Baby Naps Too Long: Is That Even Possible?

It doesn’t take long before new parents understand that naps are the key to a lot of issues. They help your baby sleep better at night and they give you breaks during the day (or allow you to nap too).  But what if a baby naps too long?

Or, is it even possible that a baby naps too long? 

It seems like an odd thing to complain about, especially when it takes you a long time to put your baby down for a nap.

But, it’s a valid concern that some parents have, especially when a baby is still a newborn.

Let’s explore this topic in more detail.

But before we get into the meat of this post, I just want to point out one important disclaimer:

If you’re at all concerned about your baby’s napping habits, please talk to your pediatrician.

We’re not pediatricians, nor do we claim to be experts on this topic.  We’re simply parents who are interested in finding the right answer through whatever means are available to us for research.

But your baby’s doctor is the only person who can tell you the right answer specifically for your baby.

What’s a typical napping schedule like?

Before we get into the issue of babies napping too long, let’s look at the typical napping schedule for various ages.

(The information below is courtesy of Parents.com and Baby Sleep Site.)

Newborn-4 months

  • Total Sleep: 16-18 hours
  • Nighttime Sleep: 8-9 hours
  • Naps: 7-9 hours (3-5 naps)
  • Average nap duration: 30 minutes – 2 hours

4-12 months

  • Total Sleep: 12-16 hours
  • Nighttime Sleep: 9-10 hours
  • Naps: 4-5 hours (2-3 naps)
  • Average nap duration: 45 min – 2 hours

1-2 years

  • Total Sleep: 11-14 hours
  • Nighttime Sleep: 11 hours
  • Naps: 2-3 hours (2 naps)
  • Average nap duration: 1 – 3 hours

3-5 years

  • Total Sleep: 10-13 hours
  • Nighttime Sleep: [10-11] 10-13 hours
  • Naps: 0-1 hours (naps usually stop by age 5)

As your child gets older, you can see that they nap less frequently, but the duration of the nap is longer.

That makes sense.

Whatever you do though, don’t feel like this chart (or anything else you read online) is how it must be for your child.

Our daughter was still taking 20-30 minutes cat naps multiple times a day at 8 months, and she’s fine.  Every child is different.

Baby Naps Too Long: When is it OK?

First, let’s attempt to define what “napping too long” really means.

There’s are two ways of looking at it: we could be talking about total nap time for a day OR the duration of an individual nap.

In general, total nap time for a day should be (at most) somewhere around the top end of the ranges mentioned above.  For example, an 18 month old child probably shouldn’t nap more than 3 hours or so a day.

Using this example, if we know our child typically takes 3 naps a day, you would aim for each nap to be about an hour (or one long nap of 2 hours, and two shorter naps) to total the 3 hours.

Okay, so when it is OK for babies to nap “too long?”

1) When your baby is a newborn – If you have a newborn, you’re really just concerned with a baby eating every 2-3 hours.  You’re not concerned with total nap time, because the reality is, the entire day is one big set of naps.

You may get a longer stretch of sleep at night (you hope), but in general, most of the day is gong to be spent napping.

2) When your baby takes fewer naps – This goes back to the point we already mentioned, which is – total nap time is what we’re really concerned with.

Even if you’re targeting naps that are no longer than 1-2 hours, there are kids who nap less frequently/consistently.  For these types of nappers, it’s fine if they give you a nap that seems “too long” (for example: 2 hours 20 minutes) along with two short naps (20-30 minutes each).

Baby Naps Too Long: When is it a problem?

Here’s when a baby napping too long could be a problem:

1) A newborn baby is sleeping longer than 3 hours at a time – It’s not always a problem, but if a newborn typically naps more than 3 hours at a time, it’s possible that he or she isn’t eating often enough.

This definitely varies from baby to baby and is something that you would want to discuss with your pediatrician.

2) An older infant or toddler naps too much and it impacts their sleep at night – This is the bigger issue with long naps.

