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When to Drop naps and how to transition
In this blog post you will learn all about dropping naps for your little one. I have been getting a lot of questions about this, so there is a step-by-step guide for any and everything you need to know.
Naps per age
Let start off my determining how many naps your child needs, on average:
In addition, the following are the ages most Littles will drop naps:
- From 4 to 3 naps around 4-6 months
- From 3 to 2 naps around 7-9 months
- From 2 to 1 nap around 13-18 months (average 15 months)
- From 1 nap to no naps around 3-4 years (replace with quiet time until 4 years or longer)
Note that there is a very long time span that toddlers will drop form 2 to 1 nap and from 1 to no naps. You will have to watch out for the signs that they are ready to drop a nap, and don’t be tempted to rush into it.
signs it is time to drop a nap
The graphic above shows you the most important signs that your baby or toddler is ready to drop a nap.
Wait before you drop
The tricky part about a nap transition is that the timing oftentimes overlaps with sleep regressions. So what can you do? I recommend offering the nap for another 2 weeks and see if it will work itself out. If you drop a nap too early, you might end up with an overtired and cranky baby or toddler. And what do we know about overtired kids? They sleep worse! So before it spirals into any bigger sleep issues, wait a little bit first.
Pro tip: The 2 year sleep regression can trick a lot of parents into thinking that it is time to drop naps completely. This is usually not the case!! Keep giving the nap even if your toddler won’t take it. As long as you stay consistent, the regression should be over in 2-4 weeks, and your little one will go back to taking naps per usual again. Toddlers should take naps until at least 3 or 4 years old, and even once they reach that age, they still benefit from quiet time.
When your child is showing all the signs they are ready to transition, you waited and kept offering naps but they keep refusing it (usually that last nap of the day), and they are at the appropriate age to drop the naps, it’s time to get rid of that extra nap!
Transitioning form 4 to 3 naps
This transition is probably be the easiest, and might just happen naturally without having to think about it too much. Your baby will drop from 4 to 3 naps around 4-6 months. At this age you might have a schedule in place, or you are going off wake windows and sleepy cues. Either way, you will notice that the wake windows of your baby are getting longer. Most likely, it will naturally fall in place where that last nap gets pushed out so far that there won’t be any need for it anymore. If the wake window before bed is getting too long, feel free to move your baby’s bedtime forward by about 30 minutes.
Transitioning form 3 to 2 naps
Dropping from 3 to 2 naps can be a little bit more difficult. A good sign to drop it is that the 3rd nap will get pushed to so late that it interferes with your baby’s bedtime.
For this transition you want to drop that last nap of the day. Extend the wake windows before the 1st and 2nd nap so the schedule for the whole day gets shifted farther back. You might have to move bedtime up by 30 minutes so that your little one won’t get overtired before bedtime.
Transitioning form 2 to 1 nap
This might be the hardest, but also most exciting nap transition! It can seem intimidating to some parents, but most parents I know, and worked with, are just ready to drop that second nap already, so it frees up their day and they’re able do more things with their toddler. (That’s where I am at right now! My second is 12 months and definitely not ready to drop down to 1 nap yet. But I am excited to be able to take both my kids on morning play dates, without him getting overtired or having just a short car nap).
For this transition you want to drop that 1st nap of the day. At this age most toddlers will have a morning and afternoon nap. I recommend getting rid of the morning nap, and simultaneously pulling the afternoon nap forward. So the wake windows might extend from 2.5/3/3.5 hours to 4.5/5 hours. That seems like a pretty long stretch! What do you do when your little one doesn’t seem to be able to make it that long? Especially before the naps, my motto is: Distract, distract, distract! Switch up activities often, go outside, and spend a lot of active time together.
Transitioning form 1 to no naps
Your toddler should be taking a nap until at least 3 years old, but the longer the better! As long as it doesn’t interfere with bedtime, and your little one will still take it, offer it! You might have to cut it short and end it after 1,5 hours so your toddler is still tired enough to go to bed at a good bedtime.
Once your toddler is done taking naps for good, go ahead and offer quiet time. Let them do some independent, open-ended play in their room with the lights dimmed for at least an hour by themselves. They can play with stuffed animals, build blocks, look at books or just lay in the bed and look at a light projector. That way their body and mind still gets some rest, and you, Mama, get a much deserved break as well! Don’t forget to adjust that bedtime to earlier as needed!
There is no “magic trick” to make your child’s nap transition easier, just watch out for the signs that it is time to drop a nap, wait before you drop, know what ages you can expect your little one to drop a nap, and be a little bit flexible with your bedtime.
You might see your schedule messed up for a little bit while transitioning – and some days your kid might still need that nap that you are working on dropping – don’t let it bother you too much! Soon enough you will get into a new great routine!
Still need help? Schedule a free Discovery Call with me so we can talk in person about your current sleep situation and how I can help you!