Should Baby Have a Nap Schedule?

Should baby nap on a schedule, or just whenever he or she seems tired?
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By Conner Herman and Kira Ryan, Dream Team Baby Sleep Consultants
Updated May 16, 2017
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It all depends on baby’s age.

Before 4 months, baby needs an extraordinary amount of sleep—up to 20 hours per day. Some babies can only stay awake for an hour at a time and the day is more of a sleeping/waking cycle, as opposed to a schedule. One thing you can try doing is to keep a log of when baby is sleeping and awake. After a week or so, look back on the logs to see if he or she has some consistent sleep patterns that you can encourage from day to day.

After 4 months, baby is neurologically capable of differentiating between night and day, sleeping about 11 to 12 hours at night and splitting up his or her daytime sleep into three naps totaling three to four hours (until about 6 months) and then two naps totaling two to three-and-a-half hours (until about 12 months). At this point, baby can benefit from a more predictable, established sleep schedule.

Ultimately, it’s up to you if you want to make a nap schedule—if you do you may find that it takes a lot of guesswork out of parenting. You don’t have to worry that baby is getting too much sleep during the day or that you’ll be escorting a cranky, overtired child to a playdate. Some parents who initially dislike schedules say that once they give them a try, they actually find them liberating. Even fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants parents quickly realize the value of guaranteed down time each day to eat lunch, catch up on email or take a much needed shower.

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