The importance of sleep for a growing baby can never be over-emphasized. Babies are at a crucial formative stage of their life. Naps are a huge part of their general sleep cycle. They are necessary for their proper social, mental, and physical development. So whether you’re a new parent or not, it’s only natural to want to know if the time length of naps your baby is getting during each nap throughout the day is sufficient for them.
Babies tend to take naps of varying lengths, depending on the individual. For some babies, a 30-minute nap (per naptime) is enough, while for others it is not enough. Babies who need more than a 30-minute nap tend to nap for 1-2 hours, with 2 hours being an unstated ideal.
Sometimes crankiness level can be a good way to gauge your child’s proper nap length. Sometimes not. So let’s talk about nap factors for you, along with some suggestions on what to do to improve the nap time of your baby.
How Long Should a Baby Nap?
The length of time a baby should sleep is dependent on the baby, their personality, their age, how many naps they take, and some other factors. The length of time could range from as low as 30 minutes to as much as 2 hours per nap session. The major factors that determine the length of time babies nap are.
- The number of nap sessions
Up until about 6 months, naps can be all over the place. Naps don’t start usually settle into a reliable pattern until at least 4 months old – and usually closer to 6 months old.
From 6 months to 15 months, babies generally nap for longer amounts of time per day, between 1 hour to 6 hours in total across 2 to 4 nap sessions. That is between 30 minutes to 1.5 hours per nap session.
As the baby gets older than 15 months, the range for the amount of time they sleep in total remains fairly constant but the number of nap sessions begins to drop. By 18 months, the total number of hours the baby naps per day drops and is about 1.5 to 4 hours, and also the number of their nap sessions go down generally to 1 to 3 nap sessions.
This implies that a baby can have one nap session for 1.5 hours or have about 1hr 20 mins of a nap across 3 sessions. In summary, babies will not have as many nap sessions as they get older but will generally sleep longer during each session. A table is provided below for further clarity.
|Age (months)||Number of nap sessions||Time of each nap.|
|6||2 – 4||30 mins – 1hr 30mins|
|9||1 – 3||30 mins- 1hr 20mins|
|12||1 – 3||30 mins – 1hr 20mins|
|15||1 – 3||30 mins – 1hr 20mins|
|18||1 – 3||1hr 20mins – 1hr 30mins|
And this falls right in line with overall sleep trends and research that I’ve seen, which are shown in the next table.
|Age||Number of Naps||Average Nap Length||Wake Time Between Naps||Bedtime||Nighttime Sleep Requirements||Sleep Required Each 24 Hours|
|Birth to 6 weeks||4-8||15 minutes to 4 hours||45 minutes to an hour||Between 9-11 PM||8-14 hours||14-18 hours|
|6 weeks to 3 months||3-4||30 minutes to 2 hours||1 to 2 hours||Between 8-11 PM||8-13 hours||11-15 hours|
|3-6 months||3||1-2 hours||about 2 hours||8-10 PM||9-12 hours||12-16 hours|
|6-9 months||3||1-2 hours||2-3 hours||8-10 PM||9-12 hours||12-14 hours|
|12-18 months||1-2||1-2 hours||3 hours||7-8 PM||10-12 hours||12-14 hours|
|18 months to 3 years||1||1-2 hours||N/A||7-8 PM||10-12 hours||11-14 hours|
|Preschoolers||0||N/A||N/A||7-8 PM||10-13 hours||10-13 hours|
|Grade schoolers||0||N/A||N/A||7-8 PM||9-12 hours||9-12 hours|
|Teenagers||0||N/A||N/A||8-10 hours||8-10 hours|
So that’s how long babies nap on average, but your baby may not fall within the usual ranges.
How Long Should I Let My Baby Nap During the Day?
In general, most babies nap somewhere between 1-2 hours per day. Some babies will nap for only a half of an hour while others will be napping kings who sleep for 4 hours during a siesta.
Yes, all babies are different. But among babies in the same age (months) group, there are observable patterns. Using those patterns, parents can set their expectations as to how short or long their baby is expected to nap in a day. You can refer to the table from earlier. Or, we can make things easier and just show it to you again.
|Age (months)||Number of naps daily||Nap hours per day|
|6||2 – 4||1 – 6|
|9||1 – 3||1 – 5.5|
|12||1 – 3||1 – 5.5|
|15||1 – 3||1 – 5.5|
|18||1 – 3||1.5 – 4.0|
Now, it can be observed from the table that the ranges tend to vary. This is because babies are all unique, even with observable sleep patterns. And while the range shown covers about 95% of the bell curve, 80% of babies will fall more in the middle. Only about 20% of babies will fall on the more extreme ends of the range. Here are some more statistics to set your mind at ease.
