Updated: Jan 31, 2021
Babies’ sleep needs change so frequently that it can make our heads spin! Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, they change it up on you! This applies greatly to naps!
Implementing a daytime schedule with our little ones can require a lot of trial and error. Then, it works for a few weeks only to seem like they need a new change again!
Let’s look at why this happens and how we know it’s time to drop a nap!
So, why?! Why is everything always changing?
As babies get older, they become more alert and can stay awake for longer periods of time. This increase in awake time means less time sleeping! Therefore, they may not need as many naps or the same length naps that they once did.
How will I know it’s time to drop a nap?!
There are a few signs that it’s time to drop a nap. Here is what to look for:
1.) Your baby is near the age range for the nap transition
4 to 3 naps: 6 weeks- 3 months
3 to 2 naps: 6- 9 months
2 to 1 nap: 12-18 months
2.) The last nap has become a struggle for them to fall asleep
If your little one is taking longer than 20-30 minutes to fall asleep for the last nap, there is a good chance that they aren’t building up enough sleep pressure in order to fall asleep. This is also true if they are not falling asleep at all for this nap.
3.) Baby is not falling asleep easily at bedtime and/or bedtime is being pushed too late
If the last nap is causing the bedtime to be pushed too late to fit in the proper wake window, then that nap is most likely the culprit of the bedtime problem.
4.) The length of naps is shortening
This will most likely happen with that last nap first, but the other naps could be affected too! Look for the first nap of the day being less than one hour and the last nap becoming drastically shorter than normal.
5.) Early morning wake ups begin happening
Since baby is may be getting more sleep than he needs during the day, he may begin waking earlier in the morning ready to go!
The tricky part about this is that your baby may not show any of these signs consistently (of course)!
But, if one or more of the above is happening for 4-5 times a week for more than 2 weeks, it’s time to drop a nap.
*Keep in mind that developmental milestones can disrupt sleep. So, if your baby is beginning to sit, crawl or walk, this could be the reason their naps aren’t going well, and you’ll want to give it a little more time. If you notice that this may be the reason, wait an additional week or two before deciding to pull a nap (especially if your baby is on the younger side of the age range for the transition).
How to make the change
You’ve decided that it’s time to make the move, but you aren’t even sure where to begin!
Let’s chat about it!
The first thing I will say is to go into this process with grace and patience! Changing up your baby’s schedule is beneficial and necessary as they grow, but it can also be a bit of a challenge as we are switching up what their body clock is used to!
Moving from 4 naps to 3 naps
This transition is quite easy and will usually happen on its own for the most part. As your baby’s naps get longer, they will begin to skip the 4th nap. The wake window before bed is the easiest to lengthen so you can slowly but surely add on a few minutes every few days. You may end up putting baby to bed a little earlier than you normally would, but that’s ok!
Moving from 3 naps to 2 naps
Work on pushing nap times back by 30-45 minutes to bridge the gap in daytime hours. We still want to keep overtiredness in mind, although, it is not as big of a concern as it was when they were newborns. Decide what your baby can handle and work on extending these wake windows in 10-15 minute increments every other day until you reach the new nap time.
Ex: If baby’s schedule was:
Nap 1 8:30am
Nap 2 12:30pm
Nap 3 3:30pm
New schedule to work towards:
Nap 1 9/9:30am
Nap 2 2/2:30pm
This could decrease nap length or increase crying due to slight overtiredness for the first few days. If the nap length continues to get worse, you may need a quick third cat nap to help carry baby to bedtime or make bedtime earlier.
And, for the transition everyone wants to know about…..