Boo! Did I scare you? That’s the ghost of naps future, coming to haunt Moms who are laying awake wondering when and how to drop their baby’s next nap. Fear not my friend, I’m here to make these transitions smooth as butter!
First off, here are some general tips for nap transitioning:
- Semi-cold turkey is generally easiest. Much like the concept of wake windows, I find the idea of incrementally adjusting a nap every day by 15 mins etc to be overly complicated and unnecessary. You’ll hear me say this a lot – babies are much more adaptable than we give them credit for! I’ll explain more about what I mean by “semi-cold turkey” below.
- A little bit of fussiness is to be expected. This is a time of change for your babe! The fact that they are a little cranky for a few days does not necessarily mean they aren’t ready, they just need a bit of time for their bodies to adjust.
- The largest gap between sleep will always be in the afternoon, between the last nap of the day and bedtime. This is true whether your baby is on 3 naps or 1!
- When you do it is as important as how. If you do it too early, your baby likely will not respond well and become overtired and struggle more with night sleep.
- Once you start, don’t go back! I’m going off the assumption here, of course, that have followed the steps below and correctly identified the right time to drop the nap. Stick to it! Being wishy washy about it will confuse your babe and make your life harder. The transition will go the most smoothly with your consistency.
- There is a wide range in the total amount of sleep babies need at each nap stage. Every baby is different! Their individual sleep needs, along with their total night sleep will dictate how much they nap. Some babies really do need more or less sleep than others.
When Should I Drop Each Nap?
- Moving from 4 to 3 naps: Between 16-24 Weeks
- Moving from 3 to 2 naps: Between 7-8 Months
- Moving from 2 to 1 nap: Between 14-18 Months
How Do I Know If My Baby Is Ready?
- They fall in the age categories above.
- They’re suddenly having more sleep issues. Your baby may be fighting one of their naps, waking very early in the AM, or taking a long time to fall asleep at bedtime, when that hadn’t been an issue in the recent past. You have continued to be consistent with their routine/schedule and it’s still an issue. An important note here – if your baby is not a good napper in general, it may be tough to tell if things are getting worse. If that’s the case, shoot to drop the naps in the middle of the time frames (eg. 20 weeks for the first transition, 16 months for the 3rd transition, etc).
- It’s Necessary For Your Family. You may need to drop certain naps early because you have to. Perhaps you have to follow a daycare schedule or your older child’s preschool pick up coincides with one nap. That’s ok! Be conscious of how much total sleep your baby is getting. Maybe because of the new nap routine they will need a later or earlier bedtime for awhile, for instance. Don’t stress too much, it’s a short term challenge and your baby will adjust just fine.
How Do I Drop Each Nap?
- Moving from 4 to 3 naps: This is the only nap transition where we will go full cold turkey, because they amount of time we’re extending between each sleep is small. You will drop the last nap of the day, the one closest to bedtime. At this age, your baby’s 4th nap may have ended as close as 1.5 hours before bedtime – for example, a nap from 5-6 PM, with a 7:30 PM bedtime. Once on 3 naps, your baby may have as much as 2.5 or even 3 hours between the last nap and bedtime – for example, a nap from 4-5 PM, with a 7:30 PM bedtime.
- Moving from 3 to 2 naps: For this nap transition, semi-cold turkey is defined as a gradual transition from a 3rd nap to a cat nap to a no nap! That is to say, once your baby is ready to drop the 3rd nap, you will most likely notice that they’re fighting that last nap, but they don’t seem capable of making it from the 2nd nap all the way until bedtime. What you will do first is push back the first and second naps to the times you want them to be going forward. Again, a little fussiness in the AM is expected and ok for a few days, as baby stretches that new window! Next, you will spend roughly 3-7 days allowing baby to doze for 15-20 minutes in the afternoon as their little bodies adjust. Don’t do this for more than a week, and don’t let them sleep longer than 20 minutes. For example, a baby’s new 2 nap schedule may have them waking from their afternoon nap at 3 PM, with a 7 PM bedtime. In this case, you might allow them to take a 15-20 minute catnap (perhaps in a stroller or carrier) around 4:30/5 PM for a few days as they adjust.
- Moving from 2 to 1 nap: For this nap transition, semi-cold turkey is defined as a gradual push back of the nap time to where you want it to be permanatly. For instance, maybe you baby had been napping at 9:30 AM and 1:30 PM. We are not going to expect them to stay awake for FOUR extra hours overnight. Instead, you may start with the one nap being at 11 AM, then 11:30, then 12, then 12:30. You can spend about a week at each new nap time. Again, if your baby needs a tiny cat nap in the afternoon as they adjust, that’s ok! Just make sure it’s not longer than 15-20 minutes. Some babies also do better with a slightly earlier bedtime as they adjust (for instance, a nap from 11:30-2, and then a 6:30 PM bedtime for a bit instead of the usual 7 or 7:30 PM).
How Much Daytime Sleep Does My Baby Need On Their New Nap Schedule?
- 3 Naps: 3-4.5 total hours of sleep
- 2 Naps: 2.5-3 total hours of sleep
- 1 Nap: 1.5-3 total hours of sleep
I’m Ready To Transition, But I Need Help Making My Baby’s New Schedule!
Girl, did you know I create custom schedules? That’s right. If you have a babe who is a pretty good sleeper, but you’re not sure what their schedule should look like, I have a special offer just for you! Head to my site and select the Custom Schedule. You will receive an intake form where I can learn more about your child – their age, their current schedule, family routine, your lifestyle needs and more. From there, I will create their perfect schedule, delivered to your inbox within 24 hours.
Is your sleep issue bigger than a schedule can fix? Well…that’s my specialty! Whether you have a newborn who will only sleep in your arms, a 9 month old who still wakes up 3 times a night, or a toddler who makes bedtime a never-ending nightly battle, I am ready to get you guys on track! Head to my site to purchase a custom sleep package, or shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to set up your free 15 minute call to learn more about how I help families!