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Signs That it is Time to Drop a Nap

Nap transitions come in all shapes and sizes, but one thing that is consistent when it comes to naps are the signs telling you when the time has come to drop one. Typically, nap transitions happen as follows:

  • Up to five-months-old: Four to three naps per day

  • Eight to nine-months-old: Three to two naps per day

  • 15 to 18-months-old: Two to one nap per day

Keep in mind that while the transition between nap schedules is typically the same for all babies, there can always be outliers.

The transition to no-nap-at-all typically happens after a child reaches three-years-old, but one nap may linger around a bit longer. For instance, my son has stopped napping 90% of the time at school, but when we offer him a nap on the weekend, he still takes it. And, this could be the case until he is ready to start kindergarten. As long as the nap is not impacting your child’s ability to fall asleep at night, such as pushing bedtime super late, or causing battles at bedtime, then you should feel good about keeping the nap.

At four-months-old, most parents have started to sleep train and introduce a solid schedule with set waketimes. As the sleep training progresses and naps start to come together, the fourth nap eventually fades out. What typically happens is there is just no time left to fit a fourth nap in before 4:15 pm, so that nap just fades away. (Remember, at this age all naps need to be over at 5:00 pm).

There are distinct signs that pop up for the 3-2 and 2-1 nap transitions. These signs can show up as early as six to seven-months for the 3-2 nap transition, and as soon as 12-months for the 2-1 nap transition. Keep in mind that at those ages it is still too early to transition to the next schedule.

The signs for these nap transitions tend to be the same and knowing them ahead of time can go a long way toward reducing your panic, as well as helping keep your little one’s sleep on track. Here are some things to keep an eye out for:

  • Middle of the night waking with no explanation

  • Earlier wake-ups that are not caused by bedtime being too late

  • Short naps

  • Nap refusal for the last nap (either the third on a three-nap day, or second on a two-nap day)

  • Last nap of the day getting pushed too late into the day

If your child starts showing any of these signs earlier than the typical transition age, you should do everything you can to keep their same nap schedule until they have reached the age appropriate time for transition. This may mean adjusting wake-times, waking them up earlier (no earlier than 6:00 am), or capping naps. Then, once they have reached the appropriate age, proceed with transitioning.

In contrast, the opposite may happen where it seems like your baby will never be ready to make the transition because they don’t show any of the signs signaling it is time to drop a nap. Don’t stress too much if that is the case with your little one. Just know that it is important that by nine-months your little one be on a solid two-nap schedule. Also, the transition to one nap is not as sensitive. In fact, the longer we can hold on to the one nap the smoother the transition typically goes.

If you are struggling with the nap transition, or naps in general, don’t worry! My nap guide is the perfect resource for all things napping!