Updated: Dec 22, 2019
Nap dropping can be scary, unexpected, life-altering.... nap dropping can be also be exciting. I for one have been waiting to get to the "One-Nap-Life" for a long time. I dreamed of only having to worry about ONE glorious nap a day, and that day is finally here!
Full disclosure: even though I'm a Sleep Consultant and spend most of my day reading about Baby Sleep Science, I still have huge anxiety over my kid's sleep. So even though I could not WAIT for him to drop his second nap, I was a little worried. I've heard horror stories of the transition, overtired babies crying all day, under tired babies whining at all hours of the night.... weeks of uncertainty... but then I remembered, my baby KNOWS how to sleep. He is sleep trained. He sleeps 11 hours at night, goes down without a fight to every sleep... it will be easy to transition to one nap. And guess what? I was right! On Sunday he started showing signs. I waited one more day. On Monday he showed the same signs. Tuesday I tried 1 nap - Perfect little kiddo, happy as can be, still sleeping through the night. (M1 is 13 months now, almost 14).
A baby/toddler that is well rested will smoothly transition out of their extra nap and give you VERY clear signs that it's time to drop a nap. Let's see what those are:
1) Your kiddo starts to fight their first nap of the day (for 2 or 3 days in a row).
If your kid used to go down without a fight and then all of a sudden doesn't look as tired for their regular first nap, they may be letting you know they need more wake time.
2)They start to violently fight their last nap of the day (for 2-3 days in a row). If they are getting too much day sleep, they may throw a fit when you try to put them down for their last nap of the day. They're letting you know they don't need that much sleep! 3) They start waking up earlier and earlier.
If they're getting too much day sleep, it will eat up their night sleep. If your kid used to wake up at 7:30 but now is constantly waking up at 5:30,6.... you know there's some sleep stealing going on! 4) They take up to an hour to go to sleep at night (for 2-3 days in a row).
If they're not tired enough (from sleeping too much during the day) they'll take longer to fall asleep! They'll take a LONG time to go to sleep. *This is probably the only clue you'll enjoy, unless they fight and scream the whole time*
5)They are up in the middle of the night for 1 or 2 hours (for at least 2-3 nights in a row).
These are probably the most frustrating kind of cues. They're called 'split nights' and they're always caused by a faulty schedule.
So, if you see your kid showing at least 3 of these cues for at least 2-3 days in a row, your kid is probably ready to drop a nap! Unfortunately it's harder to tell with babies that are not in a good schedule or getting enough sleep, so make sure your kiddo is sleep trained! This just means that they know how to sleep on their own and are getting the recommended 12-15 (or 14 if older than 18 months) hours of sleep in a 24 hour period.
Sometimes kids will show the clues for 2 days and then go back to normal. This is normal. So be on the lookout for these signs and test it out one day. If it doesn't work, wait a couple weeks and try again when you see the clues again! Average ages for nap transitions:
3-4 months = 4 --> 3 naps 6-8 months= 3 -->2 naps
12-18months= 2 -->1 nap
2.5-3 years = 1 --0 naps *These are just AVERAGES. Watch your baby always to see if they're ready to transition earlier or later than the average child.
** Sleep trained kids are also more likely to drop a nap earlier than kids that are not sleeping through the night. It makes sense, they're getting enough rest, they need less periods of sleep throughout the day!
If you have any other questions about nap transitions or sleep training,
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