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The Fast & Furious Route to a Perfect Nap Routine

Babies = Chaos.  A loveable chaos…but still chaos.

*whispering*

What if I told you that it doesn’t have to be this way?

That you can spot a kind of loose rhythm to your baby’s cues that will save yourself a world of worry and pain  later on in the day?

I’m going to share the typical daily baby napping routines that you can use as a road map to follow your baby’s signals all the way to Pleasantville.

To paraphrase Vin Diesel…”Ride or Die” = Routine or Disaster  

(melodramatic, but you get what I mean).

The Hunky Hubster and I rented the Fate of the Furious last weekend, so it’s been on my brain. Dearest readers! How you suffer through my movie phases!

So what “should” the perfect baby routine look like?  Depends.  Hence the air quotes around “should”.

That perfect baby routine depends on…

  • How old your baby is.
  • What temperament your baby has.
  • Whether you are home all day or have to work, etc.
  • Where around the world Winken, Blinken, and Nod are currently cruising in their wooden shoe… (Congratulations on reading the only article in the universe that links action star Vin Diesel with a 19th century lullaby.)

Today we’re going to go through several very basic examples of “typical” baby routines at different ages to give you something to refer back to as your baby grows.

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce our two drivers for today’s Baby Routine Race.

Meet Ned Normal and Sue Standard.

These are the world’s most boring babies.  Everything they do is exactly on the expert’s suggested schedule (who, in this case, is Kim West…)

Keep in mind that your little princess may suddenly shout “SCREW YOU SUE!” and create her own routine.

That’s totally fine.  My goal, remember, is to give you some road signs to watch for.

Always place what your baby is telling you over what you read here. You are the expert on YOUR baby. Not me. 🙂

A Fast & Furious Nap Routine
for a 1 Month Old

Ned Normal is going to be sleeping anywhere from 16 to 18 hours per day.  This means, that most of his day will be spent in Slumberland.

That’s usually divided between…

  • 8.5-10 hours of (interrupted) sleep at night.
  • 6-7 hours of daytime sleep.
  • Which is a whole slew of naps. (The exact # is hard to predict at this age.)

Warning: Naps Ahead

Grab a piece of paper and start writing down the times your baby eats and sleeps. For Ned Normal, you can expect to see sleepy road signs after every hour of waketime. You can see an example of this in How to Rock Out a Newborn Schedule.

A Fast & Furious Nap Routine
for a 2-3 Months Old

The two-month-old baby will require pretty much the same amount of sleep as the one-month old.  The only usual exception is that instead of waking two-three times at night for feedings, she may only be waking once or twice.

Sue Standard will still be napping 3-4 times a day, at pretty disorganized times.  This is when her brain will start to understand the difference between daytime sleeping and nighttime sleeping.

You can move that snooze to the fast lane by making the room very dark and quiet (with a noisemaker to block the daily sounds) during naptimes.

Somewhere close to the third month Sue Standard will fall into a 3-or 4-nap rhythm.  Visit this article to see an example of what that could look like. (Hint: I’ve got a printable schedule you may find handy!)

Yield to Yawning

Once again, use your handy-dandy notebook to spot her natural EXIT FOR NAP signs. At this age, she’s not going to go more than an hour of waketime before she’s ready to sleep again!

A Fast & Furious Nap Routine
for a 4-5 Months Old

Ned Normal can usually go about 8 hours at night between feedings, and a five month old may be able to go as long as 10 hours.  If this seems like a pipe dream, be encouraged!

Sometimes all you need are a few good pointers in the right direction.  As for naps, Neddy will nap around 3 naps, totally 4-5 hours during the day, with the average nap time around 90 minutes.

If this is NOT at all your experience, that’s okay! There’s a major sleep regression at this age that can mess everything up. You see, this is around the time that your newborn disappears and the BABY full emerges. There’s a ton of milestone growth here to catch!

