How to Manage Nap Transitions

Nap transitions can be exhausting and confusing. When your baby should be napping and for how long can seem like some crazy impossible riddle. Without a solid grasp on how to manage nap transitions, you can easily fall into the trap of sleepless nights and too much caffeine. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Today, we’re sharing the guidelines for a smooth transition so you can handle nap transitions like a pro.

Naps are vital to a healthy sleep cycle for little ones. When it comes to their sleep habits, nap transitions are inevitable and a normal part of life. However, sometimes the signs and how-to’s aren’t that easy. Let’s dive into some sleep tips to simplify the transition!

How to manage nap transitions

How to Manage Nap Transitions

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.

When do babies typically transition naps?

4 naps to 3 naps

This transition happens between 4 – 5 months. At this point, your newborn is moving into the infant age and your baby is ready to start doing longer sleep at nighttime. During this transition, your baby’s nap schedule will shift, naps will end earlier and bedtime will start earlier.

3 naps to 2 naps

This transition will happen between 6-9 months. The biggest sign that it’s time to transition to 2 naps is if your baby is staying awake for one of their naps when they should be sleeping! Typically this will happen to the morning nap or last nap. Another sign is if it’s taking your baby 30 minutes or more to fall asleep for a nap OR if they are sleeping for a total of 30 minutes.

2 naps to 1 nap

This transition is a big one! There are a lot of developmental progressions around this age, otherwise known as sleep regressions. There are a lot of physical, mental, and verbal developments that happen between 12-15 months, because of these developments, sleep can get wonky (welcome to toddlerhood!). If your child is close to 15 months and they are consistently skipping their afternoon nap or morning nap, it’s likely time to transition to 1 nap. Do not transition too early- the average age to transition to one nap is 15 months. The goal is that the one nap is one long nap, at least 90 minutes but ideally over 2 hours. Anything over 90 minutes is a restorative nap!

1 nap to 0 naps

The dreaded 1 to 0 nap transition, wah! Do not transition to no naps too early! I highly recommend continuing to offer a nap until at least 3.5 years old. Your child will likely start to fight the nap around age 2-2.5 based on development progressions at that age. Don’t take this as a sign that they’re ready to drop the nap- keep offering it for as long as possible. When your child is over age 3 and is either refusing their nap, not falling asleep until after 2 pm or bedtime is becoming too late, it’s time to drop the nap! Offer an hour of quiet time in their room with calming activities like books, coloring, puzzles, etc., this is important to help encourage them to calm their minds and bodies!

Signs to look out for if you need a nap transition

Signs to look out for:⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Sudden erratic schedule 

Usually, when babies or toddlers are 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.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Ok, but HOW do I drop this nap?!⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Take a deep breath and realize that it may be kind of funky for a little bit. Typically, the first nap transitions are the easiest.

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#1 – 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.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

#2 – Give it time

In the midst of it, a day can 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.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

#3 – Enjoy early bedtime

Nap time can be a nice respite for parents- for this reason, dropping a nap can seem overwhelming. You may not get the extra “me time” during the day anymore, but you WILL get to enjoy your evenings. Early bedtimes are great for everyone!⠀

Need some guidance on how to transition naps without hiccups? Set up a 1:1 call with me to plan your nap transition with ease. 

Sleep Shore Sleep Consulting sleep training

Sleep Shore Sleep Consulting

Ready to work with an expert to get your baby on a solid bedtime routine? Want to get your newborn, infant, toddler, or school-age child sleeping an extra hour? Perhaps the goal is your child sleeping through the night? Sleep Shore is here to end your sleep deprivation and help the whole family sleep better! 

Click here to learn more about my sleep coaching programs and which sleep training program is right for you. It’s time to get the shut-eye you deserve so you can finally feel refreshed when you wake up! See what this mama had to say about our sleep coaching: 

“If you are in the thick of things with a newborn and need support with sleep and what “routines” should look like look no further! Molly from Sleep Shore has been instrumental in our sanity with our now 3-week-old son. The recorded call was so helpful for my husband and I to watch and we refer to the PDF document often however, the best part about working with Sleep Shore is being able to check in with a real person on our 15-minute calls. Molly listened to our challenges and was able to explain WHY things were happening and then gave us tips on how to help calm our colicky newborn and get him down to sleep. Molly continues to check in on us and provide support. After our experience (and continued support) We are definitely planning to work with Sleep Shore for further sleep help & training as our son grows!”

-MOM OF A NEWBORN

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