Timing the First Nap


In the book 
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child 
 (HSHHC), Weissbluth gives a lot of details on when and how to time naps. Many moms report following these with great success. His suggestions aren’t exactly what I land on 100% of the time, but they are close. In the past, we have talked about the Importance of the First Nap. So the nap is important, yes, but how do you time it all to get optimal sleep length? Weissbluth talks about this starting on page 121. Here are some key points.


Reasons for Short Morning Nap

  • Waketime length was too long before baby was put down for a nap.
  • Baby was put down at the wrong time for the biological systems to work with the nap.
  • Baby was put down too early.
  • Other activities interfere with nap (like older siblings activities).
  • Bedtime is too late.
  • Morning wake-up time is too late.

Baby Younger than 4 Months

  • Start nap only one hour after waking in the morning. The most common cause of baby not taking a good morning nap is because she was up too long before starting the nap.
  • *My input here–most babies in this age range definitely do need a waketime of only 40-60 minutes. Morning waketime is often the shortest of the day. Don’t be afraid to put your baby down for a nap. I remember when Brayden was a baby and I was putting him down for a nap. One of my good friends commented, “He takes a nap already?!?!” She had her first baby one year after Brayden was born and she commented, “I thought it was crazy that he took a nap so early, but now I see that babies need that!” It seems crazy, but it is right.

Baby 5 Months and Older

  • Should start nap between 9-10 AM if possible. “You are willing to allow the child to become a little overtired but not become so wigged-out that he has great difficulty falling asleep” page 122.
  • Wake child up around 7 AM so she can go down at 9 AM (I would argue this some–especially for a 5 month old. Not all 5 month olds can go two hours).
  • Have an early enough bedtime that the child wakes at a good time in the morning.
  • *My input here–a baby will slowly add waketime length. You won’t be at one hour as a four month old and then two hours when baby turns five months old. Baby adds time in 5-10 minute increments slowly. Take the increase slowly and as baby can handle it. For your morning wake-up time, I would shoot for the 7 AM HOUR. So between 7-8 AM. If baby naturally sleeps until 8:30, go for it. You will get to sleep in on weekends :). Remember to have bedtime about 12 hours before your morning waketime. Most babies seem to do best with bedtime in the 7 PM hour, so between 7-8 PM.

If you get the timing wrong for the first nap, it can make it so the afternoon nap is not good, which leads to a cranky baby by the end of the day.

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23 thoughts on “Timing the First Nap”

  1. I have a 4 week old who sleeps great at night only waking up onc and puts himself back to sleep every time.. Morning nap is great he gets a good sleep but the rest of the day gets messsed up and he always seems really hungry in the afternoon, I then end up taking him out for a walk so that he can catch up. he is exclusively breast fed.could I be keeping him up to long its hard to know his ques? Bed time is fine and we seem to get back on schedule .

  2. Thanks for this post!! I have a hard time getting my 6 month old to take a GOOD first nap of the day. Which, like you said, throws the a wrench in the rest of the day.

  3. We put our 5 month old to bed at 7:45. We get him up at 6:45am though he usually is awake before that (often around 6) and lays in bed talking or sucking his thumb. He is then tired and ready for a nap around 8 or shortly after. He will usually nap for between 1 and 1 1/2 hours, but isn't hungry when he wakes up because it hasn't even been 3 hours since his first feeding. He takes 3 naps plus a cat nap. Do you think we should be putting him to bed earlier? He has been on a 3 to 3 1/2 hour schedule for 2 1/2 months and don't seem to be making progress moving to 4 hours. Thank you!!

  4. My issue with naps is getting my 9 week old to actually sleep. He never just nods off–he fights it and is getting worse the older he gets. If he is swaddled too early he panics and needs to be calmed down. He has to be lightly jiggled on his side and eventually will go down. This sometimes takes 15-20 min. His wake time is around 1hr 15 min. After five I can't get him to nap at all–his bedtime is 10:30–because that is when I get him to sleep. He goes 2.5-3 hrs between feedings except in evening I go every two. He was sleeping through night–now awakes around 3 am—I wait and see if he will go back to sleep–but never does. Suggestions?

  5. I am a new mom to a three day old. I know it takes some time to establish a routine but any advice on how to get her to nap would be greatly appreciated by this tired Mom! Every time I put her down she fights it and doesn't fall in to a deep sleep. By the time I get her somewhat settled it is time to feed again. She will fall asleep breastfeeding or being held but I am afraid of creating a bad sleep habit. HELP!

