Naptimes rock our little one’s world (and our world too) but how do you know when to say goodbye to a nap? How and when do you transition your baby to less day sleep?
This blog is your guide to reducing daytime sleep from babyhood right through to preschoolers.
We can often feel clueless about this topic, but it’s a common question that lots of parents ask, which is why knowing the signs will help you confidently navigate the right time for a nap transition for your little one.
When should you reduce nap times?
Check out the handy Baby to Preschooler nap time transition plan below. You will find it useful for dropping naps within an age-appropriate time frame.
Baby to Preschooler nap time transition plan-
4 naps → 3 naps: 3 to 5 months
3 naps → 2 naps: 6 to 8 months
2 naps → 1 nap: 15 to 18 months
1 nap → 0 nap: 2.5-3.5 years
Now that we have a plan to follow, you’re probably thinking what are the signs that it’s time to drop a nap?
- Bedtime delay – baby used to settle quickly and easily but now rolls around and/or gets frustrated.
- Taking a long time to settle at normal nap time.
- Settling well but waking early from their regular nap.
- Settling well at one nap but not tired/sleeping well at the next nap.
- Settling/sleeping well at naps but taking a long time to go to sleep at bedtime in the evening.
- Waking overnight multiple times or waking and staying awake for long periods.
- Waking in the early morning (before 6:00 AM) and not resettling back to sleep.
What can I do to help my child during the transitions?
- Bring bedtime forward- Once you’ve dropped a nap, bringing bedtime forward a little will help to compensate as they adjust to the longer awake times being experienced with the changes.
- Keep routine- As your little one gets used to the longer awake time, help them remain rested by not making any huge alterations to their schedule all at once.
- Introduce quiet time- You can replace their nap with a period of ‘quiet time’ where your little one still has the chance to rest even if they’re not sleeping.
To set yourself up for success it’s important to remember an appropriate sleep debt needs to be re-built between the last sleep of the day and going down for night sleep. Following this, it is important to note that we experience our deepest and most restorative sleep prior to midnight (which is a great motivator to ensure bedtime doesn’t drag out past around 7:00/7:30pm).
Expert Tip: If you already have a good sleep routine in place, you’re more likely to notice any changes in your baby’s nap routine and can begin preparing for a successful transition in a short succession of time and with less doubt as they will show clear signs of readiness.
What to keep in mind
- I encourage you not to rush the process of transition and to ensure the guidelines you follow are age appropriate. Young babies’ sleep needs are very different to toddler needs.
- Before you transition and drop a nap altogether, try stretching out the time between naps by 15 minutes. Dropping a nap entirely can be a big jump and often requires some back and forth for a couple of weeks.
- If your baby is showing signs of dropping the last nap of the day, a great alternative prior to the transition is to provide an opportunity for a motion assisted nap – i.e. think pram, car or baby carrier as an extra resource when you are getting ready, but can’t quite make it through. This is especially important when reducing from 3 to 2 daytime naps.
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Sleep regressions can look like your little one is ready to drop a nap earlier. Check out my 5 stages of sleep regression blog HERE.