Set nap times

With newborns, you are going to have a much happier baby (and mom) that naps better if you go by sleep cues and waketime instead of set nap times. As your baby gets older and seems to be sleeping around the same time each day, set nap times are often the
way to go because they get rid of the hassle of constantly timing waketime to figure out when baby should go down and they follow the rhythm of your child's body. Having a set nap time also helps you schedule out your day better.

So when should you start using set nap times instead of waketime and baby's sleep cues? This depends a lot on the baby. Some babies seem to sleep much better on a set nap time while others will have horrible naps if you don't watch their wake time length. Some babies are very consistent sleepers so a set time works while others are very inconsistent and need adjustments often. Generally I hear of people going to set nap times anywhere from 6-18 months with 12 months being the norm.

Some experts suggest you move to set nap times around 5-6 months of age, a time when the body starts to get more regulated with sleep and benefits from feeling sleepy at the same time each day. If you are having issues with naps, set naps around this age may help you get into a better nap routine, or may be helpful during sleep training.

Even with a set nap time, you will probably still want to put your child down to sleep a bit earlier (15-30 minutes) if he has had a previously bad nap or seems more tired than usual that day. But once again, this depends on the child. Some children, no matter how tired they are, will not fall asleep for a nap if they are put down earlier than their usual set nap time. Weird but true. :)


  1. Rachel, I love your blog! It's always great to hear how everyone does things. I think we have some of the same parenting philosophies :-)

    I just started my own blog as well: Educated, Common Sense Parenting:
    It's always helpful to see how other people do things. Keep the helpful posts coming!

    :-) Casey

  2. Casey-
    Glad you like the blog! Posts have been a little lacking on it lately between going out of town and reading a book triology (I have problems putting a book down once I start reading). I read teh first post on your new blog. LOL. I'd have to say that being an educated, common sense parent defines me too ( I'd like to think so at least). I certainly do my reserach about things. Then again, maybe I'm a bit OCD about it sometimes :)

  3. So I noticed the last comment was over a year ago so maybe you're not answering comments on this post anymore but ill give it a shot! Just found your blog and I love how "middle of the road"it is! My son is 10 wks old. Until about 7 wks I thought I was the luckiest mom ever! He was on a perfect 3 he schedule with waketimes eventually 1hr 15min and then he would sleep 1.5 he's til the next feed- wth only a few exceptions of short naps. He was sleeping 5-6 hours at night too. Then he hit a growth spurt (I know this because at his 2 month appt he had grown over 2 inches in about 3 weeks!). I pretty much demand fed during this time because he truly seemed hungry every time he cried! I ebf by the way. So I don't know if that messed him up or what but now I'm about to go back to work (I will work 2 12 he night shifts a week) and his sleep is getting worse and worse! His naps are almost non-existent. At first I thought he was waking after 30 min but then I went and sat in his room and watched where he couldn't see me and he didn't sleep at all! Cried for 5-10 min and then played for 20min! He is swaddled in a sleep sack and I wondered with it being so warm if he was too hot but he can't be unswaddled - he totally distracts himsaelf with his hands in his mouth. He s also waking 4 and 5 times in the night. One of these time around 2am I do think he is hungry but not the others. We have tried cio. I don't have a problem with it but it doesn't seem to work for him. He just works himself to a fever pitch and is more awake than ever...he has gone 2 hrs before. With his naps when he wakes up screaming I try to calm him after petting him cry awhile to see if he will calm himself and then I usuallly eventually put him in his swing just so that he does get some rest! I know that will be something I need to break but I don't know what else to do to get him so rest! Please help!!

    1. Katie,
      Maybe it is a wonder week. There is one around 8 weeks.

      Try swaddling in the diaper if you think he is hot.

      Consider that he may be hungry an extra time at night and that that is causing the continual wakings. What I mean is to double check that this isn't the issue.

      He may be so overtired right now which makes his sleep worse and makes the over tiredness worse. I think you are fine using the swing right now if he doesn't seem to be sleeping good elsewhere. Is he done with the growth spurt? You were fine and good to feed him as much as he needed to be fed, continuing to try to encourage full feedings. If the growth spurt is over, work on getting those feeds back to 3 hours ish if he hasn't already done that himself. Make sure you have a good pre-sleep routine. Be careful with the waketime and watch for those overtired signs. With the short naps, you may need to get more naps in than you normally would. He may benefit from an early bedtime with the lack of sleep, but sometimes at this age and extra nap in there works better. When you put him down for sleep, I'd try to start over a little bit with where you were before. So soothe till drowsy a bit and see how he does--reduce soothing as time goes by. If he doesn't fall asleep after some time (probably not terribly long at this age or the over tiredness will probably get worse and worse) then you might consider helping him fall asleep, even with a swing. Yes, you are using a prop, but if you keep working at him falling asleep beforehand, most babies will improve on their own at this age. I like to avoid props when possible. That means that you are able to get baby to sleep relatively well without them with various methods. But sometimes you aren't so there really isn't a great alternative at this age. Later they can usually handle more over tiredness but with most babies it will backfire at this age (some do ok). Oh, you could consider trying the shush-pat if cio don't help at all and you might want to consider crying down. If he gets worked up form crying, you could consider going in every few minutes to comfort until calm then leaving then repeat. It works pretty well with babies this age--seems to be more effective than straight cio at this age.

