The Vital Importance of the First Nap

The morning nap is one of the most important, if not THE most important, naps your baby will take all day. Learn why and how to get it down well.

Baby taking a morning nap

When I have a baby, one nap I will NEVER mess with if I can help it is the morning nap.

I will schedule all outings around that nap. I will schedule appointments around that nap. I will make sure we are home and able to protect and preserve that nap if there is any feasible way to do so.

The morning nap is usually the first nap to become consistent in a baby’s life.

Even though it is not the last nap baby keeps around (when baby moves to one nap a day, the one nap is in the afternoon), it is the most important nap of the day for a new baby.

This nap sets the precedent for the rest of the day.

That is why I preserve it.

This is the nap you want to figure out first. You really can’t get the rest of the naps right until this nap is figured out.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child discusses more reasons this nap is so important.

Weissbluth says:

“…the morning nap has more REM sleep than the afternoon nap; this suggests that in some infants, the morning nap may be viewed as a sort of continuation of night sleep” .

(page 29)

First Wake Time Length is Short

This explains why the first nap of the day is usually quite soon after waking in the morning.

For most people, this is very counterintuitive.

I remember talking to a friend on the phone one day as I put Brayden down for his morning nap. It was around 9 AM. She was shocked he was going down for a nap and asked what time he got up in the morning.

>>>Read: Optimal Waketime Lengths

To someone who doesn’t have children or who doesn’t follow a schedule, it seems crazy to baby down for a nap so early in the day.

The first waketime of the day is often the shortest waketime of the day. Remember, this nap is a continuation of night sleep, so wake time length should not be long.

>>>Read: Timing the First Nap

Importance of baby's first nap

Morning Nap is Reliable

The first nap of the day, if timed right, is usually the longest of the day. It is usually the most reliable for parents.

When sleep training, many babies won’t even whimper at this nap if waketime was timed correctly.

Even for babies who are ready to drop to one nap a day, the morning nap remains intact and the child plays through the afternoon nap.

It is a reliable nap.

>>>Read: Why Even Bother to Have Naps?

Timing the Morning Nap

Timing the morning nap is important.

For a newborn, this waketime will be the shortest of the day. She might even just wake up, eat, and go back down for a nap.

Expect waketime to be 30-45 minutes. It will slowly increase over time. The rate of the increase varies from child to child.

By 4 months, your child will usually be up to at least an hour. Perhaps a little more. The waketime length continues to increase slowly over time.

Once you are on a 4 hour schedule, your baby will be awake at most two hours, then down for a nap for two hours. This will continue until it is time to start dropping that morning nap.

>>>Read: Dropping the Morning Nap Transition Time

One thing to note, if your baby is on the younger side when going to a four hour schedule, the morning waketime will not necessarily be two hours followed by a two hour nap. It could be as much as 1 hour waketime and a 3 hour nap or a 1.5 hour waketime and a 2 hour nap.


You might feel confused and concerned about putting baby down for a nap so soon after sleeping all night long. Don’t be! I hope this post has shown you that it is normal and good for your baby to go right back to sleep.

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Need help with naps? Get my eBook The Babywise Mom Nap Guide

 The Babywise Mom Nap Guide

  This post originally appeared on this blog September 2010

Why you should never skip baby's morning nap time