- 80% of babies will nap for 1-2 hours at a time during 2-3 naps per day. Total nap time will be 2.5 to 4 hours daily.
- Less than 5% of babies sleep less than 2.5 hours during the day (during combined naptimes).
- Less than 15% of babies sleep more than four hours total during naptimes.
If you’re in that less than 2.5 hours of naptime sleep time group, I feel you. We were there with you. Four times. But more on that later.
Signs your baby isn’t getting enough naptime sleep
It’s one thing to know the recommended amount of hours your baby is meant to nap during the day. But it’s a whole other ballgame to be able to tell when your baby isn’t getting enough hours for naps. Signs to look out for include:
- A dazed or confused look.
- Lack of interest in being active or in activities, items, or just anything that could potentially consume the energy they are already lacking.
- Gestures such as frequently rubbing their eyes or pulling their ears.
- They can cry and get very cranky. So if you’ve checked off other possible causes such as hunger or soiled diapers then your baby could just simply be not well-rested.
- Yawning and stretching.
- Your baby is slower to respond to wake-up calls, but will still wake up.
Naps are a vital part of the bigger sleep cycle. A deficit in naps will reduce the total expected number of sleep hours a baby ought to have each day. And that makes for a cranky baby.
Make sure to watch that your baby is getting enough naps, as the frequent lack of sufficient nap hours could lead to developmental issues and may increase the chances of certain health issues (such as hypertension, diabetes, etc.). But those are topics for you to discuss with your pediatrician.
Signs your baby is getting too much naptime sleep
Babies are expected to sleep a lot, and that includes a lot of nap hours. Some newborns get up to 9 hours of naptime during the day! This is, for the most part, totally normal as sleep enhances their growth and development.
But this can become problematic if the baby begins to miss meals. This is because babies can’t eat as much as an older child or an adult in one go – due to their small-sized stomach. Translation: babies get hungry faster.
So, when your baby begins to miss their wake window to eat, then you may need to get a bit concerned as food at this stage is very important for their proper growth and development. Possible reasons include:
- Illness: A baby who is sick will possibly have more nap hours than usual. The illness may not be life-threatening and could be a minor one (such as a common cold). But it’s always important to check in with your pediatrician to make sure there is no cause for alarm.
- Medications: Some medications or supplements could be causing your baby to nap longer than usual, so check for any of these that you may have started using for your baby recently. Medicines, over-the-counter remedies, and herbal supplements should only be given to a baby under direct supervision by a properly licensed pediatrician.
- An overtired baby: This should be fairly obvious as a baby who isn’t getting enough sleep will want to make up for lost time whenever they do get the opportunity to crank down for some shut-eye, which is usually when they nap.
How to Avoid Your Baby Under-Napping
If you’ve come this far, you should have a good idea from our recommendations on how long your baby is supposed to nap. You should also have a good idea if your baby is not getting the adequate amount of nap hours they ought to be getting during the day. Even so, we have some suggestions on what you can do to improve the situation.
- Create a safe, comfortable sleep space: Sleeping in a hot, noisy, uncomfortable environment is not the best experience for anyone – and the same goes for babies. An uncomfortable environment could lead to the baby being aroused from their nap earlier than usual or can cause breaks in their naps. Set up a sleep environment in an area that doesn’t have much lighting, and is ideally noise-free. Always be sure that the baby is placed in the right sleeping positions, and that proper bedding is being used.
- Be aware of the damage done by blue light emitters: Using a fun video for kids on your phone, television, or whatever electronic device to keep your baby busy and distracted might be convenient, but you should know that blue light from screens of computers, phones, and many devices we have today keep our brains awake and the same happens to babies too. This keeps them awake past their nap times. When it’s nap time, ensure all blue light emitters are switched off a few minutes before nap time.
- Keep babies well-fed so that they can sleep: Babies get hungry very quickly, and have to eat up to 12 times a day! Talk about a “12-square meal.” A hungry baby won’t be able to nap for too long, and their desire to eat usually trumps their desire to nap. During their wake windows, ensure the little cutie is well fed and ready for nap times. This will reduce the chances of them cutting their nap times short just to eat. You can read more about wake windows in my article here.
