Is your child ready to drop a nap?

July 3, 2019

 

 

Please, note that any age mentioned that is prior to two is referring to an adjusted age.

 

Nap Times! When should you drop them?

 

This is an area that many people, surprisingly, pull the trigger too early - including both individuals and schools/daycares. To help you make the best decision for your child, let's cover the general ages that are ideal for dropping specific naps and how to know whether or not your child is ready to make one of these transitions.

 

NEWBORNS

 

For infants 16-weeks and younger, there is no specific number of naps. Newborns sleep off and on all day with the duration of sleep bouts being random due to their lack of a mature circadian rhythm. Some naps are short and some are long and they nap at no specific times. 

 

However, my biggest piece of advice to anyone with a newborn is to pay attention to her wake window. Each child will have a specific duration, but in general, newborns can handle about 45-minutes of wake time in the first six weeks and gradually expand to 1.5-hours by 16-weeks.

 

Although a nap schedules is not something you can have during the newborn phase, this is the ideal time to start working on other components that lead to good sleep in the future. Especially starting around six weeks once your little one can pick up on cues. If you would like to be educated in this area so that you know how to guide your little one to healthy sleep early on, book one of my newborn sleep consultations!

 

TIME FOR A ROUTINE

 

Around 16-weeks, babies start to have and need more of a routine as their circadian rhythm starts to mature. At this time you will start to notice a more concrete wake time for the day and two defined naps with a couple shorter naps to follow.

 

At this age, I highly encourage that you start to consistently get your child up and out of her crib at the time that seems to be her natural wake time. This will help regulate her 24-hour cycle and lead to routine naps more quickly.

 

The first nap to work on is the AM nap. This nap is usually the first to lengthen with the PM nap to follow. This nap starts somewhere around 9AM and will ideally lengthen to about 1.5-2 hours.

 

Once the AM nap has lengthened consistently, you will start to notice the PM nap doing the same. The afternoon nap eventually will start around the same time, generally somewhere between 12PM and 1PM. This nap then lengthens to about 2-3 hours.

 

Along with those two lengthier naps, the last couple naps of the day are catnaps that are expected to last only about 30-45 minutes. These catnaps help bridge the gap between the PM nap and bedtime. As the PM nap starts to lengthen, the first catnap (or both) starts to taper off. 

 

How do you know if your child is ready to have a set schedule and lengthen naps?

 

Simple. Your child has reached sixteen weeks of adjusted age! ;)

 

TREE-TO-TWO NAPS

 

Somewhere between 6-9 months of age, that last catnap drops if it hasn't already, leaving your child with two longer naps. The AM nap still starting around 9AM and the PM nap still starting somewhere between 12PM and 1PM. With the drop of the catnap, bedtime should be moved up for a bit until your baby has adjusted to more wake time during the day.

 

How will you know if your baby is ready to drop that last catnap?

 

Your baby is either...

  • having a difficult time falling asleep during the catnap and just hanging out in the crib

  • having a difficult time falling asleep at bedtime

  • waking in the middle of the night bright eyed and busy-tailed for a good chunk of time

  • early rising, but cautious of making any assumptions as this can also mean your child is overtired

...for a week straight.

 

TWO-TO-ONE NAP

 

This next transition is where people often struggle due to either prematurely dropping a nap too early, their child's daycare schedule, or not understanding which nap to drop and/or how to adjust once the nap is gone.

 

Children should hold onto both the AM nap and the PM nap until somewhere between 15 and 18 months of age. Unfortunately, our daycare systems often offer only one nap once a child has transitioned into the 12-month class. Do your best to hold onto both naps until at least 15-months of age! If it just won't work due to things out of your control, then aim for earlier bedtimes on those days and offering a nap when your child is home.

 

When dropping from two naps to one nap, you will be dropping the AM nap and keeping the PM nap. However, when this happens, you might need to bring the PM nap up a tad bit earlier while gradually pushing back to a start time somewhere between 12PM and 1PM. 

 

While this change is occurring, note that the sleep from the AM nap is not all of a sudden no longer needed. Instead it is being consolidated with a different bout of sleep. The PM nap should either lengthen or bedtime be moved to an earlier hour.

 

How will you know if your toddler is ready to drop that AM nap?

 

Your toddler is either...

  • having a difficult time falling asleep during the AM nap and just hanging out in the crib

  • sleeping really well for the AM nap but taking a short PM nap or no PM nap

  • having a difficult time falling asleep during the PM nap and just hanging out in the crib

  • having a difficult time falling asleep at bedtime

  • early rising, but cautious of making any assumptions as this can also mean your child is overtired

...for one to two weeks straight or a majority of the time over a few weeks.

 

ONE-TO-NO NAP

 

This is also a transition that often happens too early. The one to no nap generally should happen around 3.5 to 4 years of age. No need to drop it at 4 years of age though if your child is still napping and everything is still going well.

 

When you drop this nap, again, you will need to move bedtime up to an earlier time. At least for a couple weeks while your child adjusts. You might notice that your child occasionally needs a nap for a while, but not every single day like once before. 

 

Regardless if the nap is completely gone or occasionally needed, I highly suggest that you keep an hour for quiet time that starts at the same time nap time once did in the same space nap time was. Set parameters on what you will allow your child to do or not do and make sure she understands those expectations. For example, do you want your child to hang out in her bed with some toys and books or are you ok with her exploring her room? Either way, quiet time should be time for your child to be alone, to decompress with lights out or dim and without screens. 

 

How will you know if your preschooler is ready to drop the one nap?

 

You preschooler is either...

  • having a difficult time falling asleep during the nap and just hanging out in bed

  • having a difficult time falling asleep at bedtime

  • early rising, but cautious of making any assumptions as this can also mean your child is overtired

...for one to two weeks straight or a majority of the time over a few weeks.

 

If you are anticipating your child is ready to go through one of these transitions or is currently struggling through one, don't wait until you are hanging by a thread. I can help guide and support you NOW. Book your free 15-minute consultation with me to discuss your specific situation and which one of my services would be right for you.

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