Baby Napping – how to manage daytime naps and a good night’s sleep for your baby

A guest blog by Mandy Gurney, sleep expert, Millpond Children’s Sleep Clinic

Guide to Baby Napping |

Naps are vital to babies and young children; daytime sleep is often just as important to their wellbeing as the sleep they get at night. There is now more evidence than ever to support the role baby napping plays in their learning and memory. Most parents will also agree on how important baby napping is to regulate mood, appetite and give you some well needed time to rest. And just as importantly a good daytime sleeper is usually a better night sleeper


It is important to consider all babies mature at different rates and your baby may happily be on a different napping schedule to your friend’s baby of the same age. To help you work out what to expect from baby napping during the daytime and how to help them nap well, Millpond have put together our baby napping guideline.


At 3 months old, 30% of your baby’s sleep occurs in the daytime, gradually declining with age; even by 9 months old many baby napping still counts for 20% of their sleep. But naps are not always easy or straight forward to achieve and many parents struggle to get their little ones off for a few hours of precious sleep time in the day.


Bear in mind a typical daytime sleep cycle length for a young baby, under 4 months, is about 30 minutes whereas babies between 4 months and a year will extend their nap cycle to about 45 minutes. Sometimes your baby will just sleep for one cycle and wake, for other naps they will join two cycles together.


Spacing is the key to good baby napping:

If you space your baby napping evenly throughout the day, the nap time should take care of itself, however, this can be difficult to achieve every time when daily activities get in the way. In the early few weeks, your little one may only happily stay awake for an hour before needing to sleep again, but as your baby gets older he will be able to happily stay awake for increasingly longer periods of time.

Birth to three months

At the beginning of this stage, your baby will need to sleep every one to one and a half hours but by 3 months old this time will slowly extend to two hours with a total daily nap time of about five to six hours.

Three to six months

During this stage the time your baby can happily stay awake lengthens from two to two and half hours, with three or four regular naps a day. By six months, your baby napping time will average about three to four hours.

Six to nine months

During these months baby napping will reduce to two naps per day. At six months your baby will be able to stay awake for 2 ½ to 3 hours, often having two naps of about 45 minutes each in the morning and late afternoon, plus a 90-minute sleep around lunchtime.

By 9 months, your baby will stay awake for about 3 hours and drop her late afternoon nap and her total baby napping time average will be two to three hours.

Nine to 12 months

Baby napping between 9 and 12 months will average to 2 naps per day as they are able to stay awake for about 3 to 3 ½ hours. The morning and afternoon naps are taken slightly later now, meaning the late afternoon nap can now be dropped. As a guide, the morning nap should be about 45 minutes long and the afternoon nap 90 minutes long. Most babies in this age group have an average of about 2 ½ hours sleep a day. To “protect” bedtime it is best for your baby to be awake by 3.30 pm.

12 months plus:

Somewhere between 12 and 15 months, toddlers move to a single nap lasting about 2-2 ½ hours. The transition from two to one nap a day is one that some toddlers find difficult. They are not tired enough for a morning nap but too tired to wait until after lunch. To ease them into this transition try gradually cutting down the morning nap by 10 minutes each day and move the afternoon nap to just after lunch.

Then when the morning nap has stopped you may need to temporarily bring lunch forward until your little one adjusts.


How baby napping can impact on nighttime sleep

Napping too late:

If your baby napping is too late in the afternoon it is likely to cause problems at bedtime.

You can alter nap times gradually over a few days by moving the start of the nap forwards by 15 minutes per day.

Napping too early:

Baby napping very early in the mornings can perpetuate early rising; it is as if part of the night-time has split away and become a nap. Try shifting this first nap by ten minutes each day until it is closer to the time your baby normally naps if waking up after 6.00am.

Too much sleep in the day:

Babies only sleep for a certain number of hours out of every 24, so too much sleep in the day may mean less sleep at night. The extra daytime sleep often comes off the night in one of three ways: your baby may take a long time to fall asleep, be awake for a long period in the night or wake too early.


About Mandy Gurney:

Mandy is a sleep consultant and Director of Millpond Children’s Sleep Clinic. Mandy trained initially as nurse, midwife and health visitor and set up Millpond in 2000. Millpond is a unique sleep clinic. It was the first private clinic to specialise in babies' and children's sleep problems and is the only clinic to help school-aged children. It now has a reputation as the UK's leading children's sleep clinic. Millpond are sleep advisors to the NHS and provide regular national workshops to the NHS and the corporate sector. Mandy is a key note speaker and writes for national media, on-line parenting sites and newspapers.

She’s the author of Teach Your Child to Sleep (Hamlyns 2016) of which there is a new edition coming out summer 2020. 


Find out more about Mandy Gurney and Millpond Children’s Sleep Clinic here:


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