      Good luck,

  4. Hi Rachel,

    Questions for you: my six month old son has thrown me for a loop! For the past 2 months, my son had been in a pretty consistent routine:
    Wake 8:00
    Feed, play
    Sleep 10:00-11:30/12:00
    Feed, play
    Sleep 1:40/2:00-3:30/4:00
    Feed, play, bedtime routine
    Sleeping by 6:15/6:30

    Now, for the past week, he is all over the place! He has been waking up earlier, but not at a consistent time, taking longer to fall asleep (though he seems tired still after about 1.75 hours), and his wakeful periods have been anywhere from 1.75 hours to 3 hours. His nap lengths have not been long enough as evidenced by him frequently waking up tired, though they have been one hour to 1.5 hours. Probably the most frustrating part is that when I start soothing him to get him ready for sleep, he screams and cries. It then takes his almost an hour to fall asleep in his crib (he doesn't cry much, maybe 5-10 mins out of the whole hour). He has been going to sleep at 5:15 the past few nights due to all of this, which then causes the earlier wake up time (I think!). Is it common for babies to have a sudden increase in wakeful periods? It was pretty consistently 2 hours last week and now it seems like 2.5 hours or 2.75. I haven't noticed any new skill he has been working on besides sitting, but he can't possibly be doing that in his crib! He may be teething, as his first tooth came through Sunday, which I suppose could cause a disruption in his sleep schedule; would that impact his wakeful period length?
    I suppose I am also curious about babies lengthening their wakeful periods and how you then adjust their nap times. If it seems they sleep best at certain times (in this case between 10-12 and 2-4), but then their wakeful period gets longer, how do you adjust? Do babies begin to need significantly less sleep around a certain point?
    Any light you can shed on the situation would be appreciated. As you can see, I am pretty clueless over here. Just when you thought you had things figured out...

    1. Karyn,
      At 4-6 months there often is a jump in waketime, but what you are experiencing does seem a little extreme and it seems like something else is probably going on to cause this since you've had short naps and crankiness.

      Teething may cause him to take a while to fall asleep. This can cause him to get overtired then wake up early and the cycle repeats.

      Many kids will start to get mad at one time or another (and often on and off) as they are soothed to sleep. At 6 months he is starting to have an intentional cry (he understands that his whine or cry will lead to you coming to him or giving him what he wants) so that can impact this a bit right now.

      He could very well be trying to sit in the crib would could lead to the disrupted sleep.

      If you think he may need more waketime, only increase it a bit even if he has difficulty falling asleep. He probably doesn't need to have an extra hour in there (or whatever) and will just get more and more overtired from this and have an even harder time falling asleep. BUT, it is possible that the sleep issues are not from waketimes. You'll have to look over all the positivities and see what seems most probable. And maybe try different things out to see if they work to fix the issue. I always like to wait a few days when things suddenly go crazy because they often go right back to normal :)

      You don't sound clueless at all. With the waketime you increase it and naps will scoot back a bit as well as bedtime. When bedtime gets too late you will need to shorten a nap. OR if the afternoon nap seems to suffer you will probably want to shorten the morning nap (and make sure he doesn't just need a little extra waketime prior). Or if he sleeps better at a certain time in the afternoon,, shorten the morning nap a bit. At this point, he will probably keep droppign in sleep slightely as he gets older. It doesn't change tons.

  5. I love this blog!!!! So glad I found it! I have a one month d that I have been trying to get on a EWS routine this week. He is very attached to me - cries when not held, and at least once a day he will cry incessantly and there is nothing I can do to stop it except hold him. I have let him cry it out for up to an hour with no luck. Am I starting a routine too soon?? Am I missing something here?? What do I do if hd cries right through a whole nap and is basically awake for several hours??

    1. Dee and Holly,
      At this age, and when starting off on all this stuff, I would take it a step at a time. Get the routine down and feedings down (helping with sleep) and be VERY careful with waketimes. You will be working more by waketimes than by the clock at this age. You'll need to do the next nap sooner if the last didn't go well. And at this age, I'll often help baby get to if he won't fall asleep after a while, or if he wakes after a short nap and doesn't go back to sleep. Take a look at the waketime length post and the routine/schedule posts. Good luck!

