You’ve done your research, cracked your baby’s age appropriate routine and all of a sudden your little one is either refusing to nap, taking forever to go to bed, waking in the night or early in the morning.
Firstly, let me reassure you that future disruptions in sleep are completely normal. Babies grow, change, and their sleep expectations change as they get older and they reach new milestones.
So, their routine needs adjusting according to their age and growing needs.
From 3 weeks and 7 months old, your little one needs 3 naps during the day. By month 8 you can reduce this down to 2 naps a day. By the time your baby is 18 months old, they should only be on one nap a day.
The question is….
how do you drop a nap?
Stage 1 – transitioning from 3 naps to 2
Most babies drop their 3rd nap between 6 to 8 months. Your baby may start to show signs they’re ready to drop that third nap by resisting it, or you may notice it is taking them longer to fall asleep at naptime.
It can take 1 – 2 weeks to adjust into a set routine during this transition. It can be a challenging time but you won’t have to address another nap transition until 15 to 18 months!
To begin transitioning from 3 naps to 2, you’ll need to bring your little one’s bedtime forward for 1 to 2 weeks to avoid overtiredness. Things will be hard during this time, especially if you work, don’t get home until 6pm or, if your partner gets home late, they won’t see your baby at all!
But remember, this is temporary and you will soon be back on track!
The key to dropping that third nap is stretching out your baby’s awake window by 15 minutes every few days.
If by 8 months your baby has not dropped their 3rd nap, they may need some support in doing so; keeping it will result in a fragmented night’s sleep and any sleep progress.
Stage 2 – transitioning from 2 naps to 1
The typical range for this transition is 15-18 months. A nap transition can be tough no matter what your little one’s age. You can do a parent-led or baby-led transition.
Again, your baby will probably start to show signs they’re ready to drop that second nap, by fighting either the first, or both the first and second naps. They may start waking early, or even finding it a struggle at bedtime.
There are 3 different approaches to dropping the second nap:
- The Gradual approach #1 – pushing back the morning nap;
- The Gradual approach #2 – capping the morning nap short, and;
- The Cold Turkey approach – cutting out the morning nap entirely.
If you find your little one is getting cranky or fussy when the second nap is missed, they may not be quite ready to transition yet so it might be better to delay for a few weeks or months until you’re more sure that they’re ready.
It’s typical to see some bedtime battles, early wakes and night wakes during the transition since things are off-kilter for your baby. Give them at least 2 to 3 weeks to settle in. If, after about a month, your baby still isn’t settling into the new routine, they may need some extra support.