Baby Nap Schedules By Month

Here's an easy to follow guide to setting nap schedules for your child throughout the baby and toddler years.

Very few things are as important to a child's health and development as getting adequate sleep. A sleep-deprived child is not only cranky, but may also have difficulty learning, and may also have an impaired immune system. But how much sleep is enough? To ensure proper sleep patterns from the very start, use the following baby and toddler nap schedule as a guide.

Newborns are happy to sleep the vast majority of the time (except, of course, for when Mommy wants to go to bed). They will wake when they need to eat, and will also have a few periods of quiet alertness - and unfortunately, they may have periods of fussiness or colic as well. But at least for the first 6 weeks, while the baby adjusts to a world outside the womb where there are such things as "night" and "day", a parent's effort to enforce a sleep schedule is a fairly pointless endeavor.

Once the baby begins sleeping through the night, generally around 6 weeks to 8 weeks, you can expect her to wake in the morning for her feeding and then settle back down into her morning nap. She may take about 3 naps a day for the next couple of months - morning, early afternoon, and late afternoon - with her waking periods in between naps gradually increasing. (When you see that she is awake and quietly alert, this is a wonderful time to help her learn or exercise - show her a toy, smile and talk to her, or put her on her tummy for some "tummy time" to develop her upper body strength.)

From 4-5 months until your baby is a year old, she will probably need 2 naps a day: one in the morning and one after lunch. However, not all babies are alike in their sleep needs. If your baby's 2 naps are interfering with his sleep at night, try going to a one-nap-a-day schedule.

After the baby has become a toddler - from about 1-2.5 years - one short nap a day (1-2 hours at most) should suffice. Make sure the nap doesn't come too late in the afternoon; it should end by 3:00 if you intend to put your child to bed at 7:00 or 8:00. If your toddler is sleeping well at night, generally about 11-12 hours, then the nap is not interfering with your child's healthy sleep schedule.

As your toddler leaves toddlerhood and enters the preschool age, from about 2-3 years, you will probably find that your child doesn't even need one nap anymore. However, eliminating the nap will necessitate that you move your child's bedtime up a little: if he has been going to bed at 8:00, he probably won't be able to go that long without becoming overtired. Try a bedtime of 6:30 or 7:00. You'll know you have the right bedtime when your child is able to go to bed calmly (not in an overtired tantrum) and fall asleep within about 30 minutes or less. He should be able to sleep 12-13 hours and wake up easily the next day.

At any age, if your baby or toddler wakes up during the night and needs a feeding, a new diaper, or reassurance after a nightmare, take care of her needs quickly but calmly. Don't play with the child, because she needs to know that nighttime is for sleeping. A baby will quickly learn the difference between night and day if nighttime feedings are quiet and calm and the baby is put back in her crib immediately afterwards.

At any age, remember to ask your child's doctor about any specific sleep problems that consistently prevent him from getting a healthy amount of sleep. Sweet dreams!

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