Sleep plays a huge role in your baby’s mental and physical development. So it’s important your little one gets enough hours sleep at night … and in the day. From around three to four months, you might want to introduce a daytime nap routine.
How often your baby needs to nap in the day – and for how long – will depend on her age.
When your baby is a newborn and up until around three months, she’ll sleep for around 14-17 hours a day, waking to feed. This is double the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep for adults – although this is a distant memory for many parents!
From four months, your baby will need around 12-15 hours of sleep. And while you may have already started thinking about putting a bedtime routine in place, establishing a routine of daytime naps is just as important.
Establishing your baby’s daytime naps
Firstly, remember each baby is different – some will nap for long periods while others will prefer short naps.
To establish your baby’s daytime nap routine, it’s a good idea to follow her own natural sleep patterns and cycles.
To do this, watch out for signs that she’s tired – by now you’ll probably recognize lots of her individual sleepy cues, including rubbing her eyes or pulling at her ears.
Being consistent is vital – baby’s thrive on routine – so you might want to keep a diary of her nap times to start with. This will then show you when she gets tired, meaning you can schedule her naps for around the same times every day.
By knowing her sleep patterns, you can start preparing her for her daytime nap before she’s even showing signs of tiredness. And this means you can help her wind down before the first yawn!
How long should my baby nap for during the day?
How long your baby naps for in the day will depend on her own sleep patterns. She might prefer longer naps, or be better suited to shorter, more frequent naps. Here’s an outline of what you can typically expect:
By 6 months
By this point, your little one is likely to be having two or three naps a day: one in the morning, one in the early afternoon, and another later in the afternoon. Before nine months, your baby needs about three hours of sleep in the day.
By 9-12 months
Your baby could well be having just two naps a day – one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
By 18 months
At this age, your toddler may have dropped her morning nap but still sleep after lunch.
As your baby grows, she’ll need less sleep so you’ll need to adapt her daytime nap routine.
Tips for helping your baby nap
Your daytime nap routine doesn’t need to be as involved as your baby’s bedtime routine which could include bath, book and lullaby. Instead, there are simple things you can do to prepare for your baby for her daytime sleep.
- Help her wind down before her nap. Avoid screen time an hour before sleep and try not to overstimulate her with play before her daytime sleep.
- Think about what she’s going to sleep in. You don’t need to put your litte one in her PJs for her nap, but make sure she’s not in anything that’s going to make her too hot (or wake her up because she’s cold!)
- Be prepared. If you know you are going to be out, bring your baby’s favourite toy or anything else she associates with sleep time.
- Be consistent. Try and follow her nap routine and put her down at roughly the same time every day. This routine helps your baby to know what to expect.
- Encourage her to fall asleep on her own. It’s tempting to help your baby sleep, by rocking her for example. Yet for good sleep habits, it’s best to let your baby learn to fall asleep by herself.
What if my baby starts refusing her daytime nap?
As your baby grows, she’ll need less sleep. Which is why it’s a good idea to be mindful of her sleep routine and adapt it as she gets older.
Up until three months she may need up to to 17 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. Yet between 4-11 months she may need as little as 12 hours.
Other reasons your baby won’t nap could include:
- The room is too bright. Invest in some blackout blinds for her daytime naps.
- She’s overtired. … or not tired enough. Keep an eye on her sleep signals to work out when she’s ready for a nap. It might be slightly earlier or later than you usually put her down. Try and be as consistent as possible if you can.
- She doesn’t WANT to nap. The older your baby gets, the more stimulated she is by the world around her … especially her toys! It might be an idea to stash all her toys as part of her winding down ritual before a nap and then cuddle up for a book before putting her down.
- She might be hungry. Your baby will have lots of growth spurts and it might be she simply wants more food before going for a nap.