STOP for Sleepy Signs

Ned usually shows the typical sleepy signs (glazed over eyes, moving slower, yawning) 1.5 hours after waking. That said, if he’s an infamous catnapper (less than 45 minutes) watch for that STOP EVERYTHING AND PUT TO BED neon flashing light as quickly as an hour after getting up.

A Fast & Furious Nap Routine
for a 6-8 Months Old

Sue Standard is usually able to sleep around 11 hours straight every night at this age. Yes, that means your baby should be able to sleep through the night! (Of course, that depends on your doctor’s agreement!)

Don’t panic, though, if she’s no cooperating. There are very gentle techniques we can use to get her used to eating less and sleeping more. I’d be happy to sit and help you create a plan.

Exit to Napville

You can start to expect the “Exit to Napville” road signs showing up for Sue Standard 2 to 2.5 hours after waking.

Typically she will take 3 naps every day, with the total daytime goal of being 3.5 hours of sleep. If you’re not sure how that should look, this scheduling article has a free printable that will come in handy!

Once again, if you aren’t getting any where near those numbers and feel discouraged, consider taking my Napping Know-How Webinar or signing up for a private Napping Session.

A Fast & Furious Nap Routine
for 9+ Months Old

At nine months, sweet little Ned Normal can sleep around 11 hours at night, uninterrupted.  He also likes to take two naps during the day, both between 1.5 and 2 hours long.

At this age, you need to walk a close line between too much and too little sleep.  If he sleeps too much in the morning, he won’t sleep in the afternoon…and the result is Godzilla, storming through the house and wreaking emotional (and if he’s walking, physical) havoc.

So at nine months you’ll want to limit his morning nap to 1.5 hours.  As he gets closer he gets to his first birthday, you can shorten that morning nap down to a single hour.

The exception to this is if he’s been sick or slept poorly one night, or had a very crazy-busy morning exercising his new crawling or walking skills.  Once in a while lengthening a morning nap could serve you really well, but making it habit could seriously scramble things up.

You also don’t want to let him nap before 8am in the morning, or else he’ll be too tired in the afternoon to have his Mega-Nap (which can last anywhere from 1-3 hours).

Usually the napping exit sign for the 9-12 month age begins to peek over the horizon at around 3 hours after the morning nap ended.  Watch your baby closely for his “tells” that he’s beginning to get sleepy and then scoop him up and start your napping baby routine.

If your baby only take short naps throughout the day, he’s most likely going to be over-tired by bedtime.  We can match your unique baby and specific parenting style to the strategy that will work best for you during a private Napping Session.

Merge into One Nap

Somewhere between 15 and 18 months old, he’ll start showing signs that he doesn’t need that morning nap: he’s sleeping through the night consistently, he’s taking for-ev-er to fall asleep for the morning nap, or is catnapping).  Not sure how to actually make that transition?  No prob, Bob. Got you covered.

For All the Nap-Haters Out There…

Some babies really just hate agreeing with all the other babies on how long to sleep.  Unfortunately, that’s murder on their parents, and it (quite honestly) isn’t all that great for them.

Resist the temptation to stop pushing for naps!  Sleep is just as important to that tiny brain as nutrition.  Both are needed for healthy growth and development.

If you are concerned about your baby’s daytime sleeping habits, sign up for a private Napping Session so we can help you create a personalized plan to better naps. You don’t have to just grit-your-teeth and accept a bleary-eyed exhausted existence.

If you are consistent, there is a definite sunrise peaking on the horizon!  

Have You Read These Yet?

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58 thoughts on “The Fast & Furious Route to a Perfect Nap Routine

  1. I would perhaps try to cap that morning nap at 2 hours. Then watch him closely and see if you can catch that afternoon nap sooner. The average waketime for a 9 month old is about 2 hours. Meaning, you should start moving him towards a nap 2 hours after he wakes from his LAST nap. Hopefully this can help!

