Naps are in constant flux, depending on your little one’s age, developmental leaps, sleep environment, and day-to-day. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t sleep well. When my kids were little dropping a nap was always kind of bittersweet. Sometimes fewer naps meant more freedom during the day to go out and about. Sometimes it just meant I was entertaining them for more hours during the day.
In this blog, we will cover how to know when it’s time to drop a nap and what’s the smoothest way to get it done. Naptime is precious for everyone and no one wants to rock the boat. As a sleep coach, I get a lot of questions about naps and it can be the hardest part of a client’s sleep journey. So let’s talk all about dropping a nap and how to best support your little one.
Schedules and Timing
An age-appropriate schedule is key for healthy sleep. An overtired or under-tired child will struggle to sleep and may have short naps, night wakings, and/or early wake-ups. You need to ensure the timing is right for their age, NOT just go by the signs, like yawning, which can also be boring. The timing will force their body clock & related hormones into alignment.
Wake Window Quick Reference Guide-
0-6 weeks 4-6 naps and 45 minutes-1 hour of time awake
6-10 weeks 3-4 naps and 1 hour- 1 hour 15 minutes of time awake
11-15 weeks 3 naps and 1.5 hours of time awake
4-5 months 3 naps and 2 hours of time awake
6-7 months 2-3 naps and 2.5-3 hours of time awake
8-10 months 2 naps and 3 hours of time awake
11-12 months 2 naps and 3.5-4 hours of time awake
13-18 months 2-1 naps and 4.5-5 hours of time awake
18 months -2.5 years 1 nap and 5.5 hours of time awake
Bedtime Affects Naptime
Everything starts at bedtime! If your child isn’t falling asleep independently at bedtime from wide awake, they will not have truly independent sleep skills, which often leads to night wakings, early wake-ups, trouble falling asleep for naps, short naps as well as skipped naps.
Bedtime Routine: Feed (if given) must be at the start of the routine. This is crucial so they don’t fall asleep eating!
Bath, Feed PJs, Book, Song, Hug & Kiss, into bed wide awake.
Feeding in a diaper only keeps them awake & alert!
Drowsiness – Children must go into bed wide awake to fall asleep on their own, without the use of a sleep prop or your
help and support.
Drowsy but awake is “stage 1” sleep and can lead to bad
Is My Baby Ready to Drop a Nap?
If things had been going well, and the baby was on an age-appropriate schedule, you may start seeing some signs of a baby being ready to drop a nap at the ages listed above. You want to make sure you see these signs consistently for 1-2 full weeks before considering dropping a nap. A nap transition can often be a long process, it’ll take time for your child to adjust to one less nap, much longer wake times, and adjust his/her circadian rhythm. If your child wasn’t already on an age-appropriate schedule, start there, then see if you are still seeing signs of being time to drop a nap.
Signs Baby is Ready to Drop a Nap
STRUGGLING TO FALL ASLEEP FOR NAP
ONCE ASLEEP, NAP MAY BE SHORT
SKIPPING THE LAST NAP OF THE DAY (ON OCCASION, IT’S ANOTHER NAP THAT’S SKIPPED)
STRUGGLING TO FALL ASLEEP AT BEDTIME
ABNORMAL NIGHT WAKING’S, WHICH MAY BE LONG. EARLY WAKING IN THE MORNING.
If your little one is skipping the last nap, move bedtime earlier. If this continues happening for 1-2 weeks, then it’s time to adjust the schedule so the baby is on a more even, age-appropriate schedule for the reduced number of naps.
Nap Transitions 4-3 or 3-2
- Push naptime 15 minutes later each day, for 3 days.
Example: If nap was 9 am, go to 9:15 am for 3 days.
- Continue pushing naptime 15 minutes later every 3 days, until desired nap time is achieved.
- You may need to use the cat nap to get through until bedtime.
If nap length decreases, a last cat nap in the crib, car, or stroller can be used if needed
temporarily to take the edge off before bedtime.
This is meant to be just a short catnap of 15-20 minutes.
The longer we have an extra nap, the longer it will take the baby to adjust to fewer naps.
- Moving bedtime earlier by 30 minutes for two weeks can help with the gap in time and prevent overtiredness. Even though it may seem far too early for bed, it is only for two weeks to help get through this transition.
For some children, dropping a nap instantly improves nap length. Some children
decrease nap length temporarily in the beginning due to overtiredness.
You will likely notice your baby still appears tired at the usual nap time, so you will have
to distract them a bit to get them to the desired nap time. This is a great time for a small snack if needed, taking outside to play, playing with water, or anything exciting. Do not
take a ride in the car or walk in the stroller if this will cause your baby to fall asleep.
Remember it takes the body 4 to 6 weeks to fully adjust to a significant change in sleep patterns, so don’t expect your child to adjust immediately. If it seems that naps are getting shorter or more difficult, please stick with your plan even though your baby may seem a little cranky. Remember to use the last catnap and/or an earlier bedtime to get
through the transition.
Nap transitions are tough and most moms dread the time and energy it will take to get through it. I offer mini-coaching sessions for just this reason! If your little one is an awesome sleeper and you just need some help adjusting the schedule feel free to schedule a Pinpoint Coaching session so we can “pinpoint” your challenge and solve it quickly together.