Many new parents expect their newborn infants to take regular naps throughout the day (and then to sleep all night) even when they are only 4-10 weeks old. Unfortunately, a newborn's sleep cycle is not ready for 2 hour naps in both the morning and afternoon followed by a 10 -12 hour extended sleep at night.
But, by the time your child is 6-9 months of age (and sooner for some great sleepers); they should be on a good schedule with a morning and afternoon nap. Naps are usually anywhere from 45 min – 2.5 hours. I think naps serve a dual purpose, as they provide rest and rejuvenation for both child and parent.
Nap time, just like bedtime should be scheduled, typically mid morning and mid afternoon and a child should be able to put themselves to sleep after a book or a story. Naptime routines can be bit shorter than the bedtime routine. You will be able to tell when your child is ready for a nap as they may rub their eyes, or get fussy, or some may just lay their heads down or point to bed as they know they are tired.
By the time a toddler is somewhere between 12months – 2 years of age they will usually drop a morning nap and continue to have their midafternoon nap. This is usually right after lunch. Transitioning from 2 naps to 1 nap a day is a little "dicey" at first, as your child may get quite cranky in the morning as you drop that nap, while at the same time their afternoon nap may become longer. This adjustment period usually only lasts several days to a week and then you will find that they are back on a good nap/nighttime schedule.
I get asked about stopping a child's nap. I think naps are important (and as we adults know a privilege) for children until they are in elementary school. Most kindergartens continue to have "rest" time after lunch and many children will fall asleep for 20-30 min while the teacher reads them a book or music is played and the children lay on their mats.
Even if your 4 – 5 year old child doesn't "want" to nap in the afternoon, they need to have quiet time. This may be for an hour or so in the afternoon, and is time for them to lay in their bed and read, color, play with dolls etc. I do not think is the time for video games, or computer time etc.
Many a child will fall asleep once they are in bed reading and will continue to take a good nap, they just didn't know that they needed it! Moms, Dads, babysitters etc all need this quiet time too, to get much needed work done around the house, or dinner started etc. It was just a rule at our house that naps didn't stop until you were in "big boy" school. A quiet house for an hour each afternoon seemed to make the rest of the day and evening a happier time for everyone!
That's your daily dose for today. We'll chat again tomorrow.