To Drop the Nap, or Not to Drop the Nap?

There comes a time in every parent’s life when they must ask themselves the dreaded question… is it time to drop the nap for bub? Saying goodbye to the sweet few times a day where you can check a few tasks off your to-do list or simply kick your feet up and chill out is probably the last thing you want to do! Not to mention, picking the right moment to transition them to less nap time can be a hard task in and of itself. It can be hard to know when to drop the nap. Unfortunately for all of us, the time will come when your munchkin is having a little trouble sleeping through the night or is harder to put down in the morning - so it’s important to know what to do when these issues rear their heads. Babies drop the amount of naps they have throughout the day gradually, all the way up until they are toddlers. But, as with any developmental milestone, no two little ones are the same. Some drop the nap a little earlier, while others will enjoy extra time to catch a snooze for months or even years more than their peers. Rest assured, all of this is completely normal. Even though every bub is different, it’s useful to know the signs your little one is ready to drop some snooze time and how to handle the transition once it’s here. So, this is our expert guide to nap time (and when there needs to be less of it!).

How to schedule nap time in the first place

All babies have biological “nap windows”, which are certain times of day which are optimal sleep times. During these windows, their bodies experience a rise in the sleep hormone melatonin, making them easier to settle and primed for a longer sleep. For a baby these nap windows fall between 9-10am, 12-2pm and 6-7pm. This is why we always recommend aiming for a bedtime between 6-7pm for most children under 5 years of age. Remember: melatonin is more readily produced in the darkness, so make sure you have a dark room ready to enhance its effect at these times.

When will your baby drop their naps? The short answer.

There is a very rough schedule our little humans follow when it comes time to drop the nap, and it goes a little something like this:
  • When bub is 3 months old, they’ll usually have 3 naps. Easy!
  • When they reach 6-8 months old, babies usually drop to 2 naps.

  • Around 15-18 months old, the 2 naps merge to form 1 long midday nap; and,

  • When your babe is 2.5-3 years old, nap time might disappear forever.

The biggest drop

Arguably one of the hardest nap drops is the transition from 2 naps a day to just one. Often, parents will see their child has gone through the 12 month sleep regression and assume bub is ready to drop down to one nap a day - but this likely isn’t the case. Often, dropping down to one nap at 12 months old is too early on. We’d recommend trying to stick with 2 naps until your baby is as close to 15 months as possible. Why? If you try and transition your baby too early, you might find your baby becomes overtired or wakes several times throughout the night. Not a fun time for anyone involved! If you do find your child fights their morning nap whilst going through the 12-month sleep regression, you can aim for two naps every second day until the regression passes. Then, you should be able to get back to normality with the 2 naps for at least a few months more. The main things to remember on the days they only have 1 lunch nap are:
  • Sometimes, bub may be ready to snooze as early as 11.45am, and this is completely fine.
  • You should be aiming for a lunch nap that’s 2.5 hours long.
  • Regardless if they sleep for 2.5 hours or not, you will probably need to aim for an earlier bedtime on these days.

Signs bub is ready for just 1 nap

So, you’ve noted our tips for helping bub through their 12 month sleep regression, and you’re waiting patiently for the right time to drop from two naps to just one. Now what? Some of the most common signs that baby may be ready to go to 1 nap include:
  • They’re at least 14 months of age
  • They have begun refusing their afternoon nap even after you’ve adjusted the awake time.
  • The afternoon nap is occurring too late in the day and pushing bedtime too late.
  • You’re experiencing night wakings or early wakings that are otherwise unexplained.

I know they’re ready, what’s next?

It’s time to take the plunge and put a strategy in place that works for your family! To find out more about techniques to make the transition smoother, get in touch for a sleep consultation or download our sleep program for bubs 12-24 months old.
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