It is a very important and widely known fact that both you and your baby both have a need to nap. While it might be easy for you to doze off at the drop of a hat, getting your child to nap can be a hard one to master. Your little one will go through so many nap transitions in the first 18 months so it is helpful to know what the typical or recommended pattern is.
The early days and months of your little one’s life are filled with plenty of naps, some lengthy (if you’re lucky) some short and (not so) sweet - which is also normal - however by the time your child is 6 months+, their nap rhythms will have started to form and the possibility of lengthier naps (for both of you) becomes much higher. In general, from 6 to 8 months of age, most children require three naps per day. The first and second of these naps are the most important and are the ones you should maintain in your child’s routine until the age of approximately 15 months. To that end, while you are working on establishing positive sleep practices, then ensuring napping happens in the cot for naps 1 and 2 is recommended.
When your little one reaches 7.5 -8 months +, naturally the third nap retires. Generally, you don’t need to do anything to eliminate this nap from their routine, they simply don’t need it so will stop taking it. This is nothing to be concerned about as it is completely normal, however without this third nap you may face some sleep challenges as your child’s second nap might finish too soon before bedtime creating an overtired cycle, which can, in turn, initiate unwanted nighttime activity.
It is recommended to introduce a “nap gap” dynamic from the age of 8 months to 18 months. This means allowing a gap of no more than four hours between the final nap and bedtime. This may mean you need to move the first and second nap later and bedtime forward to close this gap. Your child will now require two naps daily until approximately 15-18 months.
There is a common misconception that when your child reaches 12 months old, one nap is sufficient, however, this is rarely the case. Two naps are routinely required if your child is 12 months+ and still appears tired before 10 am. Many parents will report that their child is tired by 10 am but cannot manage another nap. In this case, limiting nap 1 to make room for nap 2 may be required for a period of time.
Following this, generally, when your child is between 15 and 18 months, one nap becomes sufficient. However, remember to never initiate the transition until you observe that your child is resisting nap 1 or nap 2 (even when you are limiting the length of nap 1). Soon, one nap becomes a reality. Ideally, when only one nap is needed, starting the nap at 12:30pm/1pm is recommended. This allows the “nap gap” of 4-5 hours before bedtime in an effort to make sure that overtiredness does not undermine your child’s sleep ability.
Finally, when your child is closer to 3 years old, they will no longer require a day-time nap and will be able to go from morning to bedtime without napping. However, it can be worth providing a rest or quiet time around the time that the nap would formally have happened.
Happy Napping (to you and your little ones)!