to the crib often will help them get used to sleeping there. You can do this by offering the first nap of the day in the crib and even if it is short it is a win! Other naps can also be started in the crib but extended in your arms temporarily while you expose your baby more and more to the crib.


You can also lay your baby down asleep in the crib, rather than awake, if they struggle to fall asleep in the crib which most babies do. This allows them to sleep in the crib without the initial struggle of trying to get them down

 

When and how do I transition my toddler to a “big” bed?

The transition from a crib to a toddler bed usually takes place between two and a half to three and a half years old, although there isn’t a magic number. Parents should look out for signs that their child is ready to transition, which include:


  • Starting to jump or climb out of the crib
  • Nearing age three
  • Asking for a “big bed”
  • Is outgrowing the crib

Once your child is presenting signs, there are things you might want to consider BEFORE you transition them to a big kid bed. If your child is showing signs but you don’t think they are ready, you can try lowering the mattress all the way down to the floor so it is harder for your child to climb out. You could also switch the sides of the crib so the lower side is against the wall and the higher side is on the side they are trying to climb out of. 


When your child is truly ready, it is so important that you take this process gradually as it is one of the harder transitions. For some children they will transition smoothly and for others they may struggle with the big difference in sleeping in a crib and a big bed with newfound freedom. I recommend starting by talking about a new bed, showing them the bed you’re getting, asking them what bedding they want, and getting them excited to make the transition. Talk to them about a plan, what your expectations are, and make sure your child’s room is fully safety-proofed.


Once you get the bed set up in the room, expose your child to it by allowing them to explore freely during the day and practice naps there first. Depending on how they do, have them sleep in their bed at night and stay with them for the first couple nights a little longer than you normally would and be prepared for your child to potentially follow you out or try to get out of their bed. If they do this you will want to walk them back to their room and help them feel safe and secure and then either leave the room again or stay with them until they are asleep.

How do I know if my child’s naps are ruining their nighttime sleep?

Adequate day sleep is really important to help promote night sleep, but it is possible for your child to get too much day sleep, which ends up subtracting from night sleep. Your child’s last nap of the day could also be interfering with the bedtime process, which is why you want to make sure your child is staying within the recommended range for day sleep based on their age, as well as developmentally appropriate awake windows.

We’re so grateful for Rachel’s time in sharing her tips and expert advice on napping with us. If you're looking for more support on sleep routines, be sure to check out Rachel’s website or Instagram. 

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