Baby naps: Daytime sleep tips

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Baby naps can be a restful time for you and your little one — but the process of getting your baby to sleep during the day can be anything but. Understand the basics of baby naps.

How many naps a day does a baby need?

It takes a while for newborns to develop a sleep schedule. During the first month, babies usually sleep and wake round-the-clock, with relatively equal periods of sleep between feedings.

As babies get older, baby nap times typically lengthen and become more predictable. For example:

  • Ages 4 months to 1 year. After the newborn period, your baby will likely nap at least twice a day — once in the morning and once in the early afternoon. Some babies also need a late afternoon nap. Many babies nap a total of three or more hours during the day.
  • Age 1 year and older. At this age or in the coming months your baby will likely drop his or her morning nap and only nap in the afternoon, often for a period of two to three hours. During this transition, consider moving up your baby's bedtime by a half hour to help him or her feel more rested throughout the morning. Most children continue taking an afternoon nap until ages 3 to 5.

Remember, however, that every baby is different and baby nap schedules can vary considerably.

What's the best way to put my baby down for a nap?

To ease your baby into nap time:

  • Set the mood. A dark, quiet and comfortably cool environment can help encourage your baby to sleep.
  • Put your baby to bed drowsy, but awake. Drooping eyelids, eye rubbing and fussiness might be signs that your baby is tired. The longer you wait, the more overtired and fussy your baby might become — and the harder it might be for him or her to fall asleep.
  • Avoid holding, rocking or feeding your baby to sleep. Eventually, this might be the only way your baby is able to fall asleep. If your baby tends to fall asleep in your arms after a feeding, do something gentle right afterward — such as changing his or her diaper or reading a short story.
  • Be safe. Place your baby to sleep on his or her back, and clear the crib or bassinet of blankets and other soft items.
  • Be consistent. Your baby will get the most out of daytime naps if he or she takes them at the same time each day and for about the same length of time. Occasional exceptions are inevitable, of course, and won't harm your baby.
Jul. 20, 2012 See more In-depth