Nap time can be challenging to balance, then when you finally feel like you’re in a balanced routine, it’s time to change or drop a nap period. Nap transition or dropping naps can be confusing. We are often unsure of the right time and the right way to transition through the different nap time.
It is important to drop and adjust nap times during the day, when needed, to help ensure your baby is sleeping at the most age appropriate times of the day. If nap time is not managed effectively then sleep can become unbalanced with fractured day/night sleep starting to occur. Miss managed day sleep can also lead to early morning wake ups.
Dropping and modifying day naps is important until your child no longer needs a day sleep, generally between the ages from 3-4 years (or in some cases until school age). When identify the right time to drop and transition nap times, there are a few key elements and questions that need to be considered.
Has my child been following an age appropriate day time sleep schedule?
Has their age changed, but there sleeps schedule has not?
Are they starting to display sign they are ready to drop a nap? These sign will include:
Taking longer to go to sleep at bed time.
Not showing normal tired signs at nap time.
They are able to cope with more awake time.
When following a sleep schedule, you will notice the gradual drop and shift in day naps. This is important as we are aiming to build up the right amount of sleep debt at the right age, to then put our children to sleep at the right times for their age, to ensure the best quality sleep for their age. That all sounds like a bit of a mouth full, but basically as our children get older they are able to neurologically cope with more wake time without becoming overtired. Therefore, what we want to do is work with our children’s age and sleep requirements to ensure they are sleeping when they need to and not becoming overtire and more challenging at bed time.
Even when following a sleep schedule, they are based on guideline and an overage child’s sleep requirements. This is why it is important to not only follow a sleep schedule but also our child’s signs and ques, telling us they are ready to drop a nap and transition to the next age appropriate sleep schedule. If you are answering yes to the questions above, this is a good indicator that your child is ready to transition and drop a nap time. But if you are answering no to most of the questions, then you know that your child is not quite ready.
Number of Day Naps Age Transition
3 – 4 2 – 4 Months 3 – 4 Day Naps =
Becomes more defined
at 3-4 months
3 4 – 7/8 Months Morning + Lunch
+ Afternoon Nap
2 7/8 – 14/18 Months Afternoon nap fades out =
Morning + Lunch Nap
1 14/18 Months – Morning Nap Fades out
3/5 Years = Longer Lunch Nap
0 3/5 Years Lunch nap fades out
= 0 Day Naps
The above table gives you age appropriate guideline to when your child may need to drop and transition a nap period. Each nap transition period has its own challenges. This is mainly because we are modifying your child’s body clock to suit their age, hormone levels and neurological capabilities. It is also very important to note that during any nap transition there is a period of time you will need to bring night bedtime earlier. This is vital to the success of any nap transition period, as they are less likely to be overtire at bed time and better equipped to cope with the shift in their body clock.
When dropping and modifying nap times during the day, bedtime at night often needs to be approximately 30 minutes earlier for a period of time. This is often until they display those bedtime sign, that they are able to cope with that little more awake time and normal bedtime. If night time bedtime is not respected and bought forward slightly during the transition phase then you can start to see random night time and early morning waked ups, because they are going to be too overtired at night.
Once your child is coping well with the transition in day naps and able to cope with a normal bedtime again, then go back to bedtime as normal. The length of time needed for this earlier bedtime is often child dependent. However, this can be a period of 1 – 4 weeks, depending on your own child’s unique sleep requirement and ability to cope with different amounts of awake time.
There are 2 common ways to shift nap times. One is a gradual approach over a 1-2 week period of time. This mean’s you are shifting nap time 15 minutes closer every 2-3 days until you reach your new sleep schedule. Or a cold turkey approach, where you just shift to the next nap time sleep schedule. Each will get you to your next nap schedule and they will both encounter a transition period, where your child’s body clock needs time to adjust. Sleep and bedtime can be a little more challenging during this period of time, but consistency is best as this is normal.
Balancing our children’s sleep can feel like a full time roller coaster ride, but by using and applying the above information this help you all make the transition less complex. As always consistency is a keep element to sleeping success. Allowing your child, the time they need to make these transitions will also help the process be less stressful for all.
Transitioning and drop periods can be challenging, but they are a really important part of maintaining a happy sleeping baby or child. If you are needing any extra support with your child’s nap times there are many ways I can support you with this process. Please contact me with any extra questions you may have.