The First Year of Many Nap Transitions
Doesn’t it feel like right when a schedule is working so great for your little one, it stops working?
The first year of your baby’s life can be hard to navigate with so many transitions happening with their sleep. The first week of life all the way until they go to one nap can be hard to manage. I’m going to list regular transition periods and how to keep up with your child’s ever-changing nap schedule.
The first two months of their tiny lives are truly survival mode! Their naps can be very inconsistent, but working towards a loose schedule can help form some predictability. The best advice for the first 4-6 weeks is to follow age-appropriate awake times to ensure that your little one does not get overtired. Finding the sweet spot for your baby can be challenging; however, with some trial and error, you will be able to know what works best for your baby. Preventing your baby from getting overtired can help them fall into a good schedule on their own, and you can avoid your baby’s mood becoming inconsolable. The goal is to make sure your baby is getting adequate sleep during the day to set them up for success at night. During the first couple of months, a baby needs 6-8 hours of daytime sleep.
As the baby is getting closer to 3 months, they are ready for some more structure. You will start seeing them following into a predictable schedule with three naps during the day. Their awake time is somewhere around 90 minutes, allowing them to feel tired enough for a good nap but not too overtired to fight the nap ultimately. Three months is also a prime time to start establishing healthy independent sleep skills. Not only will this help with their nap schedule, but it will allow them to get healthy restorative sleep throughout the day. At three months, their total amount of daytime sleep is 4-5 hours.
Between 4-6 months, they will start increasing their awake time slowly and eventually dropping down to two naps at six months. The transition to 2 naps can be slightly hard to navigate. On days they take a shorter nap, you may have to give the third catnap still or do an extra early bedtime. I always lean towards the extra early bedtime to help establish a consistent two-nap schedule. At six months old, their awake time jumps to around 2.5 to 3 hours between sleep, and their total amount of daytime sleep drops to about 3 hours.
From 8 to 12 months, babies are still on two naps; however, we start moving away from following awake times and establishing clocked nap times — this means that no matter what time they wake up, their naps are consistent every day. As they get closer to 12 months old, their sleep needs to drop to 2-3 hours of sleep during the day. Their awake time also starts extending to 3-4 hours, depending on the time of day.
Somewhere between 12-15 months, most babies drop to an official one nap schedule. This transition is one of the hardest and can take 6-8 weeks to fall into place. When your baby is taking two naps, you start seeing nap struggles, short naps, early morning wakings, or bedtime struggles – this is a sign that your baby is ready to go to one nap a day. There will be a drastic jump in awake time going to 4-6 hours before nap and after a nap. Pushing your baby to your one nap time can be a struggle, but doing some outdoor playtime or active indoor playtime can help them get to a post-lunch nap. The average one nap lasts about 2 hours. During this transition, you may need to do a super early bedtime to ensure the baby is not overtired from a short one nap!
Keeping up with nap transitions can be difficult but watching for cues as the months go by can help you stay on track. It is time to add awake time or drop a nap when you start seeing difficulty falling asleep, shorter naps, early morning wakings, and/or bedtime struggles. Remember, the first year can be chaotic, but take a step back and breathe – everything will fall into place soon. Rest well!
Neema Patel is a certified pediatric sleep consultant at Sleep Wise Consulting. She lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and two young kids. She guides and supports parents of babies as young as one-week old through toddlerhood by helping them sleep 12 hours at night. Each baby is different, and she creates a personalized plan for every little one. Her job is to look at the big picture and piece the puzzle together to set babies up for optimal success when it comes to sleep. Parents are provided with tools to respond to their children while helping them learn healthy sleep habits confidently. She believes that parents deserve to wake up rested so they can confidently navigate their days with predictability!
Follow her on Instagram @neemaapatel, where she loves giving advice and providing parents with tips to help navigate the journey of baby sleep.
Note: Guest blog posts are shared for informational and educational purposes and may not reflect the official policy or position of SlumberPod (parent company, Dovetail Essentials, LLC), our employees and/or contractors.