Does this sound familiar? You’ve finally nailed your baby’s daily routine. You know when they’ll eat, play, and nap. (Which means you also know when you’ll get a chance to catch up on laundry, read a book, or watch your favorite Bravo show!)
But then you start to notice your little one is refusing her last nap of the day. And bedtime is starting to become a struggle, too? Is it time to drop a nap??
As a certified sleep consultant, I get asked a lot of questions about nap transitions. Many of my clients and Instagram followers are terrified of this milestone. Afterall, that’s when they get a break, too!
I know that many of you are anxious about nap transitions, so in this blog post I’ll answer the following questions:
- What are nap transitions?
- When do they occur?
- What are the signs of an impending nap transition?
I’ll also give you some tips on how to drop a nap without much stress.
So keep reading for Nap Transitions 101: How to Drop a Nap Successfully!
What is a Nap Transition?
You already know that quality sleep–including naps–is essential for kids.
Children between 0-3 years need between 11-16 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period according to the American Academy of Pediatrics–this includes daytime naps and nighttime sleep.
But as your child grows, they’ll require less total sleep. And since nighttime sleep is the most restorative, we cut back on daytime sleep by dropping naps (one at a time).
A nap transition occurs when your child can stay awake for longer periods of time during the day thus requiring less daytime sleep.
When Do Nap Transitions Occur?
Before 16 weeks of age, your little one’s sleep will be a little sporadic–they’ll take anywhere from 4 to 6+ naps a day.
Around 4-5 months, their schedule should firm up a bit; they’ll take between 3-4 naps a day up until about 5-6 months, when they’re on a solid 3 naps/day schedule.
Here’s how the nap transitions break down after 6 months
|Age in Months||Transitions|
|6-9 months||3 down to 2 naps|
|10-14 months||2 down to 1 nap|
|3 years+||1 down to 0 naps|
It’s important to hold onto those naps as long as possible; knowing the signs of an impending transition will help you determine if it’s time to drop a nap.
Related: Are You Making These Toddler Transitions Too Early?
The Signs of an Impending Nap Transition
Before you drop a nap, ask yourself:
- Is my little one refusing (or falling asleep too late for) their last nap of the day?
- Are they waking up too early with no explanation? (Think: late bedtime or short naps)
- Are they waking up at night for no apparent reason?
- Are they taking more than an hour to fall asleep at bedtime?
- Have they consistently refused their last nap of the day for more than two weeks straight?
If you answered “yes” to most of these questions, it might be time to drop a nap.
How to Drop a Nap
While every child and every situation is different, I almost always recommend my clients gradually stretch their little one’s waketimes when they begin to drop a nap. (Waketimes are the periods of time your little one is awake between naps.)
For example, if you’re entering the 3 to 2 nap transition, start by adding 5 minutes onto every waketime every few days.
Pro tip: Start by stretching the middle waketimes first!
It’s important to pay careful attention to your little one’s sleep cues during a transition period. It’s not uncommon for babies to go back and forth between their old and new nap schedules for a few weeks.
To Sum It Up
Nap transitions, while at times overwhelming for parents, aren’t a bad thing! Not only does it indicate your little one is growing, but it also gives you more freedom to explore the world with your new sidekick.
So let’s review:
- A nap transition occurs when your child can stay awake for longer periods of time during the day.
- Between the ages of 6 months and 3 years, your little one will go through 3 nap transitions.
- Signs of an upcoming transition include waking up in the middle of the night for no reason; refusing bedtime; refusing naps, and more.
- To make a nap transition easier, consider gradually stretching your little ones waketimes.
If, after stretching waketimes, you’re still struggling with the transition (or any aspect of your little one’s sleep) let’s chat. My 30 minute consultation call might be the ticket to a good night’s sleep for you and your entire family.