Peace. Quiet. Solitude. These are the things parents dream of — and the reason so many parents consider nap time magical. (Even if you love an active home most of the day, everyone needs a chance to recharge sometimes, right?)
One of the few times you may have a quiet house is while your little one is fast asleep.
Your newborn baby may have been content to sleep the day away. But as they age, it can be tricky to figure out sleep needs, including naps. Do they need them and how often?
While we can’t guarantee you peaceful tranquility all the time, we can offer you information about expected nap schedules and, more specifically, the oft-dreaded transition from two naps to one.
Eager to set yourself up for a few hours of peace and quiet? Just keep reading…
While there are some general ages when sleep typically begins to consolidate, there’s no one specific age when all children are ready to drop a nap.
It’s likely that your baby will go to one nap somewhere between 12 and 18 months (nothing like narrowing it down, huh?). The reality is, every child’s sleep and developmental needs are different.
Throughout these first years, the amount of daytime sleep your little one needs will be related to how long and well they’re sleeping during the night.
General sleep timeline
When your baby is first born, they need at least 15 to 16-plus hours of sleep per day. They’re also not sleeping for long chunks at night, so they need to sleep frequently during the day. You’ll probably feel like you spend all day feeding them or putting them back to sleep!
As your child gets closer to 4 or 5 months old, they need a little less sleep overall (closer to 14 hours) and will be sleeping longer at night. So, three to four naps during the day will be a more common schedule.
Their day may follow a pattern: a 90-minute to 2-hour awake window, followed by a nap, then repeat. However, this can vary depending on what developmental milestones your little one is reaching and their ability to self-soothe, among other things.
By 6 months of age, your little one may be taking only two or three naps per day if they’re sleeping well during the night.
Another factor that can determine the number of naps is whether baby’s naps are on the longer side (1.5-plus hours) or shorter side (30 to 45 minutes). Babies who take shorter naps will need them more frequently!
By 9 months old, you baby is most likely getting 10 to 12 hours of sleep at night and 3 to 4 hours of daytime sleep split between two naps.
They may sometimes try to skip a nap as they hit various milestones — crawling or pulling up around their crib is much more fun than sleeping! But chances are you’ll have a very grumpy little one on your hands if they don’t get both naps in.
Past 1 year
Many toddlers will begin to move toward one nap between 14 and 18 months; however, this is very personal. Whether a child is ready for this should be determined based on the overall amount of sleep they’re getting and other signs that they’re ready (more on this below!).
Some children will drop naps completely before they hit the preschool years, while others will continue napping through kindergarten.
As your child ages, you may notice some signs that indicate it’s time to switch from two naps to one. These include:
Skipped naps or difficulty sleeping or resting
It may be time to consider dropping a nap if your little one is taking longer to fall asleep at nap time and frequently skips at least one of their daily naps.
Falling asleep on their own is an indicator that your child needs the rest. So, if they’re going down easily for both naps, they likely still need that second nap!
Even if your child isn’t actually falling asleep during nap time, they may still need a rest period if they’re showing signs of tiredness, like:
- eye rubbing
- lower energy levels
They may not sleep, but instead spend their nap time simply taking it easy and quietly playing without much fuss. And that’s OK, too.
Missed naps have little impact
When they miss a nap, is your little one still cheerful and their normal self until their next sleep opportunity? If your baby is ready to happily take on the world, even on days without a second nap, they may no longer need that extra snooze time.
On the other hand, being short on sleep can lead to irritable, hyperactive, or downright mean behavior. So, your child may not be ready for one nap if it seems like their emotions are shifting later in the day.
Trouble with nighttime sleep
When baby does take two naps, do they struggle to fall asleep at night and still seem wide awake by bedtime? Daytime sleep can impact nighttime sleep.
If your child is sleeping lots of hours during the day, especially later in the day, they may not be as quick to fall asleep at night.
If you’ve noticed nighttime sleep isn’t going as well as it used to and would like to improve it, try increasing your little one’s activity level during the day.
Though this can help, you may also want to limit the amount of late-in-the-day daytime sleep they’re getting. A tricky balancing act, we know!
What if it seems like your child never wants to sleep? Are naps really that important?
In addition to offering parents a chance to breathe, naps serve an important role in developing a child’s full brain potential! A
While naps are very important in baby’s early years, they may become less important as their brain matures. It’s unclear, though, at what point this may be — and it’s important to remember that every individual is unique.
So, you’ll want to watch your child for clues that they’re ready for a change in sleep pattern.
As parents, it can be easy to compare your child with another. Whose child talked first? Has more words? Took their first step first?
It’s important to be careful with making comparisons about sleep, though! Every child has different sleep needs and requires different amounts of time to rest and recharge during the day.
If you’re worried that your child isn’t getting enough sleep or you need assistance with the transition to one nap, check to see if there are any local parent sleep support groups in your community.
If a support group isn’t available or you need additional help, you could also turn to a sleep consultant. They can help you come up with a plan of action to solve the sleep issues your little one is facing.
One last quick note: If you believe that your child’s sleep (or lack of sleep!) is due to or resulting in health issues, you’ll want to alert their pediatrician so any medical needs can be addressed.