  6. Katie,I think it is a good chance you just need to figure out optimal waketime for the afternoon. But also remember that afternoon they often need to eat more often than in the morning, so it could also just be normal behavior.

  7. Heather I would guess you are likely keeping him up to long or overstimulating him.For the evening, it could be witching hour–look into that to see what you think.

  8. mrsqueenie, Swaddle her if you aren't.Work to keep her awake while eating.Have short waketimes–she should be up 30-45 minutes including feeding time. Look into the 4 S's–see the blog labels fo rmore on that.Consider if she is uncomfortable–she might benefit from gas drops or gripe water.

  9. I have a four and a half month old that sleeps from 6pm to 7am (with a 930pm feed) but can never nap more than 45 mins in the day. At the moment he is having three naps at 830, 11, and 2. For the afternoon nap he wakes up very tired and grumpy and clearly needs to go back to sleep but can't. Any suggestions?

    • A common cause for nap issues is that waketime is not correct. It is also possible that she is getting too much night sleep. Most babies need at most 12 hours; however my third did 12.5-13 hours so I know some do need longer night stretches.

  10. Hi my name is Jordan Ashbaugh, Im having a hard time getting my 7 month old to sleep her naps she throws fits to where she is gasping for air! This just started last week. She will not go to sleep until 10 pm, If i do put her down early she will wake 30 mins after wide awake. She ALWAYS wakes at about 7:30am to eat PLEASE HELP!!! I have always had a great routine until now…..

  11. I am working on getting my 6+ week old on a schedule, I missed her nap cues this morning so she did not take a nap, she took a great nap mid-afternoon, but when I put her down at 6:30 for her evening nap she played in her crib for almost2 hours. I thought I gt her sleep cues right and she's not fussing, but just awake. Does she not need a nap or should I leave her up ther as long as she's not crying? What do you do when they lie in the crib awake through nap time. Should I move up her wake time to leavened up longer? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    • She migr need a longer waketime at that time of day. It is also a witching hour time, so that might explain her not sleeping. In your case, I would feed, change, and put right back to bed. I would even expect baby to fall asleep eating. I would allow that and change before feeding or mid feeding.

  12. The catch is, as they get older, it can be a handful getting kids into their white cotton nightdresses or making them take naps at the right time. Still, making sure a child's as healthy as possible is part of the job of a parent. Besides, I can tell you guys this: it's pretty good exercise for us parents as well.

  13. Hi there, I could sure use your help. My daughter will be 8 weeks tomorrow. We seem to have issues taking naps in the crib. She sleeps fine in her crib at night. Doesn't even cry, while falling asleep. But when it comes to naps, she just won't do it. Eventually, we end up putting her in the swing, which we don't even swing (if we do, it's for 5 min at most), so that she gets some rest. I watch her closely, and don't go past an hour, especially for timing her first morning nap. As soon as I see a yawn, I take her to her room, put her in the crib, talk quietly to her for a few seconds, and then I leave. She may remain quiet for a little while, but then she starts crying. Sometimes it's not too bad, other times, she truly seems upset. I'll let her CIO for 15 min, then check on her. Then I let her go again. Anyways, most times, nothing works. Do you have any ideas as to how we can get her to nap in her crib? She sleeps great at night…just started doing 9 hour stretches at night; goes right back to sleep after being fed. She will be going to daycare in a month, where there won't be a car seat, or a swing. I really need her to learn to sleep in her bed. Please help!! 🙂

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  16. I'm having trouble getting my 4 month old to sleep more than 45 minutes for the first nap. We begin the nap 1.5 hours after waking (at first cues of sleepiness). She also has an issue with the midday nap (45 minutes unless in the swing and will go as long as I'll let her sleep). Her 3 PM nap is 2-3 hours long every day. I realize the late afternoon nap is one of the first to go, so this concerns me. Is this an acceptable nap schedule or should I start trying to get a long first and second nap?

  17. My 5 week old goes to bed at 730pm, wakes to eat at 930, then we dream feed around 1030/11 and he wakes again at 1 and 4. Wake for the day at 6. I normally put him back down for the first nap at 7 and he only sleeps 45 min max. Is that normal?

    • That is a lot of night waking.

      I would say do not feed at 9:30 and then another dreamfeed. Consider your 9:30 feeding to be a really early dreamfeed. I would try that and see how night goes. He may be waking more because he is being disrupted.

      Also, your first waketime is long for a 5 week old. He might need even as short as 30 minutes, including feeding time. Most babies his age will be 30-45 minutes.


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