Your child’s ever-changing nap needs
Just when you think you have a schedule down it seems like a nap transition is just on the horizon!
In this blog post you’ll learn about when nap transitions typically happen, how to tell if your child is ready to drop a nap, how to make it a smooth transition and how to troubleshoot either during or soon after the transition.
When Do Nap Transitions Typically Happen?
- 4 to 3 Naps: 4-5 Months
- 3 to 2 Naps: 6-9 Months
- 2 to 1 Nap: 13-18 Months
- 1 to 0 Nap: 2.5+ Years Old
Look how much of an age range is within each of those nap transitions! It’s just further proof showcasing how sleep is so unique for each child. It’s why we do what we do – we help you navigate these shifts so you don’t have to rely on Mr. Google or comparing to another mom’s child. So if you see your child falling into any of these age ranges, how do you know if they are ready to drop a nap?⠀
How Do I Know If My Child Is Ready?
- Refuses a nap
- Timing of naps change, which can affect bedtime
- Length of naps change
- Child’s behavior is generally fine if a nap is missed
- Bedtime becomes a battle (most common for a toddler ready to drop their nap completely)
- If any of these are occurring for ~2 weeks it’s likely time to start making a nap transition! ⠀
PRE-TRANSITION NAP TIP!
Before committing to a nap transition, especially if your child is towards the younger span of the transition ages, you can make some schedule adjustments to see if that buys you some valuable time:
- If the last nap of the day is hard for your child to go down for, cap the nap(s) before it so that in addition to any wake window lengthening before that last nap you now also have more sleep drive since you have trimmed down some daytime sleep
4 To 3 Nap Transition
This transition means your baby is starting to take some longer naps and connecting sleep cycles! For this transition to occur you’ll need to have at least one nap longer than 45 minutes, so often this transition happens almost naturally. With these longer naps and wake windows stretching around 2 hours, you then have this progression to needing just 3 naps now while still getting around 3-4 hours of daytime sleep. It just sort of bumps out that 4th nap since it then gets too close to bedtime. And with naps still being unpredictable at this age you may go back and forth for a week or two before it really starts becoming more natural to extend one of those naps for your baby.
Here is an example of a 4 month old 3 nap schedule:
7 AM – Wake up
9:00-10:30 AM – Morning Nap (~1.75/2 hours from morning wakeup)
12:30-2:30 PM – Afternoon Nap (2 hours from morning nap)
4:30-5:30 PM – Catnap (2 hrs from nap 2; cap at 1 hour)
7:30 PM – Asleep (2 hours from nap 3 wakeup)
Here’s an example of a 5 month old 3 nap schedule:
7:30 AM – Wake up
9:15-10:30 AM – Morning Nap (~1.75 hours from morning wakeup)
12:30-2:00 PM – Afternoon Nap (~2 hours from Nap 1)
4:15-5:15 PM – Catnap (2.25 hrs from Nap 2)
7:30 PM – Asleep (2.25 hours from Nap 3)
PRO TIP: IF YOUR 5 MONTH OLD STILL ISN’T EXTENDING 1 NAP, IT’S TIME TO START NAP TRAINING
3 To 2 Nap Transition
This transition takes time because it will be challenging at first for your little one to stay awake until bedtime. So in the meantime push bedtime up by 30 minutes or even an hour to avoid her/him getting overtired. It takes roughly one to two weeks to get them fully adjusted to the new schedule so take it one day at a time! In the beginning I like to see the first nap start 2.5 hours from wakeup and then a 3-3.5 hour stretch to the second nap. The longest stretch will be 3.5 hours from the end of the second nap until bedtime but like I mentioned, you will need to bring that up to 3-3.5 hours during the actual transition. So some may prefer a schedule that looks like: wakeup, 2.5 hours, nap 1, 3 hours, nap 2, 3.5 hours, bed
Here are some examples of how the schedule could look while transitioning:
(This is my preferred)
9:30am-11am Nap (2.5 hours from wakeup)
2-3:30pm Nap 2 (3 hours from wakeup)
7:00pm Bedtime (3.5 hours from wakeup)
10am-11:30am Nap (3 hours from wakeup)
