Everything You Need to Know About Nap Transitions

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

Your baby’s sleep patterns are constantly changing. You finally get them settled into a routine only for them to start resisting naps, delaying bedtime or waking at 5am….So what’s going on?!

If you can rule out sleep environment, over tiredness, hunger or illness then they may be ready for a nap transition.

When will your baby/toddler drop their naps?

Whilst you should always observe your baby and follow their lead instead of comparing them to others, there are some common ages where babies and toddlers are generally ready to drop naps.

Signs your baby/toddler is ready to drop a nap

Not all changes in sleep patterns will mean your baby is ready to drop a nap. It’s important to remember that your baby will go through several sleep regressions during their first two years.

Often these regressions can lead you to believe that a nap needs to go, but it’s often not the case and just a phase you need to ride out by staying as consistent as possible. The common ages for regressions are 4 months, 8-10 months, 12 months, 18 months and 2 years.

If you do think your little one is ready to drop a nap, here are some signs to look out for;

  • Taking a long time to settle at nap time or resisting naps all together

  • Settling well but waking early from a nap

  • Napping well but delaying or resisting bedtime

  • Frequent night wakes or periods of extended wakefulness during the night

  • Early rising (before 6am) and not settling back to sleep

Look out for these signs occurring for several days in a row.

How to go about dropping naps

Dropping naps can be tricky and often takes a little bit of trial and error to get it right. It is a transition phase which can take a period of adjustment, it doesn’t just happen over-night.

3 to 2 nap transition (6-8 months)

Between 6 to 8 months your baby will be ready to transition from three naps down to two. When your baby is ready will largely depend on whether or not they have been able to consolidate at least one of their naps. If your baby is still only catnapping (around 45 minutes per nap), they may still need that third nap closer to 8 months so they are getting enough sleep in during the day.

If your baby has managed to consolidate one of their naps, then you will probably be able to gradually shorten their late afternoon nap before dropping it completely. I recommend you aim to have the midday nap as the longest nap to prevent your baby becoming overtired at bedtime. You may also need to bring bedtime a little earlier during this transition period while they get used to the longer wake time before bed.

2 to 1 nap transition (14-18 months)

This nap transition can be a little harder than the previous one. Your baby’s nap routine will have a big impact on how you manage going from two naps to one. If your toddler has been having a longer morning nap, then a shorter afternoon nap then you will effectively need to be dropping a nap as well as making adjustments to the other.

If you follow my recommended nap routines, during this transition you will simply shorten the morning nap until it’s no longer needed, leaving you with one long nap in the middle of the day.

Note: The 12 month sleep regression can cause nap refusal. This is usually NOT the time to drop down to two naps. Keep to your routine as close to possible for at least two weeks before deciding to make any drastic changes. Read more about this regression here.

Dropping the last nap (2.5 -3.5 years)

This is the hardest transition of all. You’ve probably had your child napping for about two hours in the middle of the day for a while, when suddenly they start resisting their nap, delaying bedtime or start waking early in the morning. This means it’s time to start cutting that nap down. You can do this by reducing the length of their nap and trialling it over a few days to see if it helps with settling at bedtime or sleeping in later in the morning. You may also trial only having them nap every other day.

This can be a difficult transition for your child. You might find there’s a period where if they take a nap, bedtime is battle but if they don’t nap, they are a cranky mess in the afternoon. Allow them some quiet time when they would usually be sleeping so they can recharge a little and bring bedtime a little earlier.

Note: There is another regression around two years old where nap refusal is common. Again, this is not the time to drop their nap all together. Keep allowing them the opportunity to nap even if it’s a bit hit and miss for a while. Read up on the 2 year sleep regression here.

Nap transitions aren’t always easy. It’s best if you take it one step at a time. If you’d like to set your baby up on a routine that will take the stress out of nap transitions, take a look at my preferred nap routine.

One on one consultations and downloadable sleep guides are all available online x

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