How to tell if a nap transition is coming and how to deal with them

You think you have naps all sorted, then baby decides it’s time to shake things up again

From two naps to one: time for change

When and how will my baby drop naps?

nap transitions 474

Sometimes it can feel like the only thing predictable about newborns and young babies is their unpredictability, particularly when it comes to nap-times.

Take newborns - they appear to almost nap constantly in the day at first and you think, hey, this is OK I can get loads done while they sleep. Then you realise how wakeful their nights can be!

Generally, there are three recognised nap transitions before the age of two although the ages are not set in stone, just a guideline. 

1. Dropping from 4-3 naps (around 4-5 months)
2. Dropping from 3-2 naps (between 7 and 10 months)
3. Dropping from 2-1 nap (from around 15 months).

The early transitions can be simple enough for your baby to find their natural pattern but it can be difficult going from three naps down to two, then one, then nothing - for both parent and child. These transitions can take more time and affect children in different ways. Some are happy to cut out napping altogether past the age of two, others still like to nod off in the car or just before tea time up until at the age of 4.

Transition is probably on the way if:

a. Timing of nap change gets later - eg their early afternoon one becomes more like a 4pm nap.
b. Length of nap changes - usually shorter than usual.
c. Baby seems to be refusing to nap

Transitions can be challenging because you’re trying to find a balance between reducing the amount of daytime sleep and not having them go to bed overtired. An overtired baby will always find it hard to fall asleep and may wake up frequently.

As a rule of thumb, ‘long nappers’ (over an hour and half) tend to drop their third nap quicker than the ‘short nappers’. So if your little one prefers 20-minute daytime snoozes, don’t push them to change too quickly.

Dropping down to one nap a day can be the most difficult, particularly for short nappers as it can feel like a very long day until bed-time and there is the risk of them becoming overtired. Some people find it easier to work in a very short doze in the late afternoon, although others feel that they pay the price of sleep time after 4pm. Like everything else, it really is dependent on the child so be mindful or dropping naps overtime but not mercenary!

How to tell if a nap transition is coming and how to deal with them