2:30-4pm Nap 2 (3 hours from wakeup)
7:00pm Bedtime (3 hours from wakeup)
PRO TIP: MOVE UP BEDTIME 30 MINUTES IF NAPS TOTALED LESS THAN 2 HOURS
2 To 1 Nap Transition
There are a few different ways to do this transition! One way is to simply push the morning nap time by 15 minutes each day until your single nap starts around 5-5.5 hours after wakeup – you likely will then need to really cap that second nap or else it pushes bedtime too late. It takes roughly two weeks to get them fully adjusted to the new time. Or you can offer the nap around 4.5 hours after wakeup and then do a “bridge” nap that is roughly 20 minutes long in the mid-afternoon (can be in the car or on the go) so they can make it close to their bedtime without it being too long of a stretch. If the nap wasn’t at least 2 hours long push up bedtime by 30 minutes to avoid them getting overtired or try a quick 30 minute stroller or car nap in the afternoon to help them make that stretch. Don’t worry if during this transition you find yourself teetering back and forth a bit from 1 nap to 2 naps as your child learns to lengthen that single nap. And if after a week you realize it’s really not natural for them, take a step back and see if you really cut down nap 1 enough to create enough pressure for nap 2. It will take them some time to learn to stretch that nap longer but just be consistent and they will get there! It helps to get out in the afternoon if you can and give them a change of scenery to keep them going until bedtime.⠀
When you start the transition you may notice a more even split of roughly 5 hours prior to the nap and 4.5-5 hours of awake time after the nap. As your child becomes more comfortable with the 1 nap schedule (closer to 2 years old) you’ll likely move to a schedule that has the nap starting ~5.5-6 hours after wakeup and bedtime around 5 hours after the nap.
Here are some examples of how the schedule could look while transitioning:
6:30 AM – Wake
11:30 – 1:30 PM – Nap (~5 hours from wakeup)
6:30 PM – Bed (~5 hours after last nap)
7:00 AM – Wake
12:30 – 3:00 PM – Nap (~5.5 hours from wakeup)
7:30 PM – Bed (~4.5 hours after last nap)
PRO TIP: I don’t recommend transitioning to 1 nap at 12 months as most can not stay up for more than 4 hours between sleep so it can often lead to early morning wake-ups.⠀
1 to 0 Nap Transition
This transition typically happens between 3 and 4 years old. It can happen around 2.5 years old or as late as 5 years old though!
If it’s been roughly 2 weeks of your child fighting their normal nap time and then they finally fall asleep too close to bedtime then you could be ready for the transition! Or, if they skip the nap altogether multiple times and consistently and you notice no big tantrums prior to 5pm then it could also be a sign that it’s time to drop the nap.
If your child takes their regular nap time but then for over 2 weeks they take over an hour to fall asleep at bedtime (just chatting the day away!) first try cutting the nap back by 15 minutes for a few days and see if that makes a difference. If not, keep reducing it by that amount until you reach a sweet spot and have it last roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes, a sleep cycle.
So once it’s time to cut that nap, establish 1 hour of quiet “rest” time. Their room then becomes their space where they can independently play for a set time. Tell them that it is time to rest and they can gather some toys to play with in their room. Tell them you’ll come when your timer is up! Most importantly, once they drop their nap completely, it will often mean that their bedtime will need to be pushed up by 30-60 minutes. It’s a tough transition for them so an earlier bedtime is essential so they don’t get that rush of cortisol before bedtime!⠀
PRO TIP: Have your child pick a fun (and safe!) toy or two that they can use for quiet time if they need help with independent play!
Need help with navigating a certain nap transition? Schedule a free 15-minute consult call with one of our coaches so we can determine the best next steps for you and your family to ensure sleep stays on track!