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Napping and Wake Time Issues

Early Wake Times:

At about 4 months of age give or take a month or so your child will have a steady wake time. It can be anywhere from 6-8am (most are between 6-7am). If you child is getting up before 6am you might consider a few things:

  1. If your child (4-9 months) sleeps well at night and is not having any unnecessary nightwakings she might be hungry at that time and you will need to feed her. If she is not fussing a whole lot, try waiting until 6am before going in and getting her up for the day. You might also try placing a water bottle or sippy cup in the crib so that she can tie herself over until 6am.
  2. If your child isn't sleeping well during the night and/or day this can be another cause of early wake up times. Please go to the Age and Needs section to learn more about how eliminate these causes.
  3. For children who are not napping anymore make sure the bedtime isn't too late. This is another cause of early wakenings. If you adjust the bedtime over a week period and the wakenings continue try placing an alarm clock next to the crib and set it to a reasonable wake time. The alarm clock will determine the wake time and the start of her day.
  4. For older children (3-4 years) also use an alarm clock and set it for the appropriate time. You might use some positive reinforcement using a star chart for staying in the bed until the alarm clock goes off. Put the days of the week on the chart and every day she stays in her bed until that alarm goes off she can place a star on the chart. If she gets 5 stars in a row she can have a reward like: favorite dinner, movie or treat.

0 to 4 months:

For more info on day sleep within this range of age please go to
Sleep Needs: 0-2 months, 2-3 months, and 3-4 months.

Need some additional help? Email Deborah

4 to 8 months:

At four months we were focusing on working with naptimes around the clock like the: 9,12,3 schedule (these times are just guidelines to work with and most likely based on a 7am wake time, depending on the wake time the first nap can occur anywhere from 8-9:30am). You might sometimes find that these naps are short and maybe only lasting about 30 minutes which is very common. In this instance you would apply the hour rule of trying not to go to your baby for the last 30 minutes to see if she would put herself back to sleep (if the nap is 20 minutes you would try to wait out the remaining 40 minutes). The more you consistently do this the more likely your child will fall back asleep unassisted and create longer napping.

Additional Note: In my experience I have found that naps during this age range can be short for quite some time (even when you have implemented, waiting out the full hour). What I recommend in this situation is to be consistent as possible on the time that you put them down for the naps. You need to put your child down for those naps consistently at around the same time everyday. You might have to stretch the wakeful period from the morning wake time to get to the first nap. Use a best scenario to worst case scenario timing for these naps and follow it as consistently as possible. Let's say she woke up earlier than usual, before 6am. In this case this might be a worse case scenario day where you will attempt a nap at around 8-8:15am instead of your 8:30-8:45am nap. Naptimes should be flexible but within a short time frame, from your typical schedule you might start the nap 1/2 hour either way depending on the wake time.

Being that 4-5 months is still the beginning stages of your baby's ability to have organized day sleep you have to be: patient with it, consistent about the times you are putting your child down, and leaving your child if she wakes up prematurely from a nap. The reason I give an hour is that since daytime is so short you have to limit the time you leave them to go back to sleep somewhat, and let's be realistic in that you can't spend your whole day trying to get her to sleep. The hour seems to work well with most of my families. Remember, this is up to the individual family, if you are not comfortable with your baby fussing at all, then try staying with your baby and rubbing her back and shushing her to sleep for the rest of the hour. On the other hand, if you feel your baby is okay and is not fussing hard, you may choose to leave your baby longer than the hour. You know your baby so you have to go with what you think is right.

At about 6 months your baby will probably be taking 3 naps a day for about an hour or more (3rd nap may be shorter) pretty consistently. However, some babies at this time are taking two longer naps and are not able to take a third nap because it starts too late in the afternoon. The times for these naps may be around 9am and 1pm. For babies who were colicky as infants or premature, day sleep still might not be as organized and naps can be short and inconsistent. For these babies it is important to keep pushing the schedule and keeping with an early bedtime.

At about 8 months those babies who already were taking 2 longer naps a day are continuing their sleep routine. Some though who previously were taking 3 naps a day are starting to take a longer morning and afternoon nap which occurs closer to 1pm. The child is not sleeping for the third nap and/or the nap can only occur late in the afternoon which pushes the bedtime too late.(a third nap starting past 4pm could be too late). Babies who are premature or post-colicky might now be taking 3 naps a day somewhat regularly and might still need to continue the third nap for a couple of more months.

To read more about sleep in this age range, night sleep in particular please go to
Sleep Needs: 4 to 8 months.

