This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation
The art and science of keeping your kid well-rested throughout the day
It is a truth that most parents learn early on: Toddlers need a lot of sleep to stay happy (and get the energy that they need to keep growing). And that sleep doesn’t all happen at night. No matter how much slumber they get when it’s dark out, they still need some serious stretches of shut-eye during the day. And this need for naptimes is actually a good thing for the whole family: You need those moments of daytime downtime to regroup and focus on yourself, too!
So how many naps are normal? It depends on how old your toddler is. Over the course of the first year, as babies grow out of their infant stage and become toddlers, they go from needing five to six naps a day to needing two solid nap sessions a day (one in the morning and one in the afternoon). The actual time that those naps occur can vary a lot and often depends on their feeding schedule. For instance, if you give your baby a bottle at 9:00am, the first nap might happen at 10:00am. And the same goes for the afternoon: A bottle at 1:00pm could lead to a nap around 2:00pm.
The other deciding factor for determining naptime: your toddler’s behavior. You’ll know it’s time to put your toddler down because there will be signs. Maybe it’s that they zone out, fuss or cry, rub their eyes a lot, or start yawning—and be aware that these signals can come on almost out of nowhere.
Usually around the time your toddler is 15 to 18 months old, you’ll phase out the morning nap. You’ll know it’s time because your toddler will start to take longer to fall asleep during the morning nap or will begin to wake up earlier from it. One instance isn’t a solid sign that it's time for the morning nap to go, but as you notice a pattern, try nixing it.
When you’re ready to make the transition, there are a few things that you can do to smooth out the process. First, confirm that your child is sleeping through the night consistently (10 to 12 hours is a good goal). Then start by moving bedtime up a little, cutting out the first nap, and moving the second one closer to the middle of the day (do this in 20- to 30-minute increments as opposed to all at once). This whole process might take a few weeks, so don’t get discouraged. And it isn’t all or nothing! On some days, there still might need to be two naps, like on a day that's especially exciting or exhausting.
As your kid gets older, even the afternoon nap will disappear. Typically that occurs by age five.
The last component: How long should naps be? Here’s a good rule of thumb: If the child is getting a solid amount of sleep at night, the naps should add up to a total of two to two-and-a-half hours when the toddler is 12 months old, one-and-a-half to two hours at 18 months, and one-and-a-quarter to one-and-a-half hours when the kid reaches two years of age. Until your child is ready to forego naps, enjoy the moments of peace and quiet!