When and how much napping should infants, toddlers & preschoolers have?

Everyone knows that the older a child gets, the fewer naps he or she needs. Yet, few really are aware of just how much sleep a child needs. Additionally, as parents we aim to have our children sleep to our own schedule, which may or may not fit your child’s. Here is some guidance for parents on napping and sleep requirements for children of various ages.

Newborn Sleep (1-2 months)

Newborns seem to sleep more than they are awake. And it seems they like to wake in the middle of the night. This is because unlike adults and older children, a newborn’s sleep cycle operates not on daylight, but on their own internal needs: feeding, changing and love. Newborns actually sleep between 10 ½ and 18 hours per day. They wake for short periods of 1-3 hours only. As parents, we can begin to hope for a more regular sleep routine by exposing our newborns to light, activity and noise during the daytime, and then providing a dimmer, quieter environment during the evenings. However, don’t get your hopes up that they will be sleeping through the night by the end of two months.

Infant Sleep (3-11 months)

Infants sleep between 9 and 12 hours at night and take two naps during the day lasting around and hour to two hours. This is an exciting time for parents, as they finally get some much deserved sleep!

But don’t enable bad infant sleeping habits. A baby needs to learn how to fall asleep on their own, so put them to bed awake. This reduces the incidents of crying at night, as they learn to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own. It is also important that you develop and adhere to consistent sleeping and napping schedules over this period of time, especially at bedtime. Whether it’s a warm lavender bath or music before bed, you want to develop triggers that cue baby to sleep.

Toddler Sleep (1-3 years)

Just when you thought you had the whole sleep issue conquered, suddenly your infant becomes a toddler and the schedule starts breaking down. Toddlers need 12-14 hours of sleep per day, but their nap times will decrease from 2 nap periods to one at around 18 months. This is the time when children begin to develop a resistance to going to bed or taking naps. Nightmares and night terrors may also develop during this time.

Again, consistency and routine are key. As a parent, you will have to set behavioural limits and enforce them. Communication is important, as toddlers develop these skills quickly at this age. Reassure your child without giving into their insecurities. A blanket or a stuffed animal can help them feel secure when you’re not in the room.

Preschooler Sleep (3-5 years)

By this time, children need much less sleep: 11-13 hours each night and no naps after they reach five years old. Preschoolers have many of the same problems as toddlers: resistance to sleeping, nightmares and may even develop sleepwalking habits. Keep a regular preschool sleep routine, especially as they approach school age. Keep in mind they may need to get up earlier and experience a need to nap again if they enter preschool. A return to naps should be temporary and many preschools incorporate ‘quiet time’ into the daily schedule.

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