  2. Thanks for the advice!

    So a quick clarification for a 9 month old. He’s pretty much down to 2 naps (aside from a few days here and there) and doing well. However his morning nap is always the longer nap and I’m gathering that it’s supposed to be the opposite. He sleeps 2-2.5 hours in the morning and his afternoon nap is only about an hour. Should I start waking him after an hour and a half during his morning nap (and then hopefully the afternoon nap will become longer?) Thanks!

  3. Hi,

    I have a little dilemma about my 11 and a half months old baby. Currently she’s teething, but as soon as its over I plan to do the Shuffle because she is accustomed to go to sleep while I rock her. Thus she usually wakes up 40 min after going to sleep crying and needing me to rock her back to sleep and another time around 5 o’clock in the morning – much harder to rock her to sleep so once in a while I (unfortunately) take her into our bed and she falls asleep after I feed her. There are some nights when she sleeps through the night with just little whimpers in the middle of the night and others where she wakes up several times crying.
    I know what to do at night during the Shuffle (have the book) and I know that she will eventually fall asleep (have tried it before with short lived success due to teething), but what to do at naptime? Sleep lady suggests using motion (stroller, carseat etc) if all else fails, but my lo sleeps only for 40 min in stroller and car seat and it will not be enough. It is already hard enough to put her down for naps, I can’t imagine that she will go to sleep during daytime on her own and I fear that it will be a nightmare with crying at night and little sleep at daytime. If I stop rocking her during night time, it also applies for naptime, right? Somehow it seems that there is no other way, but maybe there are some little tricks that can help? I’m trying to introduce a lovey, but no success, there is also a stuffed animal that she likes in her bed, but she hasn’t chosen it as her nighttime pal yet…

  4. Hi Nicole,
        I’m sorry for this delay to your response! I wrote back to you but somehow it never posted.
    I am so sorry for your difficulty. Really, you must be so exhausted. I want you you to be encouraged that yes, there IS hope. It sounds like your son started having trouble sleeping during his 4 month regression. This is a special time when his brain makes quantum leaps in his cognitive development. While this is very exciting, because he is so stimulated, aware and able to learn so much more about his surroundings, it can also be a bothersome interrupter of sleep. It sounds like he started having trouble at that point and you did what we ALL do – you found ways to get him back asleep. Trust me – we’ve all been there. We call these new little habits sleep crutches – and while they seem like gold at the beginning,, they never last. So, this is why he continues to wake more and more – and why the comfort nursing doesn’t seem to be cutting it. This can be helped though!
        You are right in that it is helpful to catch him at his sleepiest. It is also very helpful to have  dark room with a sound barrier of some sort (sound machine). Along with these things, it is very important to have a good bedtime routine (that s used for naps as well). For instance: nurse, read books, turn light out (or close shades), rock and quietly sing, then lay him  while he is drowsy but still awake. One of the things you will want to work on is the disassociation between nursing and sleep. In other words, by all means continue to nurse, but do it in a well lit room (maybe even before you take him to his room) so that nursing is for eating and bedtime is for sleeping. He will not love this at first (naturally) but you don’t have to leave him alone after you lay him down! Certainly stay and comfort – reaching over the crib to pat and reassure as needed until he is asleep. If he becomes hysterical (as you mentioned) you should definitely pick him up to calm him! When he has calmed down and is sleepy, lay him back down and continue to pat and verbally reassure him as needed until he is asleep. Your BIGGEST key to success is consistency. The more you cheat, the more he continues to wake. Trust me. Once he s sleeping better at night, he will likely sleep better during the day as well. Sleeps begets sleep in a baby’s world.
         I hear your frustration and can imagine that you need support. If I can be that for you, just let us know. I would be so happy to walk you through to better sleep – very soon. It CAN be done – I promise.  Take good care, Amy
     
