The most important thing to note with a nap transition is that most of the time your child will not just wake up one day requiring one less nap, just because they fall into the appropriate age range. Lots of factors can influence when it happens, including how well your child naps in the first place and how much day sleep they are actually achieving for their age. Check out my how much day sleep post on Instagram for recommendations. Transitions can be smooth, or they can be super messy and disorganised for a few weeks! I have personally had the pleasure of going through 9 separate nap transitions as a mother, as well as helping clients figure out if their own child is ready.⠀
Typical Nap Transition Age Range: ⠀
3-2 NAPS 6-9 months. ⠀
2-1 NAP 15-18 months. ⠀
1-0 NAP 2.5-3.5 years or longer
It is good to have in the back of your mind when to expect a nap transition but try not to let it guide you completely. Your own instinct and your child’s natural progression is there to assist you. Tune into your gut feelings and your child’s cues, not because half your mother’s group has made the transition already. Transitions are an inevitable part of your child’s development, so you don’t need to figure everything out like an Ikea flat pack! They are likely to make you feel anxious and frustrated at times but be confident in your ability and trust yourself to know what is right for your child. You know your baby best.
MOVING FROM 3 NAPS TO 2
Usually the smoothest transition that you and your child will experience. If you have a cat napping baby, before this transition start by assisting them to lengthen their other naps during the day to avoid overtiredness. Check out my Top Tips For Eliminating Cat Napping on our blog for more information.
Signs this nap is on the out:
- It’s becoming really hard to achieve, pushing it later and later into the afternoon/early evening.
- Your baby has a nap here but then takes a long time to settle at bedtime.
- The lunchtime nap starts to get shorter when previously it has been about 1.5-2 hours in length.
A good point to remember about this nap is that it’s not designed to be a long restorative nap. Think about it like a power nap, your last resort to take the edge of overtiredness before the bedtime routine begins. It’s often the hardest to achieve due to less of the sleepy hormones on board, so we suggest that this nap happens either out and about in the carrier, car or pram, for your own efforts and sanity! From around 4 months, this nap normally sits at around 30 minutes in length, once longer naps are being achieved elsewhere. By 6 months, it is likely be around 15-20 minutes in length. If we were to offer too much sleep here, a baby can struggle maintaining enough sleep pressure to settle well and for long periods overnight.
MOVING FROM 2 NAPS TO 1
This can be the messiest transition! For that reason alone, it’s important to be sure your child is ready, which means they will almost always be within the 15-18 months age bracket.
When are they ready?
Signs that your child is ready to drop to one nap are:
- Refusing to sleep after 10am for at least one week.
- Happy to stay awake from 7am-12pm.
- Sleeping 1.5-2 hours after lunch.
- Going down for a nap at 9:30am but staying awake until 10-10:30
- Starting to wake up earlier than usual wanting to sleep longer at the morning nap.
Signs they might NOT be ready.
- They only take a short sleep if you offer one nap as they are overtired. A child who is ready should have a nice chunk of sleep at lunch.
- Be weary of the 12 month pro(re)gression, which brings some lovely nap refusal to go with it! This nap refusal rarely indicates that your child is actually ready for just one nap. It’s likely more about your child asserting their newfound independence along with increased movement and communication skills, which means they can be very good at using the word “NO!” Try reducing the length of the morning nap first, rather than cutting it out altogether, avoid an overtired cranky child for longer than you need to!
How can you drop this nap?
- If you think your child is ready, you have the option to go cold turkey on the first nap, bringing the lunchtime nap forward between 11:30-12pm to compensate. You want them to ideally have a 2-2.5 hours nap here but no longer, with an earlier bedtime as well. Once they are handling this adjustment ok, (2-3 days normally) push out their midday nap by 15 mins every couple of days until you reach 12:30pm, which is where it will stay.
Tip! Use sunlight, bright lights, favourite snacks, activities to distract them. It is important that they are not out and about earlier in the car to prevent the possibility of them falling asleep here at an earlier time which will throw out the timing and duration of the midday nap and then the whole process will take longer.
- Cut the morning nap further to 15-20 mins for at least a week, putting them to bed at 1pm for the afternoon before getting rid of it altogether. You can then move the nap time earlier to compensate and gradually back by 15 mins every 2 days like in option 1. An earlier bedtime will be needed to prevent overtiredness at bedtime.
- Offering a nap every 2nd or 3rd This can help if they are in a cycle of tiredness to take the edge off, but this could also can mean they are not quite ready. It can also just create a continuous cycle of being tired and just make the process take even longer for the child to adjust. Sometimes months.
What you can expect.
- Crankiness and fussiness. Shortening or getting rid of the morning nap will both have these consequences which is unfortunately just part of the transition process that we cannot avoid. Remember however it is short lived, and they will adjust.
- Time and patience to lengthen the lunch time nap if they are not doing it naturally. Sometimes it could take 30 minutes for them to link their sleep cycles and get back to sleep, other times they do it on their own. Still offer then this time in the cot. Consistency and patience are so important here! We really want to preserve and nurture this nap!
- Up to 3 weeks or more to completely transition.
- Understand and empathise with your child during the adjustment. They are going to be tired so provide less stress in other areas during the first few days. Prepare meals they like, provide the whole bedtime routine early and then you can work on bringing it back.
GOODBYE TO NAPS!
This transition can be the hardest. Your toddler has to adjust to no day sleep at all! They are very much their own person with their own unique personality, and they have their own variation of how much sleep they need. Knowing this information, it is really important to watch your child for signs that it is needed to be dropped in the first place.
If you are NOT noticing any side effects such as starting to take longer to settle at night, waking throughout the night or waking early, there is no harm in holding onto it! Sleep supports growth, brain development, helps with attention, concentration and behaviour, so ditching it too soon may make you wish that you didn’t! If your child loves their nap, at 2.5-3+ years an hour a day is sufficient.
How do you drop the last nap?
If you are looking to transition from 1 nap to 0 and they are napping for longer than an hour, my first point of call is always to trim it back. Once they are tolerating this, I wouldn’t suggest you trim it back anymore. Toddlers still go into a deep sleep early in the nap so all your likely to do is to make them super cranky!
If it’s the right time for your child, try to avoid too much back and forth, napping one day and not the next. This just makes this transition really long and drawn out, never really allowing their sleep to adjust.
My advice is to prepare yourself for one really hard cranky day, and then expect to see things getting better as the week/s go on. Have their favourite meal lined up so you don’t deal with tired dinner battles, allow for some quiet time during the day so this becomes their new relaxation time and bring bedtime forward. You can bring this back once they have adapted a little more to the change.