The Cornerstone for Good Naps

If you want your baby to take a long nap, your baby cannot be awake too long. That is the first thing to know when you are working on fixing short naps. You will not have long naps if your baby’s waketime length is too long. The same can be true if waketime length is too short. 

How to have good naps

In order to have you baby fall asleep easily on her own and to take a good nap, your baby must be awake for the correct length of time. That is the cornerstone. That is the foundation to build off of. If you do not have waketime correct, nothing else that you have correct will matter. You can’t get anything else right enough to still hold up good naps.

I have compiled these numbers based on surveying Babywise parents for over a decade. These numbers work for a baby who is accustomed to getting routine naps and having sleep a regular part of the day. Sleep begets sleep. I have included ranges because there will always be high sleep needs babies and low sleep needs babies and everything in between. Most babies should fit within these ranges, though there will always be outliers on either side. Always trust yourself as the parent of your baby to make the best judgment call for your baby’s sleep needs.

Optimal Waketime Length Infographic

Finding the best waketime–what I refer to as “optimal waketime”–for your baby is not necessarily a fast or easy process. Probably one of the most frustrating parts of the process is that optimal waketime changes throughout your baby’s life. What was optimal two weeks ago might be too short today. I don’t say that to deter you or to make you decide it isn’t worth trying. It is worth it! Just know this is your new thing–being aware of waketime. This is a part of your everyday life now.

So how do you start to find this waketime length? The best place to start is where most babies find optimal. You will want to start with the “average” and work from there. So much of parenting requires some experimentation, and finding optimal is no different. You will need to start somewhere and then work from there. If the average doesn’t work for your baby, try either adding time or taking time off. Average is great, but there are always outliers and your baby might be one of them.

I have created this infographic cheat sheet for you. You will get it and my waketime length worksheet when you sign up for my email list here.

This is what is typically optimal for most babies in each age range. Like I said, there are always outliers. There will always be the babies who need shorter waketime than most and the babies who need longer waketime than most. The range varies more as babies get older. Start with what is average and work from there. See my post Optimal Waketime Lengths for help on knowing how to adjust waketime lengths.


You can view this graphic online here. If you click on the graphic, it will enlarge. You can also get a PDF file for free here.

As you experiment, you will need to take notes. I have created a book of logs for you to use to keep track of what your baby needs and what works. You can purchase my ebook of logs to have a copy of the logs, this infographic, and other helpful inforgraphic. You will also get my files to help find optimal.

Once you have found that “optimal” for your baby, your baby will start taking nice, long naps. This is a process, but it is fully worth it! The effort you put into this has great payout.

These posts can help you:

 The Babywise Mom Book of Naps

Free Wake Time Length Worksheet

Be sure to check out my free Wake Time Length Worksheet to figure out if you should extend wake time or not.

Wake Time Length Worksheet

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12 thoughts on “The Cornerstone for Good Naps”

  1. Hey Valerie, I also saw your optimal wake time lengths for 12-18 months, but couldn't find the place to comment. I have a 17 month old (nearly 18 months) who is still at 2 naps (I think). I have run into an issue within the past week that has me thinking we might be ready to drop our second nap. The problem is that her morning wake time is only 2 hours and 45 minutes. She sleeps anywhere from 2-2.5 hours when I put her down at that time. Until last week, she would go down for her second nap 3.5 hours later and sleep for 1.5 hours. Within the past week, she is waking up an hour earlier in the mornings, and will NOT take a second nap. She doesn't cry. She just talks to herself for the entirety of nap/rest time. I have tried getting her up at the 4 hour mark in the mornings (shortening that first nap to 1 hour and 15 minutes rather than 2-2.5 hours, but she still doesn't take a nap later in the day. I don't feel like I can drop her second nap, and push her morning wake time up (by 1-2 hours) so quickly, but I also know that her one nap in the morning has her waking up too early to not have a nap in the afternoon. Thoughts?

  2. Hi Katie, have you tried shortening that first nap? Make it an hour and then wake her up and the do an afternoon nap? You really need to be able to make it to at least 11 am to do one nap a day. Ideally more like noon-1.