- Try to avoid developing sleep dependencies: It’s not abnormal if your baby likes to be gently rocked, or carried around before it can nap. After all, they spent 9 months inside mommy’s tummy getting rocked all the time. Or some babies might want to have a pacifier in their mouth. Most babies have something they depend on before they can have a proper nap. This can cause your baby to have issues with falling asleep and therefore cause them to lose precious naptime hours. At this point, they may require sleep training to overcome those dependencies. You can read more about sleep associations and sleep training here, or how negative sleep associations can trigger regressions here.
These factors really do become everything, even if they look simple upfront. If you want help creating a perfect sleep environment, be sure to check out bedroom gear that we use, love, and recommend every parent get.
How to Avoid Your Baby Over-Napping.
It may not always be a good thing when your baby is napping for too many hours, especially if they are at an age when they ought to have cut back somewhat on those numbers. Here are some of our suggestions for you.
- Create a schedule: creating a schedule is a way to improve this situation. This might require you have to wake them up at the expected time for a while until they are conditioned to wake up at expected times. Not only that, ensure your baby is getting lots of sleep at night because if they don’t they will usually have deeper, longer sleep when they nap.
- Seek medical help: If you realize that your baby sleeping longer during naps is as a result of an illness or an unknown cause then you should immediately seek medical help without question. If your baby is on prescribed medications, also seek your doctor’s advice on if it’s still ok to continue with those medications.
If you’re ever worried that your baby is napping too much, or that there are other health concerns, always seek a medical doctor’s advice.
Final Thoughts – and My Personal Experiences with 30-Minute Naps
The most important takeaway from this is that your baby is different and unique. There is no sure-fire method on how to deal with all babies. You may have to try various methods or try methods in combination to achieve desired results. Always do your research while keeping in touch with your pediatrician as your baby is a precious, fragile being that shouldn’t be dealt with ignorantly.
Personally, each of our four children fell into that wonderful 5% of babies who naps for less than 2.5 hours per day. Please read this next sentence with all of the sarcasm you can muster. It was so much fun!
It’s frustrating when babies don’t nap for very long. And it’s exhausting when you don’t get a moment to yourself. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, I promise. Because while it took them until they were at least a year old to settle into a routine (and then they all stopped napping by about 18 months old), they all sleep really well at night now.
There are definitely days when I wish my children would take a nap – heaven knows they still need it, even at their ages! But they sleep well at night – and they all sleep in their own beds. They all get enough sleep to be happy, cheerful children. So instead of stressing about what I don’t have, I get to enjoy what I do have – four amazing, beautiful children who don’t need as much sleep as other children. The saving grace ties back into the “they sleep well at night!”
So hang in there, friends. And then be sure to subscribe to the free newsletter so you can get all of the subscriber-only freebies and downloads that are designed to help you navigate sleep training more easily.
When learning about parenting or sleep training techniques, it’s important to learn from a wide variety of reputable sources. These are the sources used in this article and in our research to be more informed as parents.
- “Decreased Arousals among Healthy Infants after Short-Term Sleep Deprivation.” Pediatrics, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15286256/.
- “Naps in Children: 6 Months– 7 Years.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 Mar. 1995, doi.org/10.1093/sleep/18.2.82.
- “Naps: Make the Most of Them and Know When to Stop Them.” Harvard Health Blog, 11 Sept. 2018, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/naps-make-the-most-of-them-and-know-when-to-stop-them-2018091114800.
- “Sleep and Your Newborn (for Parents) – Nemours KidsHealth.” KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation, June 2019, kidshealth.org/en/parents/sleepnewborn.html.
- “Sleep Baby Sleep.” Wyeth Nutrition Science Center Philippines, philippines.wyethnutritionsc.org/everyday-pediatrics/sleep-baby-sleep.
- “Sleep in Your Baby’s First Year: Milestones, Tips and Safety.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14300-sleep-in-your-babys-first-year.
- “Sleep Physiology in Toddlers: Effects of Missing a Nap on Subsequent Night Sleep.” Neurobiology of Sleep and Circadian Rhythms, Elsevier, Oct. 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27812555.
- “Sleep-Wake States and Problems and Child Psychosocial Development .” CiteSeerX, citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download.