In this guide we’re going to talk all about nap transitions, covering:
- What is a nap transition?
- What age do babies and toddlers drop a nap?
- Signs that your child is ready to drop a nap.
- How to manage nap transitions.
What is a nap transition?
A nap transition is when your baby drops a nap. The most common transitions we get asked about are when babies drop from three naps down to two, from two naps to one and then finally when young children drop their last nap and stop sleeping during the day. That last one tends to be the trickiest, not just on our little ones but on us parents too who may miss that time in the day to take a break or catch up on other jobs.
Once you have settled into a great routine with your baby it can feel nerve-wracking for it to change, but we don’t want to fear nap transitions. They are a natural part of our children growing and developing. Fewer naps to navigate can also make it easier to get out and about, attend classes and change the way we spend our days together.
What age do babies and toddlers drop a nap?
We are often asked ‘what age do babies drop to two naps’ or ‘how old will my baby be when they drop their morning nap’. There isn’t an exact age that each baby will drop a nap, each baby will develop at different multiple factors can contribute to when they are ready to go through a nap transition.
Length of naps, what time your baby goes to bed, what time they wake up in the morning and how long they sleep during the night can all impact on when they are ready for their day time routine to change. Some babies are able to happily stay awake for longer periods of time during the day and take fewer, longer naps earlier than others.
That said, there are common age groups when babies start to drop naps, settling into a two nap pattern between 6-9 months and then dropping the morning nap and taking one lunchtime nap between 10-15 months. Dropping the final nap can happen any time between around 2-4 years old. These are just general guides, if your baby or toddler is taking more or less naps than others but they are sleeping well and happy then there is no need to worry about making changes to their routine.
Signs that your child is ready to drop a nap.
There are some common signs to look for that your baby or toddler is ready to drop a nap.
The most commons sign can simply be that they just don’t settle for their nap anymore. They may boycott the nap completely or take much longer than usual to fall asleep. If they have routinely settled themselves to sleep for that nap previously, then a nap strike can be a clue that something might be a little bit out of balance.
The odd nap here and there that goes off track is normal. It isn’t unusual for sleep to be temporarily disrupted when going through phases of development but if you are seeing some of these signs happening for a few days or more in a row then a nap transition could be on the cards.
Waking up earlier than usual from a nap is another sign. Some babies settle well for a nap but take a shorter one that usual, indicating that nap is ready to be dropped from their routine.
Some babies don’t naturally resist or shorten the nap they are going to drop, it might be the next nap or bedtime that is affected. If they are ready to stop needing their third nap they may still take it but resist bedtime. If they are ready to move from two naps to one, they may still take their morning nap well but then resist napping in the afternoon.
The final common sign that a nap transition is needed is starting to wake up very early in the morning. There is only so much sleep that can happen in a 24 hour period, if they are ready for adjustments in their day time routine then night time sleep can be affected.
How to manage nap transitions.
If you are noticing signs that your baby or toddler is ready to drop a nap then it can be tempting to cut the nap out completely. But ideally we want to approach the transition more gradually, unless you’re sure they really don’t need it.
You can simply reduce the length of the nap that is being dropped by 5/10 minutes a day and see how your baby responds. You may find you also need to adjust the time of the next nap or bedtime temporarily while they adjust to their new routine.
How do you know which nap to drop? When moving from three naps down to two, it’s the last nap of the day that is going to go, leaving you with a morning nap and another after lunch. When your baby is ready to move down to one nap then the morning nap is going to phase out leaving you with the lunchtime nap.
Dropping day times naps completely can be a little trickier or take longer for some children. Some just won’t settle for their nap at all, or start taking it later and later which can make bedtime a little unpredictable. Others still take a long nap during the day but then find it harder to sleep at night or start to wake very early in the morning. As with the other nap transitions, you can gradually reduce the length of their nap and see how they respond. It isn’t unusual for some days to be nap free and then other days they need the nap again, it can take some time for them to consistently stop napping. It can be helpful to take some quiet time during the day, either reading some books, doing jigsaws or taking the chance for some cuddles on the sofa. It is a big adjustment to go all day without sleep, so if you need to bring bedtime forward a little on some days then follow their lead.
We know a change in routine can feel a little daunting at times, but don’t panic. As our babies and toddlers grow and develop it is natural for their sleep needs and routines to develop too.
If you would like to learn more about sleep and have guidance on how you can approach achieving a predictable routine and well-rested night’s sleep then check out our online courses.
These are designed to teach you all about how your child sleeps and to provide practical suggestions for settling techniques and routines to work towards.
If you would prefer to speak with one of our consultants for a personalised plan you can find out more about our 1:1 packages here.