How long should a 3 month old be up between naps?

Quick Answer

At 3 months old, babies should be awake for 45-75 minutes between naps, with 2-3 naps spread throughout the day totaling about 14-17 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period.

Average Wake Times for a 3 Month Old

At 3 months of age, babies are starting to develop more of a circadian rhythm and their wake/sleep cycles are becoming more regular. However, their sleep needs are still very high at this age. On average, a 3 month old will sleep 14-17 hours total in a 24 hour period. This sleep is spread out over 3-4 naps during the day, in addition to nighttime sleep.

During the day, a 3 month old will typically be awake for 45 minutes to 1.5 hours between naps. Some 3 month olds may only stay awake for 30-45 minutes between naps, while others can go 1.5 hours before needing to sleep again. The awake periods tend to be shorter in the morning and early afternoon, and get progressively longer as the day goes on.

Typical Wake Times by Age

Age Total Sleep (24 hrs) Night Sleep Naps Time Awake Between Naps
3 months 14-17 hrs 9-10 hrs 3-4 45 min – 1.5 hrs

As shown in the table, the average total sleep time for a 3 month old baby in 24 hours is 14-17 hours. This includes 9-10 hours of nighttime sleep, with the remaining sleep occurring in 3-4 naps. The awake time between those naps ranges from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours.

Signs Your 3 Month Old is Ready for a Nap

At 3 months old, babies are not yet able to communicate verbally when they are tired and need a nap. However, there are sleepy cues parents can watch for to know when it’s time to put their baby down. Some signs your 3 month old is ready for a nap include:

  • Rubbing eyes
  • Fussiness or crying
  • Yawning
  • Loss of interest in people and toys
  • Having difficulty focusing/paying attention
  • Increased clinging to caregiver
  • Decrease in activity/low energy
  • Pulling or tugging on ears

If your 3 month old is exhibiting several of these cues, it’s a good indication they are ready to sleep again. Putting them down for a nap within 30-60 minutes of displaying tired signs can help prevent overtiredness.

Why Awake Time is Short for 3 Month Olds

There are several reasons why 3 month old babies only stay awake for short periods of time between naps:

  • Immature nervous system – At 3 months, an infant’s nervous system is still developing and gets overstimulated easily. Short wake times prevent overload.
  • Rapid brain growth – A baby’s brain grows incredibly fast in the first 3 months. All that work requires a lot of sleep.
  • Sleep cycles – Newborns have a short sleep cycle of only 50 minutes. By 3 months it extends to 60-70 minutes but it’s still short.
  • Limited social interaction – 3 month olds don’t interact much, which means they get bored easily when awake.
  • Can’t self-soothe – Babies this age can’t yet calm themselves back to sleep, so need adult help.

All of these factors mean a 3 month old is only able to handle being awake for a short time before needing to sleep again. The good news is, as your baby grows, their awake times will gradually extend.

Establishing a Nap Routine

Having a consistent nap time routine can help signal to your 3 month old that it’s time to sleep. Try sticking to the same sequence of activities in preparation for each nap. For example:

  1. Dim the lights in the room
  2. Play soft, soothing music
  3. Change baby’s diaper if needed
  4. Put on pajamas or sleep sack
  5. Sit in rocking chair and rock baby
  6. Feed or nurse baby
  7. Read a book or sing lullaby
  8. Gently place in crib while drowsy but awake

Make the activities quiet, calm, and relaxing. Keep lights low and voices soft. With a consistent routine, your baby will start recognizing it’s time to go to sleep when you initiate the nap process.

Other Tips for Successful Napping

  • Put baby down when showing early tired signs, not overtired.
  • Use white noise like a sound machine to block disruptions.
  • Ensure the room is dark during naps.
  • Put baby down in their crib or bassinet, not while held.
  • Keep naptimes around the same time daily.
  • Let baby self-soothe to sleep initially without rocking.
  • Don’t rush to pick up at first whimper, give a chance to resettle.

Why Daytime Naps are Important

Frequent daytime napping is crucial for a 3 month old. Naps provide many benefits including:

  • Brain development – Sleep sparks neural connections important for early learning.
  • Physical growth – Growth hormone is secreted during sleep.
  • Immunity boost – Naps help fight illness and infection.
  • Memory consolidation – New skills and information are solidified with sleep.
  • Mood regulation – Naps help babies avoid frustration and tantrums.
  • Safety – Well-rested babies are less prone to accidents.