    http://www.incredibleinfant.com/go/super-sleep-session

  5. My son just turned 7 months. From 2-4 months he slept 6 hours straight at night and was good at going down for naps but the naps were in his schedule. From 4-5 months and currently, he hates to sleep. He’s so Curious and thinks he’s missing something so he fights naps and night time sleeping. He typically is sleepy around 730-830, if I catch him at the right time, he goes right to sleep but will only go to sleep with me holding him. My fiancé has a very short temper and patience so he never gets him to sleep. He will sleep about 2 hours and wake fussing and crying, sometimes I can go to his crib and catch him soon enough to pat his back back to sleep but if not then he does the hysterically crying and has thrown up from crying, hits his head on the crib, and fights so hard. Typically nursing him (comfort nursing usually) is the only way to calm him down. My fiancé hardly ever gets up with him, (I’ve tried multiple times). And when he does, he gives it a couple min and brings him to me and he goes back to sleep…so it’s always me. Sometimes I can nurse him back to sleep and put him back down but most of the time he won’t let me put him back down, without crying and screaming. So needless to say, I barely get sleep and if I want him to sleep, I have to hold him, and id like to get him off night time feedings so I’m not being used as a pacifier. His nap times last anywhere from 15 min to 2 hours…. After 15 min and waking he’s still very tired but refuses to sleep. I can’t lay him down anywhere for his naps either, he just wants to sleep on me. I’m exhausted, I cry, I want and need help and I need him to sleep…. Please tell me there’s hope and give me some advice? I’m desperate. CIO hasn’t worked, soothing him doesn’t work, my fiancé doesn’t have the patience to attempt to get him to sleep so he doesn’t smell me or see me, I just don’t know what to do and I’m ready to pull my hair out.

  6. Thanks so much for your reply. I think you’re right he’s going through some changes. Since I wrote this comment, his naps have gotten a bit more fragmented, but his night sleep has improved somewhat. He’s still waking up at least once a night needing to be soothed and usually also once a night when he’s clearly hungry, but I’m hoping with time that will get better. I try to put him down for naps and bedtime sleepy but awake. So far it seems counterproductive to let him get to the stage of actually crying when he wakes at night because then he’s really awake and much harder to settle.

  7. Hi Sara! VERY good question, thanks for asking. I have good news for you. Your little guy is very likely RIGHT at the 4 month cognitive growth spurt. At this exciting time in his young life he is having a flurry of cognitive brain growth and activity. What this means. practically speaking, is that he is highly and easily stimulated while he is awake AND while sleeping.  It is exciting because he is absorbing and learning about life all around him. It is also a tiny bit frustrating because it often times interrupts sleep.  I know what you’re think…Didn’t she say something about good news? Yes! The good news is that it is explainable (is that really a word?)  and not permanent.

    So, to answer more specifically, yes – your change in naps could be affecting his night time sleep, but it sounds like your nap changes are a good fit – since he’s napping like a champ! It is more likely that this night time hiccup is due to this 4 month cognitive awareness growth. He may grow through this on his own by waking a bit but self soothing within a few minutes and going back to sleep. Or, because babies hit non-rem cycles more often than adults and because he is more easily stimulated now, he feels more awake than usual and  may need a little a little help to get back to sleep. First thing to keep in mind is to make sure that his room is dark and has a sound buffer of some sort. Also, be very aware of how many calories he is getting during the day. He may be having a physical growth spurt as well and may truly need extra calories during the day to help him get through the night. You can certainly go in to sooth him (once you have decided that he is truly awake and isn’t helping himself back to sleep) and give him some reassuring pats while he is still lying down – with some quiet verbal comfort. Try not to over do it though and create a sleep crutch – where he needs you to stay and sing or pat until he is back asleep every time.

    I hope that this has been very helpful Sara. You little one is at a great age to consider sleep coaching if you come to need it. Or, even one of our one hour sessions together to tweak through this night time change. Sounds like you’re doing great!

     

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