Is your baby refusing to nap or shortening their nap on their own? If you feel like your daytime routine is suddenly getting off track, it might just be because a nap transition is coming on.
In the first few years of your baby’s life, establishing a solid nap schedule and bedtime routine is arguably the most important element. Not only for your sanity but because these years are full of changes, growth spurts, and milestones for your baby.
Sleep schedules are a revolving door of adjustments and pain points, but like with most things in life, with a lot of trial and error they can be mastered. To help you start reducing your baby’s naps, here’s our quick nap transition guide which tells you how much your baby should be sleeping, how to spot when you need to start reducing naps, and finally how to start dropping them.
When does my baby need to drop a nap?
From a newborn to preschool-aged, a baby will transition from sleeping nearly all day to a single nap per day before giving it up entirely between the age of 3-5.
Like everything else when it comes to babies, however, there is no set schedule for this. Every baby is different with different sleep needs and family routines, so it is up to you to decide when to start weaning their naps.
To help you determine when the right time is for your baby, here are the common time-frames for nap transitions:
- Newborn-Baby (1-5 months) – typically 4-5 naps per day depending on how much awake time your baby has in between each nap. Around 4-5 months, it is recommended that you have a bedtime routine in place with 4 longer naps in the daytime.
- Baby (5-9 months) – typically, older babies nap 3 times per day or twice if each nap is longer.
- Toddler (10-15 months) – it is recommended to look out for any nap transition signs around the 1-year mark. However, on average, most babies tend to transition to one nap per day between 15-18 months.
- Toddler (15+months) – Toddlers will nap once a day for 1.5-2.5 hours until the average age of 3-4 years old. This is the time that it is recommended to start dropping the final nap but some toddlers may nap until they begin nursery.
Signs that you need to drop a nap
As we said previously, every baby is unique, so while you can use the rough guide above to determine whether your baby is on track with the average nap transition timeline, you should always listen to your baby’s needs before adjusting their schedule.
Here is how to spot a nap transition is on its way:
- Your baby is refusing to nap – this can happen suddenly and it tends to be the afternoon nap as they feel sufficiently rested from the morning nap.
- Your baby is shortening their nap – when your baby begins to shorten one or more naps consistently, especially over a weeklong period, it is time to drop a nap.
- Your baby/toddler is fighting the nap routine – many babies and toddlers just suddenly start fighting the start of naptime or have trouble sleeping for more than 30 minutes or start pushing their nap by a significant amount of time.
Put simply, if putting your baby down is a struggle, this is usually a sign of a nap transition heading your way!
Just make sure that your baby/toddler is:
- Sleeping consistently through the night (10-11 hours of uninterrupted sleep)
- Not waking up in the night
If you do this first, then you can be sure that your baby/toddler is ready to give up a nap. If you don’t and you start weaning them off, this can lead to a sharp increase in night-waking, overtiredness and bad moods, as well as them being more prone to outbursts and tantrums.
If you are worried and you don’t know if it is the right time to transition your baby, monitor their sleep pattern over two weeks. If they are consistently sleeping through the night and are showing signs of wanting to transition in the day, then they are ready for the switch.
How to start reducing your baby’s naps
Even when your baby has told you that it’s time to start reducing their naps, you can still expect a period of adjustment to the new schedule.
If you’re lucky, your baby may fuss through the first couple of days but then fully adjust to the new nap schedule straight away. If you’re not so lucky, then you will need to help them ease into the routine slowly over a short period.
Here are a few different ways that you can start weaning your baby’s naps:
- Shorten their naps – if your baby is starting to wake up early from their afternoon naps, shorten their morning naps so that they get sufficient rest throughout the whole day.
- Push back their nap until you can eliminate it – you can use this method at any age to eliminate naps. E.g. if you are trying to transition from 2 naps per day to 1, start pushing the morning nap later and later by 20 minutes every day. Eventually, a 10 am and 2 pm nap will become one 12 pm nap before you have to put them to bed exhausted later in the day.
- Adjust their bedtime to compensate – making dinner time and bedtime earlier even just by 30 minutes can make dropping a nap much easier. This also allows you to put your baby/toddler to bed before they become overtired and resist sleep.
Listen to your baby and yourself
Although this guide is meant for you to follow to make nap transitions easier, always listen to your baby and your gut. Your baby will tell you when they are ready for you to start reducing naps, all you have to do is find what method works best for both of you.
Need more help or advice? Find more from us here:
- 9 Tell-tale Signs of a Tired Baby
- How to Spot if Your Baby is Unwell
- 8 Reasons Why Your Baby Might Be Crying
- 12 Tips to Soothe Your Crying Baby