Need some additional help? Email Deborah

8 to 15 months:

8 - 10 months:

At this point naps are regular and the duration is consistent. Your child might still need three naps a day because the duration of the first two naps are not sufficient to get your child through till bedtime without becoming overtired. However, there will come a point where either the first two naps will lengthen or in particular the second nap thus making the third nap more difficult to implement. This is essentially transition from 3 to 2 naps a day.

10 - 15 months:

Now that the third nap no longer exists, we hopefully have two solid naps a day which are restorative and long enough to keep your child rested until bedtime. As we get closer to months 13-15 we start seeing changes occur in the nap schedule (this can vary from child to child, some start transition at as early as a year and others might not transition until 18 months). There are different indications of when transition is starting. The first scenario is that your child begins playing during the morning nap and never sleeps or you leave your child and she falls asleep later into the nap (too late to start a morning nap). The second scenario is that your child is able to stay awake longer in the morning so you put her down a little bit later and she does sleep, however, again it falls too late in the morning thus messing up the schedule for the day. The third scenario is that your child sleeps fine for the morning nap, around the same time as she always has but is refusing to take the afternoon nap, leaving you with a very overtired child at bedtime.

So, what do we do? For a child whose scenario is much like the first two you will want to push her wakeful period as close to 12pm for that one nap. If it's too difficult to push it that far then you could try 11am, either way she will be tired if not overtired, but that is to be expected. The duration of the nap will vary for the first couple of weeks. She might only sleep and hour or she might sleep two but being that the nap is starting so early in the day it will definitely not cover her until bedtime. Note: it is so important during this time to let your baby go back to sleep should she wake prematurely from this only nap of the day, which is expected. Transitions always mean some period of overtiredness but this is why implementing an early bedtime is so important (which will be explained further, below). For the third scenario you will want to limit the morning nap to about an hour so that the afternoon nap can occur. Eventually the third scenario will turn into the first or second scenario and at that point you would implement the procedures explained above.

Once you have made the transition into one nap a day you will then have to work on pushing that one nap closer to the middle of the day. If the one nap is occurring late morning then over a period of weeks you will slowly push that nap closer to 12:30-1pm. It takes time so be patient! Some babies can be pushed harder than others. Some just go to the 1pm nap right away and can tolerate the overtiredness from the long wakeful period in the morning. Others or most babies take some time to get to that point. It can take a couple of weeks, to a couple of months depending on the child. When all is said and done and you have finally pushed that nap to midday the duration will become longer over time. Those long afternoon naps we hear about tend to occur some months after transition is complete.

To read more about sleep in this age range, night sleep in particular please go to
Sleep Needs: 8 to 15 months.

Need some additional help? Email Deborah

15 months to 3.5 years:

15 - 18 months:

As discussed in the previous stage 8 - 15 months your child still might be in the process of either transitioning to one nap or have made the transition already. This one nap a day might occur anywhere from 11am to 1pm. The duration also may vary. For children who are in the beginning stages of full transition to one nap, the nap still occurs too early in the day making it difficult to stay rested through till bedtime. Please review the section below for night sleep. The goal for parents with children at this stage is to start stretching the wakefulness week by week by a half hour so that the one nap can occur closer to midday (12:30-1pm). Once the nap is occurring at that time then over time the duration of the nap starts to increase. This increase in duration can become longer over a period of 2-6 months (varies in children tremendously).

18 months to 3 years:

Now that you have one nap a day the length or duration of that nap increases over time. At about 2 years you might even get those super long naps of 3 hours or more. It's important at this age to be consistent with this nap because your child needs this nap to stay rested. As your child approaches the age of 3 years there might be a time where she begins not to fall asleep right away and play during the nap. Don't assume your child is transitioning out of this nap. I have observed a consistent pattern at this age where parents don't realize that they begin putting their child down for the nap a little bit later in the day. Please take a close look at the pattern of sleep times for this nap if this is occurring. You might have inched that nap too late in the day for your child. It doesn't have to be a big change of time rather it could be a period of just a half-hour later (previously 1pm, now it's 1:30pm). Try reverting back to the original nap time or maybe even 15 minutes earlier than that time and see if your child goes down more quickly. If she does, you know she's not transitioning out of this nap quite yet. You may also consider taking toys or play items out of the crib if you think that might hamper the napping process.

3 years to 4 years:

If your child begins to regularly play during nap time and not sleep. Your child's one nap might be on its way out. It's important to see a pattern with this when you finally decide to end napping on a regular basis. If one day your child doesn't nap but does the next day, you might consider still giving her the opportunity to nap until she regularly doesn't take the nap. At this point, keep the nap in your back pocket so to speak, she might need one occasionally.

To read more about sleep in this age range, night sleep in particular please go to
Sleep Needs: 15 to 3.5 years.

Need some additional help? Email Deborah