If you're anything like me, you likely spent your pregnancy researching, planning, and making sure you had everything "just so" for your little one's arrival. Once they make their way into the world, however, you might be surprised when things don't always go according to that plan. Nap time, for example, is one area where I had to learn to be flexible. As a new parent, you may wonder what is the best time for baby naps, in hopes that your baby gets as much rest as they need. The reality, however, is that nap time generally looks different for each baby. Luckily, there are a few nap time guidelines you can follow to set your baby up for success when it comes to sleep.
The first thing to consider when it comes to a well-timed nap is your baby's age. During your baby's first year of life, their naps will vary greatly when it comes to timing and frequency, according to Baby Center.
The article stated that for the first few months of your baby's life — i.e. the "newborn stage" — you shouldn't expect much of a pattern for their naps. Let your baby nap whenever they seem tired, and you'll be golden. The Baby Sleep Site added that young babies typically need between six to eight naps per day that range in length. They may fall asleep as you nurse, immediately after a feeding, or after a particularly long match of making eye contact. Pay attention to your newborn's cues and let them nap accordingly.
As your baby passes the three month mark, their sleeping habits will change and they'll likely develop more predictable nap time and nighttime patterns. The aforementioned Baby Center article noted that, at this point, parents should focus on establishing a consistent nap time routine that relies on their feeding times and sleepy-cues. Lay your baby down when they start to rub their eyes, after feedings, or when they seem ready to sleep. The pattern will stick if you focus on consistency. From 4 to 6 months, your baby will likely nap three to five times per day, generally after feedings.
After your baby moves past their first half-year, their naps will decrease in frequency and get longer in length. According to the aforementioned article from The Baby Sleep Site, from 7 to 12 months your baby will go from napping upwards of five times per day down to only two or three. These naps might be easier to time — generally one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
One article from Parents noted that babies in their first year of life (and out of the newborn phase) need four to five hours of daytime sleep per day and although the exact timing of these naps will look different for every baby, a well-rested baby is a happy baby (and makes for a much happier mommy.)