  6. Hi I hope this blog is still up and running! I have a 7 month old who I sleep trained when she was 6 months! She has had a consistent bedtime forever at 730. For a few weeks she was sleeping until 7am. She just recently went from 3 naps to 2 and is now waking at different times in the morning. She takes 2 naps both an hour and a half long. That 2nd nap she gets up at 3 or 330 and isn't tired at 5 like she uses to be for a 3rd nap so I stopped forcing it. But now it seems she gets tired at 630. Should I switch bedtime earlier would that help with the different times of waking in the morning? Thanks!!!

    1. Meggars,
      Yes, I'd almost always do an earlier bedtime when a nap is dropped, at least for a short while--every child needs it for a different period of time.

  7. Hi! My 7 month old just started fighting his third nap. The problem is, he is a short napper and won't make it to bed time without it. He gets VERY overtired if he misses it and will cry for over an hour at bedtime because of it. He usually wakes at 7, takes a nap around 9-9:40, then another from 12:30-1:10ish and I put him down for the third around 3:45, but he just isn't having it. We've had to drive him for that nap to get him to fall asleep. He usually goes down 2 hours and 30 after his last nap with no fussing. We've tried extending that last wake period but the closer it is to 3 hours, the harder it is to fall asleep. I don't even know how to go about helping him go to 2 naps or even if he is ready. The last thing I want is to have him scream himself to bed. And on a side note, he has always been a cat napper, very rarely does he sleep longer then 30-45 and if it is, it's only 1-1.5 tops.

    1. Sample day:
      7:00 wake
      9:00-9:40 nap 1
      12:20-1 nap 2
      3:45 (fights nap 3)
      6:30-7 bed

  8. Someone please help.. My 11 month old daughter cries all day long. She had colic when she was born. But I can't even walk away from her without her screaming. It drives me crazy. Idk what to do. I have tried letting her cry and she never gives up. And on top of that I'm 18 weeks pregnant so I am going to have my hands full.. Idk what I will do then..

    1. Chelseyy,
      Your situation could be due to a lot of things--illness, separation anxiety, tiredness etc--so I'm not really able to solve the issue with a single comment, but lack of sleep certainly will make a baby cranky. My oldest would literally cry all day if he was lacking on sleep so we had to make it a huge priority. I would rule out any health issues with your pediatrician and if you don't have a solid sleep routine in place with good sleep habits, work on that. Sleep can literally transform a child.


  9. Hi I love this site! I have been reading so much on here. My 5 month old has been waking at that 45 min mark and I cannot figure her out! She goes to sleep awake in her crib and falls asleep within 5-10 mins. But when she wakes at the 45 min mark she doesn't cry ( il love and hate the video monitor). So I will leave her there sometimes she talks for 20 mins goes back to sleep for 20 then is up talking again. Very rarely does she cry when she wakes. I have tried various wake times and still get the same results!!! But anything over 1.15 she gets pretty fussy. So she is taking 45 min naps all day she sleeps pretty good at night though. Bed at 8 wake at 230-3 for bottle then up at 8 to start the day. No crying when she's put down. So how long should I leave her awake in the crib and do I count that as wake time for next nap? Sometimes I can force her awake for 2 hours but that can either backfire and she's cranky bc she only takes a 45 or she crashes hard and sleeps for2. So how can I get her to get to a better schedule when I go back to work my husband will stay home during the day with her and I would like her to be on a little better schedule. Any advice would be awesome thank you so much!!!

  10. Hi there I was wondering if you could help me. My little girl is turning 8 months in a week. She has always been a 40 min catnapper but will often resettle her lunchtime sleep & do 40mins-1hr at 9am & then 1-2hrs at 1-1.30pm. (She refused her 3rd nap from about 6 months old). For the last few weeks I have been struggling to get her to breast feed for more than 3 times in 24hrs. She has x3 solid meals a day. Lately she has been sleeping from 9-10am, has solids at 1130-12 then a breast feed before bed around 1pm (we aim for 3hrs awake time in between naps). The problem is she's been refusing to go to sleep. She normally self settles but will lye awake in her cot for 1-2hrs happy until she starts to get grizzly/crying & then really upset. Eventually she might fall asleep for 30mins but that's it. It means by bed time she is over tired & wont breast feed off me very well. We have a good bed time routine & she's normally asleep by 7pm & sleeps through till around 6am which is great. But our day time naps are shocking! Wondering where I am going wrong & if you have any advise?? Thanks very much in advance