How Much Should My Baby Nap?

Parents often ask me how often the baby should nap, and for how long. Often what they’re really asking is “Am I doing this right?”

Sometimes they ask because their friend’s baby is the same age as yours and she’s napping three times per day and yours is only napping twice. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

Behind all these questions is the very real and important question: “Is my baby getting enough sleep?”

How Much Sleep Does My Baby Need?

I’m indebted to my colleagues at “Get Your Baby to Sleep” for creating the tables and charts below (so that I didn’t have to make them!!!)

Baby Age Nighttime Sleep Daytime Naps Total Sleep
Newborn to 2 months 2-4 hours between feedings 4-5 naps 16 to 18 hours
2 to 4 months 4 hours between feedings 3 naps 14 to 16 hours
4 to 6 months 5-8 hours 2-3 naps 14 to 15 hours
6 to 9 months 8-10 hours 2 naps About 14 hours
9 to 12 months 10-12 hours 2 naps About 14 hours
12 to 18 months 11-12 hours 1-2 naps 13 to 14 hours
18 to 24 months 11-12 hours 1 nap 12 to 14 hours

 

I should emphasize here that not every baby has “read the book”, or even “Googled it”, as I guess I should say these days: these are averages. Some babies sleep more than others. That’s why I like to provide ranges and use terms like “about”.

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Total Hours of Sleep

For readers who prefer graphs (as I do) this one gives a better idea of how total sleep decreases through the first year of life. Out of a 24 hour period, the average newborn (0-30 days) will sleep 18 hours! This will gradually decrease to 12 hours, or half the day, by a year of life. Take home message: babies sleep a LOT!

Nap
Total Hours of Sleep per day, by age

How Many Times Per Day Should the Baby Nap?

In some ways the question begs another question: what do you mean by “nap“? The indispensable Dr. Weissbluth (see below) explains that, starting around 4 months of age, the first of the day’s three naps is basically a continuation of the previous night’s sleep! This nap is rich in REM sleep, when we believe the baby does much of her learning and processing of all the information she’s been receiving during the brief times she’s awake. The three naps per day generally decreases to two naps by 6 months of age.

nap
Number of naps by age

 

When Am I Going To Sleep Through the Night Again???

The answer to this question, as with so many other parenting questions is “it depends”. In this case, it depends on what you mean by “through the night”.  Some parents define it to mean the usual 8 hours they enjoyed before baby came in to their lives.  They should be so lucky! To other parents, “through the night” means  “the baby wakes up once to feed but the whole thing lasts five minutes so I don’t even count it”. For me, “through the night” means six hours straight, followed by the delightful early morning awakening which lasts 1-2 hours, followed by a few more hours of blissful sleep. This schedule can be achieved at about 6 months for most babies (see the table above).

nap
Uninterrupted sleep, by age

 

Well, How Did I Get Here?

One of the joys and fascinations with baby sleep is that the tables and graphs I’ve shown you do not depend at all on the type of sleep method you employed to get your baby to sleep! Whether you are an on-demand feeder, a baby-led scheduler, a parent-directed feeder, a contented baby enthusiast, a Baby Whisperer, or an attachment parent, all methods seem to lead to the same result: by one year, baby sleeps 10-11 hours and takes two naps!

I believe that all methods end up like this for a very important reason: Sleeping, and napping, are natural parts of a baby’s life. Given the right combination of reading the baby’s cues and providing structure, every parent can have a happy, healthy baby who sleeps well!

More from Dr. Weissbluth:

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Rob Lindeman

Rob Lindeman is a sleep coach, entrepreneur, and writer living in Massachusetts. Ready to Get Rid of the Pacifier? Sign up for our FREE Video eCourse: The Paci-Free Method http://bit.ly/1U8Tdzx

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