Toddler taking a nap while cuddling a stuffed animal.

Sweet dreams: Naptime basics for infants and toddlers

As parents and caregivers, we know that babies and toddlers are often in a better mood and more cooperative when they get their naps. However, making naptime part of your daily routine can be hard.

To help you untangle naptime frustrations, here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about naps for infants and toddlers.

Why do young children need to nap?

Our brains and bodies need enough sleep to work correctly. Our brains need sleep to process information and remove waste from our brain cells. Our bodies need sleep to repair, too. Not getting enough sleep can cause health problems such as high blood pressure, immune system problems, memory problems, mood disorders like depression and anxiety, and obesity. This applies to people of all ages, including children.

The amount of sleep you need per day varies by age and individual. Infants and toddlers need naps because they require more total hours of sleep than they generally get at night.

Young children also need naps to keep them from getting “overtired.” Being overtired means you’re so exhausted you can’t wind down at the end of the day. This goes against the common myth that naps ruin a child’s nighttime sleep. On the contrary, sleep researchers have found that, in general, children under 5 who nap get better sleep at night.

What is the right age range for napping?

All children nap from birth. When they stop varies by child. Some children stop napping when they’re 2 years old while others nap until they go to kindergarten. Most children need regular naps until they’re close to 4 years old.

What counts as a nap?

Some only consider lengthy sleep in a crib or bed a nap. A nap can also be a 15-minute snooze in the car or stroller. This is important to know because you might think your baby isn’t napping enough when they are. Those short naps add up.

How often should children nap?

Well-known pediatric sleep expert Richard Ferber, MD, provides a handy chart in his bestselling book “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems.” Here’s how many naps Dr. Ferber says children need each day:

Age range

Number of naps needed


A varied number throughout the day

1-month-old to 3-month-old

Three to four naps per day

3-month-old to 6-month-old

Two to three naps per day

9-month-old to 1-year-old

两个小睡per day

1-year-old to 18-month-old

One to two naps per day

18-month-old to 3-year-old

One nap per day in the afternoon

3-year-old to 5-year-old

One nap per day in the afternoonorno naps

Consider these points when viewing this chart:

• When your child drops the second nap, the remaining nap should happen in the afternoon. Right after lunch is a good time. If the nap occurs too close to bedtime, your child might have a hard time falling asleep at night.
• Many 4-year-olds do not nap. If your 4-year-old still naps, that’s OK as long as they’re sleeping well at night. If they’re not sleeping well at night, try dropping the nap to improve their nighttime sleep.
• When a child goes to kindergarten, they should no longer need to nap.

Where should children nap?

Some children can fall asleep easily anywhere — in the car, in the middle of a church service, in grandma’s lap at a loud family gathering. Some toddlers can even fall asleep right in the middle of a pile of toys while they’re playing. The fact is, as long as they’re safe and sleeping soundly, it’s a good place to sleep.

You should consider safety if you have a baby under age 1. Until a child turns 1, they should only sleep in a crib or play yard with a snug, level mattress and fitted sheet — no blankets, bumper pads or toys. If your baby falls asleep in their car seat, that’s OK. Just make sure they get their regularly scheduled naps and nighttime sleep in their crib or play yard.

What are some tips for getting a child to nap?

If your child won’t nap, it could be the environment they’re in or a lack of consistency in implementing naptime.

有些孩子需要它to be quiet, and they might want you to stay with them until they fall asleep. Turn off the TV and close the curtains. Give them their favorite blanket or stuffed animal. Read a book or sing them a lullaby. Then, rock them or sit next to them and pat their back until they fall asleep. Do this consistently at the same time every day.

“Sleep drive” is also important when trying to get your child to nap. They need to build up their sleep drive — or their desire to sleep — before they can nap. Basically, they need to be sleepy.

Newborns usually have no trouble building up their sleep drive throughout the day, because they need anywhere from 14-16 hours of sleep per day. They usually fall asleep soon after being fed. Figuring out when an infant or toddler is tired enough to nap can be a bit challenging, but in general:

• An infant who still needs three naps should take the first nap in mid-morning, the second nap in mid-afternoon and a third short nap right before the evening.
• A toddler who needs two naps should take one nap in mid-morning and one nap in mid-afternoon.
• A toddler who needs one nap should take it in the afternoon, ideally right after lunchtime.

You can help your child build up their sleep drive by making sure they stay busy in the morning and throughout the day during awake times. Playtime lends a hand to naptime.

Why do some 2-year-olds not nap?

Even though most children need to nap until they’re close to 4 years old, some 2-year-olds may not need them. Two-year-olds need a minimum of 11½ hours of total sleep per day. If your 2-year-old is going to bed at 8 p.m. and waking up at 7:30 a.m., they might be getting enough sleep at night and not need to nap during the day.

However, if your 2-year-old is getting less than 11½ hours of sleep at night and not taking a nap, you should either get them to bed sooner or encourage an afternoon nap right after lunchtime. This is especially true if they have moments of irritability during the day.

What can parents do for older children who no longer nap but still get irritable in the afternoon?

Children who no longer nap can still benefit from some quiet time in the afternoon. After a long day of playing and interacting with others, some downtime alone can help your child recharge and make it through dinnertime.

Try giving your child books, puzzles or crafts to work on while you prepare dinner. Avoid screens of any kind, such as smartphones, tablets and TVs. These do not encourage creativity, imagination or freethinking, and the light they give off tricks brains into thinking it’s the beginning of the day. This can throw off a child’s natural circadian rhythm (internal clock that tells us when to be awake and when to sleep), causing them to have trouble going to sleep at bedtime.

This content was produced by UK HealthCare Brand Strategy.