If your infant or toddler is napping too much during the day, it may come at the expense of sleep at night.

If you find that your baby doesn’t sleep well at night, or wakes up too early in the morning, it may be because he or she is napping too much during the day.

Another consideration is that night sleep is more restorative.

What this means is, even if your baby is getting the same amount of total sleep in the day (between naps and night sleep), if there’s too much of an imbalance (i.e. longer naps and shorter night sleep), the baby may be missing out on this higher quality sleep.

How do I know if my baby is getting the right amount of the right type of sleep?

There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to determining if your baby has a good balance between naps and night sleep.  Some babies can get by just fine with less sleep at night and more naps during the day, and others are the opposite.

With that said, there are a couple signs you can look out for that might indicate your baby naps too long:

  • Your baby is at least 5-6 months old and still isn’t sleeping through the night. This could be a sign that your baby is napping too much during the day (or in some cases, not napping enough).
  • Your baby seems irritable or often in a bad mood.  If you feel like your baby is getting cranky often and easily, it’s possible he or she simply isn’t getting enough night sleep. If you think your baby is napping too much during the day, it may be worth shortening the naps and seeing how it impacts sleep at night.

Once again, I just want to emphasize that if you have legitimate concerns, speak to your child’s pediatrician.

What’s your experience been like if you’ve had a baby who naps too long?  Leave a comment below!

6 comments

  1. My son is 4 1/2 months old and he gets soooo cranky during the day if he doesn’t get a nap in here and there…he was in the NICU for a month after he was born so he learned up there how to get himself to go back to sleep if he woke up…and now I CAN’T get him to take a nap…and he gets soooooo irritable and cranky during the day b/c of it. Its almost like he doesn’t want to go to sleep b/c he’s afraid that he will miss something I guess…

    What can I do or how can I get him to take a nap already?

    • That’s a tough situation and I understand how frustrating it must be. What we found that worked was making sure to put our daughter down in a dark room and made sure that the temperature was not too warm. White noise helped a lot too.

      We also used a rock ‘n play until she was around 4-5 months, which helped a TON. We wrote about that here: http://www.cynicalparent.com/best-rock-n-play-sleeper/

      Good luck – I’m sure this just another phase that will pass eventually!

  2. To be honest, baby sleeping is one the few main presures for me after I became a parent. I always worry if my sons get enough sleep. It became harder when we have second one. The house always is not as quiet as just adults at home. So my younger one doesn’t get as much sleep as the older one.

    • Cynical Parent

      Yeah, that seems to be a common issue when you have 2 or more little ones. As with most things though, I’m sure it will get better over time. 🙂

  3. My 16 month old naps for 3.5-4.5 hrs total between 2 naps. We often have to wake him from his second nap because he has been sleeping for 3hrs and he might have slept for 1hr or more his first nap. Sometimes it’s his first nap that is very long like today I woke him after 2.5hrs. And I’m not sure but he could sleep for over an hr or more his second nap. He takes 30-40 min at night sometimes even an hr to fall asleep. I’ve tried putting him down later to see if it will take less time but no change. He does happily rolls around in his crib until he falls asleep and is fine with the alone quiet time until he does fall asleep. He always sleeps through the night from 7:30 or 8pm until 5-530am. He has always been an early riser. I hate waking him from his naps. But should I be capping each nap? Should I put a cap on the total nap sleep for the day? I just am worried maybe he won’t sleep more at night and will just be getting less sleep during the day. But I understand night sleep is more restorative so I’m lookig for some guidance here on what to do. Please help!

    • Hi Allison,

      I’m far from an expert on this, but I would say that if your son seems happy and is sleeping fine at night, you may not have an issue. 7:30am-5:30am at night isn’t bad (speaking from my own limited experience), but if you are genuinely concerned I would suggest discussing with your pediatrician and seeing what he/she says.

      All the best,

      Eric & Tiffany

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