Does my baby need to nap?

All babies need to nap. And, in fact, most little ones need a nap until the age of 4 years (and sometimes beyond). As well as giving your little one some much needed rest, regular naps can also help with cognitive and emotional development, language skills and memory. Skipping naps or having an irregular napping schedule can have an adverse affect on a little one’s behaviour and emotions – causing irritability, feeding problems, meltdowns and poor quality sleep at night. 

Put quite simply, babies and toddlers can’t tolerate being awake for as long as older children. This is due to the homeostatic process – one of the two biological processes that regulate sleep. Pressure to sleep (homeostatic sleep drive) builds up in our body as our time awake increases. The pressure gets stronger the longer we stay awake and decreases during sleep, reaching a low after a full night of good-quality sleep. For young children, the homeostatic process happens more quickly, meaning they cannot tolerate being awake for so long. Some experts believe that this is due to the rapid brain development happening during the early years. It simply tires little ones out more quickly. 

Of course, naps can be beneficial for parents – giving them some much needed rest during busy and, at times, intense days with their little ones. Nevertheless, the main benefits are saved for the little ones…

Benefits of naps:

  1. Naps enhance learning: several studies involving babies and toddlers demonstrate that little ones who nap outperform their non-napping peers in tasks involving language, learning, memory, and other cognitive functions.
  2. Naps are linked to better emotional regulation: a well-rested child is a happier child. A study involving 2 year olds found that toddlers who miss just one nap became more anxious and withdrawn, more irritated by even the smallest stressors, and less happy about exciting things.
  3. Naps can support better nighttime sleep: if your little one isn’t sleeping well at night, better naps may help. When children are overtired, their bodies become flooded with the stress hormone cortisol. This energises them and interferes with falling and staying asleep at night. 

To get the full benefits of these amazing naps, it’s also important to work out how many naps your little one needs per day. Sleep needs change significantly through the first few months of a little one’s life, so also be aware that what may have worked one month may not work the next. These babies like to keep us on our toes don’t they?! 

Sleep needs by age:

Every baby is different. This is a rough guide to how many naps are needed at each month. But remember, some transition to fewer naps later, some earlier. 

Need support with your little one’s naps?:

If you are struggling with your little one’s napping or sleep in general, and would like my support and guidance, get in touch and book a free Discovery Call