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Is It Time for a Nap Transition? The Top Signs

top of baby's head napping in crib

For many mothers – especially those with more than one at home – naptime is essential. It’s provides much-needed alone time to rest, recharge, and heal. But, they aren’t forever. Here are the top signs of nap transition.

Is your baby or toddler trying to outdance you when it comes to going down for a nap?

Does it seem like a constant battle for that last nap of the day?

Do they make it seem like it’s time to party instead of catching some zzz’s?

baby sleeping in crib with gloves on

Welcome to the nap transition zone where your child tries to convince you they don’t need sleep, but I’m here to tell you they need it, but it may look different.

When a parent hears the term nap transition, they will either say “ugh, no, please no!” or “what is that?”.

Why do nap transitions happen?

As we are awake, a protein in our brain – called Adenosine – slowly builds up. When Adenosine reaches its capacity, it sends signals to our brain to feel drowsy. When we nap, the brain gets rid of the protein, and we wake up feeling refreshed.

As your child develops and grows, their body can handle more Adenosine and, consequently, more awake time.

Newborns’ ability to stay awake is short-lived; the amount of Adenosine they can handle is itsy bitsy. Adults can endure much longer awake times. As we develop, our ability to tolerate more significant amounts of this protein increases, which is why nap transitions occur.

Typical nap transition ages

When it comes to ages for a nap transition to take place, I give ranges. It is essential to always keep in the back of your mind that each child’s sleep needs will be different. Even if they’re siblings, try to avoid, “I did XYZ for my first child so that it will work for my second or third child.”

AgeNap Transition Schedule
3-4 months5-7 to 4 naps
5-6 months4 to 3 naps
6-8 months3 to 2 naps
13-18 months2 to 1 nap
3-4 years1 nap to 1 hour of quiet time
baby napping in crib in white onesie

How do I know if my baby is ready to drop a nap?

If your child is in the age range and starts showing signs of not wanting to sleep, it is important to watch closely.

Top signs a baby is ready to drop a nap

Ideally, we want two or more of the below signs to occur for 10-14 days before starting the transition.

  1. Early morning wakings happening before 6 AM
  2. Sudden night wakings
  3. Taking 30+ minutes to fall asleep in the crib
  4. Refusing naps
  5. Naps become short all of the sudden
  6. The last nap would intervene with bedtime
  7. The last nap would equal too much daytime sleep

How do I transition or drop a nap successfully?

When you are starting to do a nap transition, it is essential to remember that it will take time for the new schedule to come in place.

It is not uncommon to see a little jumping back and forth between two nap schedules until the new one takes center stage.

Give your baby time to adjust

On average, you can see the change happen across 10-14 days, with around a week jumping back and forth between nap amounts.

For example, if you’re moving to a one nap schedule, their one nap may be too short for a week or two, resulting in a second nap to help bridge to bedtime. Be patient and give it time.

Make adjustments slowly

When changing a nap schedule, it’s essential to slowly adjust your wake windows by 15-30-minute increments until you reach your desired nap timing.

Keep in mind; you’ll be losing the last nap of the day, so that that loss will shift the entire schedule back. Jumping right to a new schedule may be doable for a toddler, but a baby could struggle. 

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top of baby's head napping in crib

Important things to know about nap transitions

If baby becomes sick during the transition…

Anytime that your child is sick, I suggest loosening your sleep boundaries and expectations. I always advise them to let them sleep what they need to overcome the illness as long as it doesn’t take away from night sleep.

You might stick to the old schedule; ensure they’re getting enough hydration and cuddles, and watch their sleepy cues even more closely.

Moving from contact naps to crib naps during a transition…

When moving from the newborn to infant stage, you may also be moving away from contact naps to the crib or bassinet.

You can still do a nap transition while practicing crib and bassinet sleep.

Start with the first nap of the day and first stretch night sleep in the crib or bassinet. Then, slowly extend from there.

Daycare has a nap transition but my child is not the recommended age..

In my experience, larger center daycares have a set schedule for the different age groups that they need to follow due to staffing needs and keeping everything moving smoothly.

If you cannot change daycare facilities or they cannot adhere to your schedule, then allow them to proceed as usual.

Remember, what you have control over are bedtime and weekends. Move bedtime forward, and on the weekends, you have the option to do your schedule to help them catch up on their sleep or follow the daycare’s schedule – the choice is yours.

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