Without adequate daytime sleep, 3 month old babies have a hard time processing all the new sights, sounds, and experiences in their environment. Restorative naps help them learn and make sense of the world around them.

Consequences of Insufficient Daytime Sleep

Some consequences of missing naps or having short/disrupted naps include:

  • Increased crying and fussiness
  • Having trouble self-soothing
  • Difficulty latching while breast/bottle feeding
  • Decrease in appetite or consuming less breastmilk/formula
  • Not making expected developmental gains
  • Difficulty learning new skills
  • Increased risk of SIDS
  • Accidental injuries from lack of coordination

Lack of daytime sleep stresses a baby’s developing systems. Ensuring your 3 month old gets adequate, restorative naps will help them thrive.

Adjusting Nap Schedule as Baby Ages

While naps are crucial at 3 months old, your baby’s nap schedule will evolve over the first year as they need less total sleep. Here is what to expect:

Age Total Sleep (24 hrs) # Naps Nap Length
3 months 14-17 hours 3-4 30-45 minutes
6 months 12-16 hours 3-4 45 mins – 1.5 hours
9 months 12-15 hours 2-3 1-2 hours
12 months 11-14 hours 1-2 1-3 hours

As you can see, total sleep steadily decreases while nap length increases and number of naps consolidates. But even as they get older, daytime naps remain essential for healthy development up to toddlerhood.

Troubleshooting When Naps Are a Struggle

While many 3 month olds take to napping easily, some babies struggle with daytime sleep. Here are some tips if your little one fights naps or has difficulty settling:

Try different nap environments

Experiment to see if your baby naps better being held, in a swing, rocker, or stationary device, in a sling/carrier, or in their crib. Don’t assume the crib is best – comfort for a 3 month old is key.

Adjust the timing

You may need to start nap routines a bit earlier or later. Watch for the exact point your baby displays tired cues and initiate sleep then.

Make the distinction clear

Use nap-specific associations like a sleep sack, special blanket, lullaby, or story so different than play time.

Gradually increase awake time

Start nap attempts just 10-15 minutes after they wake up, then very slowly extend time awake.

Stick with a routine

Consistency and schedule will help signal your baby it’s time to sleep. Be patient giving it time.

Lengthen night sleep

An earlier bedtime and later wakeup may help baby drop a nap as more night sleep is achieved.

Don’t over- or under-dress

Make sure the room temp is comfortable, not too warm or cold which can disrupt sleep.

The 4 Month Sleep Regression

Many parents think they have nap training mastered by 3 months old, only to be thrown for a loop when 4 months hits. The 4 month sleep regression marks a transition as baby’s sleep cycles mature. Some common changes are:

  • Fighting naps or short naps (30 minutes or less)
  • Waking more frequently overnight
  • Taking longer to fall asleep
  • Only sleeping while held
  • Seeming tired but resisting sleep

While frustrating, this too shall pass! Stay consistent with nap routines, practice patience, get outside help if needed, and know your baby’s sleep will stabilize again in a few weeks. The same regression can happen around 8 months and 18 months too. Just ride out the storm!

FAQs About 3 Month Old Naps

How long can a 3 month old stay awake?

At 3 months old, babies can typically stay awake 45 minutes to 1.5 hours between naps. But watch for tired cues, which often come sooner.

Is my 3 month old napping too much?

At 3 months old, it’s impossible to nap “too much.” Babies this age need 14-17 total hours of sleep in a 24 period, including nighttime. Their wake times are short.

How do I get my 3 month old to nap longer?

Typical nap length for a 3 month old is only 30-45 minutes per nap. Don’t try to force longer naps. That comes later. Focus on watching for tired signs so naps happen before overtiredness sets in.

Should I let my 3 month old cry at nap time?

No, it’s too early for any formal “cry it out” method. Respond right away at this age to help them settle. Excessive crying can cause stress and anxiety.

What if my 3 month old won’t nap unless held?

Being held for naps is fine at this age if it works best for your baby. Focus first on ensuring enough total sleep. Good sleep habits can be established over time.


Determining optimal nap timing is tricky with a 3 month old. Watch for signs of tiredness, stick to a soothing and consistent nap routine, and be flexible. With patience and care, your baby will get the nap sleep they need to grow and develop on track. Remember, their sleep patterns will mature rapidly – what works one week may need adjusting the next. Pay close attention to your baby’s cues and support their evolving needs.

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