How to Handle Nap Transitions Like a Pro


nap transitionsNap transitions can be exhausting and confusing. When your baby should be napping and for how long can seem like some crazy impossible riddle. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Want to handle nap transitions like a pro? Follow these guidelines for a smooth transition.

What signs should I be looking for?

  • Nap refusals — Specifically, when a baby or toddler starts fighting a nap on a daily basis (typically in the afternoon), this can be a sign that it’s time to let that nap go.
  • Sudden erratic schedule — Usually when a baby or toddler is about to drop a nap, you’ll start to see their normally consistent schedule begin to go haywire. You may see bedtime struggles, middle of the night wakings, or sudden early wakeups that appear seemingly out of nowhere.
  • Shorter naps — Your baby or toddler may begin to take shorter naps. This may lead you to believe you should ADD a nap when really a nap should likely be dropped.

When can I expect my child to drop a nap?

Every child is different from the next, but you can likely expect nap transitions to occur at the following ages:

  • 4-5 months — 4 naps to 3 naps
  • 5-8 months — 3 naps to 2 naps
  • 13-18 months — 2 naps to 1 nap
  • 2-5 years — 1 nap to 0 naps

The average age to drop from 2 naps to 1 nap is 15 months. It can be easy to confuse a few skipped naps or short naps for the actual transition to one nap. This is especially true for burgeoning toddlers who are developing both physically and mentally at a rapid pace. I get a lot of emails about 11-month-olds who are fighting naps regularly; however, I do not typically recommend dropping the second nap at this age. 

Additionally, most toddlers will still be napping each afternoon well into age 3 or 4. Some will begin having difficulty in the 2’s, but I encourage everyone to hold on to the nap for as long as possible.

Ok, but HOW do I drop this nap?!

Take a deep breath and realize that it may be kinda funky for a little bit. Typically, the first nap transitions are the easiest. Dropping from 2 to 1, and 1 to 0 are a bit more challenging and can take a little longer for children (and parents!) to adjust. 

  • Back up bedtime temporarily — To ensure that your baby or toddler doesn’t grow overtired, an earlier bedtime will be your best friend. Put your baby or toddler to bed 30-60 minutes earlier during a nap transition. This will help keep your baby well rested.
  • Give it time — In the midst of it, a day may feel like a week. Remember, it takes time for everyone to adjust to a new schedule. Know that it may take a week or two for your baby or toddler to adjust.
  • Enjoy early bedtime — Nap time can be a nice respite for parents. Dropping a nap can seem overwhelming for this reason. You may not get the extra “me time” during the day anymore but enjoy your evenings. Early bedtimes are great for everyone! 
  • Quiet time — If your toddler is dropping her nap completely, start offering a quiet time in her room when she used to nap. She can play quietly and rest a bit (while you do the same!). Use an “ok to wake” clock to let her know when quiet time is over. 

As is true with all things baby/toddler, remember that this too shall pass!  

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Hello, I’m Arielle! I am the Founder and Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant at Expect to Sleep Again Sleep Consulting, LLC. After having grown up in the Granite State, I earned my Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Boston University and settled in MA. I became a self-proclaimed “sleep geek” after the birth of my daughter, and have since made it my mission to help families get the rest they need in order to enjoy a happier, healthier life. I offer a variety of services including online sleep courses for parents, in-person workshops, and individualized 1:1 sleep consultations. I’m also launching my sleep consultant certification course in September 2019 for those who wish to help others sleep! I live with my five-year-old daughter and longhaired dachshund in Sterling, MA.