    • Valerie, I have used your blog for the last 9 years with all of my babies! It has been a lifesaver. I have a 6 week old boy who hates to sleep. I have never had a baby like this before- he will stay awak for HOURS (usually 4-6 hours after the first nap of the day) regardless of rocking, holding, laying next to him, giving a pacifier. I am at a loss. If I let him cry, he cries for several minutes and then will stop for a few minutes then start again. This goes on so long that it gets within 45 minutes of the next feeding. He will then catnap on my breast. But as soon as I get him off and burped, he is wide awake again. I am at a loss. We are in a perpetual state of overtiredness and I don’t know what to do?!

      • Hey Ashley!

        I know how you are feeling because I was there with Brayden! That sounds so much like him. The tricky thing is that I fee like a lot of what helped him are things I would guess you already do since you are not a first time mom. So I will list out things that helped and you can see if you feel like any of them may be true for him and pursue those avenues.

        -not on a schedule (obviously you are going for that)
        -falling asleep while eating and not really taking a full feeding
        -tongue-tie. I think this is what caused the previous point. I never knew about tongue ties or lip ties and never had that fixed, but I am sure that impacted things.
        -good sleep environment. Quiet, darkish–he never needed it super dark, but not having it as bright as can be. Warm enough.
        -gas pain. Gas drops and gripe water are life savers.

        Those are the big things. I would wonder about the swaddle and about reflux or allergies, also.

  3. Hi Valerie, I'm trying to find a post about where is the best place for a baby to sleep. My baby is five weeks old and we are doing the BW routine. He has been sleeping the day naps in the living room or in a bouncer in my room (both places are quiet, only I'm home). And only during night I'm putting him in his room. sometimes he can stay a whole nap awake, so I'm doubting about how I'm dealing with naps. i would appreciate if there is any post where you write about that or if you can give me any advice. Thank you

    • Research, I would get him into a more private place before too long. He will wake up more and more and not be able to sleep through noise.

  4. Valerie– My baby is just now 8 months old and has been having a really tough time taking his morning nap. He sleeps 730pm-7am most every night. Two weeks ago, he would go down without fuss for at least an hour around 8:45/9am. This week, not so much. He actually doesn't seem tired at all which I know is untrue. I've let him cry for over 30 minutes and still not settling into a nap. Any thoughts on what I should do here? Thank you!!

  5. Hi Valerie,My 5-month-old has vastly improved her naps over the last month as we've been experimenting with wake times and graduated extinction, but I find myself unsure of how to handle that last bit of the day between her 3rd nap and bedtime. She sleeps from 8pm-7am (with night feeding as well, as she's not gaining weight as well as her doctor would like). Her first nap is usually about 8:50-11am, the second is about 2 hours after she wakes, and then her third is another two hours after that. Her second and third naps are usually around an hour to hour and a half. Our problem is that often leaves us with a 2.5-3 hour wake window before bedtime and she gets pretty tired and pretty fussy. How would you address that?My second question is regarding the structure of our day. Eventually, I would love to base Lucy's naps on the time of day. Is there an age where her nap lengths are more likely to become pretty consistent? And should I ever wake her from a nap if it goes long (and how long is too long? Such a thing?)?Thanks for any help you can offer!

  6. Hi Valerie, this is a great post! Does the awake time include feeding? My baby is 5 1/2 weeks and is having a hard time waking up to eat, I try to keep him awake but with burping him in the middle of his feeding (sometimes it takes 5-10 minutes for him to burp) his feeding ends up taking 1 hour to an hour and a half! I am a first time mom in need of some help understanding how to best implement this schedule! Thanks so much your website has been a lifesaver already!

  7. Hi Valerie,
    I have been reading all of your post about wake times. Thank you for all of your content! My little girl just turned 6 weeks today. I’m having a hard time keeping her awake to have a wake time. I work to keep her up for 40 min each time she’s up. She goes down for naps easily and sleeps for about 1.5 hours. I’m doing about a 2.5 hour cycle. The other thing is she’s been having a hard time going back to sleep after her night time feeds. She fights those. Are her days and nights mixed up?

    Thank you for the help! I need it. I’m tired haha


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