A newborn can sleep up to 18 hours a day and for 30 minutes to about 3 hours at a time. Once your infant is 4- to 6-weeks old, a sleep pattern slowly begins to develop -- but don't expect a consistent pattern just yet. When your infant gets a bit older, you might want to start developing a nap schedule. However, as Kim West, author of "Good Night, Sleep Tight" points out on the Parenting. com website, instead of considering the nap schedule as a rigid, inflexible plan, consider it a guideline based on when your baby gets tired.
1. When to Start
Some babies can sleep for 6 to 8 hour stretches at night around age 3 months, according to the Baby Center website. This is a good time to begin working on creating a nap schedule since your little one is probably spending more time alert and awake during the daylight hours. Babies at this age typically need two or three naps per day.
2. Detecting Patterns
Just like any milestone, there are patterns that you will likely observe when your infant is ready to work on developing a consistent nap schedule. Watch your infant's daily sleep patterns. Over time, you might notice that he gets drowsy after lunch or after your mid-morning walk. Keep a notebook handy and record what times he tends to get sleepy and how long he sleeps each time. This will give you an idea of where to start your napping schedule. By about 6-months-old, your infant's sleeping patterns should begin to lean toward yours, with more sleeping at night and regular intervals of sleeping and waking during the day, notes the Raising Children Network. He might also take just two naps a day.
3. Promoting Naps
Some infants have no trouble falling asleep for a nap, while others need a bit of prodding. The National Sleep Foundation recommends putting your infant down in her crib when she's drowsy so she learns to put herself to sleep. You'll also want to be sure that your infant has a full tummy when you put her down for a nap. Dimming the lights and playing calm, soothing music can also help her fall asleep. Once she's a little older, you might want to create a nap routine that's similar to her bedtime routine, which might include a story and some snuggles.
Each infant progresses at his own pace, so resist comparing your little one's napping habits to the habits of his siblings or cousins. If your baby isn't ready for a set nap routine at 3 months, try again in a few weeks and keep working at it until he's ready. As your baby grows, he needs fewer hours of sleep, so you can expect him to need less sleep during the daylight hours. By around 18 months of age, your little one will probably only need one nap, which he's likely to continue needing until he's 3- to 5-years-old.