If you’ve read this article you know naps are essential for babies and toddlers. But just because they’re a must doesn’t mean they’re easy. In fact, making sure little ones are napping regularly and well is one of the biggest challenges for parents and caregivers.
Here are common nap questions and expert answers:
Does it Matter Where My Child Naps?
Experts weigh in differently on the best places for children to nap, especially during the first 2 months when they seem to sleep soundly anywhere. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, though, a crib is the safest place for little ones to sleep — night and day. What’s more, consistently putting your child to sleep in his crib creates a crib-sleep association that can help him fall and stay asleep.
This means that as long as your child is taking more than one nap a day, you may feel trapped at home. Make the most of his awake time by getting out as soon as he wakes up from a nap. Be sure to get back home before he starts to get tired; falling asleep on the go can sabotage his next nap (hello, cranky baby).
How Do I Set Up a Nap Schedule?
Quality daytime sleep relies not only on a consistent nap environment, but also consistent nap times. Nap times do not need to be rigid; the key is establishing a daily routine that includes napping around the same times each day. Here are 2 key questions to consider when it comes to setting up a nap schedule:
1) How much daytime sleep does my child need?
The chart below shows average daytime sleep needs for little ones.
|Total Hours of Daytime Sleep
|Number of Naps
|Timing of Naps
|Newborn – 2 months
Late Afternoon (if needed)
Morning (if needed)
2) How long can my child stay comfortably awake?
Although there’s a lot of variability in all areas of baby and toddler sleep, sleep guru Elizabeth Pantly offers general guidelines for how long you can expect your child to stay comfortably awake:
|45 minutes – 2 hours
|By 6 months
|By 12 months
|By 18 months
|By 24 months
When your little one’s awake-time window is closing, keep an eye out for these signs of tiredness and put him to sleep right away:
- Rubbing eyes
- Disinterest in interacting or playing
- Wanting to be held
If you wait too long after seeing these signs, he may become overtired. It can be hard for overtired babies to fall and stay asleep.
You will start to notice a pattern of when your child is ready for naps, which you can use to create a daily nap schedule.
Don’t get too comfortable, though! Every few months your little one’s sleep needs will change, keeping you on your toes as you adjust his nap schedule accordingly. Keep our sleep charts handy and watch for signs that he’s ready for less sleep. In general, you’ll know his sleep needs are changing when he can stay awake for longer without showing signs of tiredness.
What if Your Child Attends a Group Daycare?
If your child attends a group daycare, his naps are likely built into their schedule. Some little ones adapt well to daycare naps while others struggle to. What’s more, it’s not uncommon for children to nap like champs at daycare but not well at home (or vice versa). It’s important to communicate with your daycare provider about naps, and align as much as possible on when and how your little one falls asleep.
These tips should help your child get the most out of daytime snoozing. But if he can’t find a nap groove no matter what you try, be sure to check in with your pediatrician for guidance.