What's the best nap schedule for babies between 5 and 12 months boober blog post featured image

What is the best nap schedule for babies between 5 and 12 months?

what is the best nap schedule for babies between 5 and 12 months?

“When can I put my baby on a schedule?” As a sleep coach, that’s one of the first questions I hear from new parents who are ready to get back some control over their lives. It makes sense: the first few months with a newborn can be a whirlwind as our carefully planned existence gets thrown out the window, replaced by emergency diaper changes and frequent overnight wakings.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel for those parents who prefer to have a more set schedule: around four months, you can start to get your baby on a consistent, clock-based schedule. Goodbye awake windows! Not only will your baby get better sleep, but you’ll be able to plan out your day in advance for the first time in months. #winwin

Where should my baby nap during the day?

First, let’s talk about the ideal sleep environment for naps. As babies hit the 3-4 month mark, they become much more sensitive to light/dark and are much more alert. Therefore, I recommend that starting at this age, babies nap in a consistent spot (e.g., in a bassinet/crib), in a super dark, cool and quiet room. Don’t worry, they won’t think it’s nighttime–day/night confusion is over by this point!

Baby nap timing

Second, let’s talk about timing. Most parents of newborns determine when their infant needs to nap using awake windows (i.e., the amount of time between sleep periods), sleepy cues, or a combination of the two. That’s absolutely the right thing to do for the first few months but, as they get closer to 4 months, you’ll want to focus instead on establishing a clock-based nap schedule. We want to aim for biological sleep times. These are periods in the day when your baby will be most accepting of sleep, and their body will get the most benefit.

Babies between 4-5 months are typically on a 3- or 4-nap schedule. Once they are five months, they’re ready to move to a consistent 3-nap schedule: two longer naps that are at least an hour (morning and mid-day) and a late afternoon catnap.

Baby nap schedule

Here’s the schedule that I recommend:
Awake: 6-7 am (gently awaken by 7 am, if necessary)
First nap: 8:30/9 am
Second nap: 12/1 pm
Third nap:  Approx. 2 hours after second nap ended (awaken by 5 pm)
Bedtime: 6-7 pm

Just when you have this down, your baby will be ready to make a sleep shift once again! Rest assured (pun intended), that’s totally normal. As your baby gets closer to 7-8 months, you might notice that the third nap isn’t as reliable as it once was. Or maybe your baby refuses it all together! That means they are ready for a two-nap schedule: a long morning and mid-day nap and an earlier bedtime so they aren’t awake for too long between the second nap and bedtime. Here’s the two-nap schedule that I recommend for babies 8-12 months.

Awake: 6-7 am (gently awaken by 7 am, if necessary)
First nap: 9 am 
Second nap: 12:30/1pm
Bedtime: 6-6:30pm

So there you have it: you can start to get your baby on a schedule between 4-5 months, which means that they’ll be getting better sleep and you can plan out your days and enjoy your be consistent “off-duty” times! You’ll be in a good routine and ready for the next sleep milestone when it arrives. 

Hadley Seward is a pediatric sleep consultant and the founder of Bonne Nuit Baby. She helps exhausted parents and kiddos get more sleep. She lives in New York City with her husband and two crazy kids. Follow her adventures and get weekly sleep tips at @_bonnenuitbaby.