Every parent looks forward to nap time, whether they actually admit it or not. It is during those breaks during the day, when we can actually get sh%^ done!
Some momentary respite - a chance to recharge and get some peace and quiet.
But, all good things must come to an end. There will come a day when your little one is not so little anymore. Those three or four naps will dwindle to two, then one, and finally, one day, it disappears altogether.
As much as we would like for naps to remain, we need to be prepared for the day they go away. That starts with knowing when to expect it, the signs to be watching out for, how to help her transition, and cues that will tell you if she is not getting enough sleep.
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Baby Sleep Schedules by Age
The pace of change in sleep schedules is most significant in the first 18 months of life. They will transition from around five naps per day to just one in this time, cutting back on at least 6 hours of total sleep.
Finally, before the age of 5 most likely, that midday nap will disappear altogether.
0 - 4 Months
Obviously, babies this age need more sleep than they do throughout the rest of their lives. On average, they sleep about 16 to 18 hours total per day, with about 7-9 hours spread out across 3-5 naps.
4 - 6 Months
By this age, babies cut back on their total sleep by about 4 hours or so, eliminating a couple of naps.
6 - 12 Months
Around 6 months of age, your baby will likely be getting into a more solid daily routine.
Their naps will condense down to two, one late morning and one afternoon.
12 - 24 Months
Somewhere towards the middle of your baby’s second year, she will transition down to one nap, about two hours in length in the middle of the day.
There is no exact timing as to when your baby will make the change, so you just need to watch out for the signs (which we will go into later).
2 - 5 Years
It is somewhere in this age range that your baby will finally get rid of the nap altogether. This will not happen overnight and a transition of fewer naps is a more likely process to go through.
Every child is different so the age range for this to happen is also quite broad most children are ready by around the age of 3-4.
If they are still napping at 5 years and beyond it is unusual, but no cause for alarm. It is possible that they are just not ready yet, or perhaps are not getting enough sleep in the evening.
When they reach the age of 6-7 years old and a daily nap is a regular occurrence then it may be time to seek help from a doctor.
Signs Your Child May be Ready to Drop the Nap
Your child may be ready to transition earlier or later than the average. As much as I could not believe it - and did not want it to happen - my little girl switched from 2 naps to 1 when she was only 13 months old.
I thought that it was way too early, but I followed her lead and the change went smoothly for the most part.
Keeping an eye out for your baby’s cues will help the transition to go quicker and smoother than it would if you were to force it at a specific age.
Not Tired at Nap Time
Whether your little one is transitioning from two naps to one, or one to none, you will begin to see the same pattern with nap times.
Your baby may not seem tired at her usual nap time, either fighting by crying or simply staying awake in her room talking to and playing by herself.
Not Tired at Bed Time
If your baby does eventually give in at nap time, it will likely be much later than normal. By the age she is ready to drop her nap, she is able to stay awake for longer stretches between sleep, so with a late nap, she will not have enough time to be awake to get tired again for bedtime.
High Spirits on Low Sleep
Your biggest sign that your baby is ready to drop her nap is when she can stay up without any signs of crankiness or exhaustion.
How to Transition to No Nap
Even though your baby may be ready to transition to no nap, she may need a little help to fully make the change. So, your approach to nap transition may vary depending on your baby’s personality.
If your little one is highly adaptable, you may be able to employ a cold turkey approach. She may be ready to forego her nap right away and will give you little to no fuss on the subject, making it easy and painless for you.
Unfortunately, not all babies are like this. In fact, most babies may need a more gradual approach to cutting out their nap. Your baby may be able to go a few days without a nap with no ill side effects, but then, suddenly, she may seem like she needs one.
Excessive crankiness and crying, and behavior that can include tantrums or defiance, are all signs that should not be ignored. For a little while you may need to be sure your little one gets a nap every few days until she is ready to drop it completely.
There may also be some babies that just need a “timeout”, per se, in the middle of a day, even if they do not necessarily need to sleep. After a lot of playing and stimulation overload, your little one may just need some quiet time.
Try giving her an hour or so in her room to look at some books or do some quiet coloring while listening to relaxing music.
Ensure Your Baby Gets Adequate Sleep
Until your child gets on a consistent schedule, going napless on a daily basis, you will still need to keep an eye out for signs that she is not getting enough sleep.
If you notice any of these, you may need to consider switching up the sleep schedule, changing bedtime or wake up time, to make sure she is well rested and able to function properly throughout the day.
Symptoms of Being Overtired
An overtired baby can come in a couple of forms: an exhausted, zombie-like child who shows little to no interest in activities or things they usually do, or a punchy, giddy thing who is running on pure adrenaline.
Neither type is good. An overtired child needs to get some sleep as soon as possible.
Hard to get out of Bed in the Morning
If your baby is not getting enough sleep, it is easy to say that getting her out of bed in the morning may be a bit of a challenge.
If you have to wake your child up on a daily basis, and if she constantly fights you, you may need to consider readjusting her sleep schedule.
Has Trouble Focusing
No matter what age your child is when they are transitioning out of their nap, if they are having trouble focusing on normal, everyday tasks, such as school work or meal time, they need to get some more rest
Even though we would all love for naps to remain - those coveted few hours of peace and quiet that we look forward to after a morning of vigilance and diligent block stacking - they will disappear one day.
As unfortunate as that may be (not just in losing the quiet, but also due to the fact that your little one is growing up), it is best to be prepared to help it go smoothly, for both you and your child.
Questions? Comments? Want to connect with other parents to get tips on nap transitions? Leave us a comment below.
And be sure to share this link with other parents who may be looking for insight into their child’s nap changes as well.