Get a sample nap routine to help make nap time smoother for everyone.

mom cuddling baby before nap time

Many parents have a solid bedtime routine in place and know that it does wonders for their child’s nighttime sleep!

But many people overlook the importance of a good nap routine.

Having a few nap time rituals can go a long way in getting your baby or toddler down easier for their nap.

Let’s talk about how to use a nap routine to improve your baby’s daytime sleep.

baby's diaper getting changed

What Age Should You Start a Nap Routine?

Around 2 months old is a great time to start a nap routine with your baby.

Babies can start to recognize routines from a young age. Newborn babies as young as 8 weeks old can start to recognize and settle in to a routine.

By then, their circadian rhythm and daytime sleep patterns start to regulate and become more consistent. Their day/night confusion is also subsiding.

Their wake windows start to go a little longer and it can be easier to get them into an eat-play-sleep routine.

baby napping on the go in bassinet

How Long Should the Nap Routine Be?

Your nap time routine can be super simple and short. About 3 to 5 minutes is all you need to cue to your baby’s brain that sleep is coming.

What Is A Good Nap Time Routine?

Your nap routine can involve whatever you like, and whatever makes the most sense for your family.

I recommend that you keep it simple, short, and calm.

The most important aspect is that it is consistent. Keep the routine the same, so your baby learns to recognize the signals that mean it’s time to sleep.

Here are samples based on your baby’s age.

Sample Newborn Nap Routine

There’s not much time in your newborn’s wake window to have much of a nap routine, but a simple routine will do the trick. For your newborn all your nap routine needs to consist of is the following:

  • Change baby’s diaper
  • Swaddle
  • Turn on white noise

Sample Baby Nap Routine

As your baby grows and is able to have longer wake windows, you can add a little more to their routine. For a simple routine to do before baby’s nap, I recommend:

  • Diaper change
  • Read one book
  • Put baby in sleep sack
  • Turn on white noise

Toddler Nap Routine

It’s helpful to carry your pre nap routine into the toddler years to help get older children ready for nap time as well. Here’s a simple nap ritual you can do for your growing toddler:

  • Read 2 books
  • Put toddler in pajamas or sleep sack
  • Turn on white noise

Eventually your child’s sleep needs decrease, and kids stop napping.

Even after your toddler drops their afternoon nap and moves to quiet time, it can be helpful to keep part of the routine to make the transition smooth.

Additional Nap Routine Tips

Set yourself up for success by keeping these 5 things in mind when it comes to your child’s pre nap rituals.

1. A Routine You Can Do Anywhere

A good nap routine is one you can do anywhere. Naps-on-the-go are almost always a part of baby’s life.

If you can use a few signals such as a white noise sound machine or a special song, then you can do a little nap routine even if you’re putting your baby down for sleep at grandma’s house or as you go on a walk.

2. A Calming Activity

This can be as simple as singing a lullaby while you change your baby’s diaper, or speaking in a quiet, calming tone as you read a short and simple book.

We kept a handful of nap-themed books next to our rocker to choose from. Once our nap routine was firmly established, my daughter would start yawning as soon as we cracked open the book.

Mom reading to toddler for nap

3. Comfort Cues

A few quick cues can help your baby feel more comfortable and cue to their brain that sleep is coming.

After reading books, change your baby’s siaper, give them a quick cuddle and then put your baby in a swaddle or sleep sack. See some of the best sleep sacks here.

For older kids, it can be helpful to change them into their pajamas for nap time.

4. A Dark and Quiet Space

It’s easier to fall asleep and sleep for longer stretches in a darkened sleep space with limited noise exposure. I am a big fan of using blackout curtains in the nursery to achieve an ideal sleep environment in your little one’s room.

After you read books, close the curtains.

5. A Safe Sleep Surface

If you know me, you know I’m a stickler for sleep safety. Even for short naps, the the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends your baby sleep on a safe surface like a bassinet, crib, or portable play yard.

As long as your nap routine includes these five main components, you’ll be well on your way to establishing great napping habits!

mom reading her twins a book as part of the nap routine

Should the Nap Routine Be the Same as Bedtime Routine?

It’s a good idea to make your nap routine similar to the bedtime routine, but shorter.

It’s easier for your baby to recognize nap time signals if they’re the same signals you use at bedtime.

Sometimes the bedtime routine includes more involved activities like bath time or applying calming lotion. These are things that can be cut out of the nap routine to keep it shorter.

Let’s say your bedtime routine includes a diaper change, reading three books, and then snuggles. These are all things you can keep in the nap routine!

Keep things in the same order, but maybe choose one shorter book and cut down the length of cuddle time.

If you keep the nap routine similar to your bedtime routine, you’ll have a much easier time getting your baby to sleep during those daytime naps!

Amy Motroni

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