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Nap transitions: when they happen and what to look for

Are you gearing up for your baby's next nap transition? From juggling multiple naps to eventually saying farewell to them altogether, navigating these changes can feel like a rollercoaster ride. But fear not! I'll walk you through when you can expect these nap transitions, the signs that indicate it's time to drop a nap and provide tips and tricks that you can use for every transition.

In this blog post, I’ll share: 

  • When you can expect these nap transitions to occur

  • Signs indicating that your baby is ready to drop a nap

  • How to micromanage their schedule if your baby isn’t quite ready

  • Practical tips you can apply to nap transitions

When can you expect nap transitions to happen?

While every baby is different, there are some common ages that each nap transition tends to fall around. Age should never be the only indicator when you drop a nap, but it’s an extremely helpful piece of the puzzle.

4 to 3 naps typically happens around 3-5 months

3 to 2 naps typically happens around 6-8 months (for more specifics on this nap transition, read this blog

2 to 1 nap typically happens around 13-18 months

1 to 0 naps typically happens around 3-4 years (for more specifics on this nap transition, read this blog)

What are the signs that it’s time to drop a nap?

As I mentioned above, while age is an important component, it needs to be factored in with other signs that it’s time to drop a nap. Just because your child hits the 6 month mark does not mean you need to ditch the 3rd nap right away- especially if sleep is going well! Instead, use the signs below to help guide you in your decision of when the right time is:

  • You’re beginning to see unusual night wakings and/or early morning wakes

  • You find that particular naps (most commonly the last) are being refused

  • The last nap of the day is pushing bedtime too late

  • Nap lengths may be decreasing

  • The time it takes your child to fall asleep at naptime and bedtime is increasing.

Pro Tip: You want to see the above signs for at least 1-2 weeks before you decide to drop a nap!

What if my baby is too young for this transition but showing some signs?

Oftentimes, there may be some schedule tweaks you need to make if your child is struggling with their current schedule but still too young to drop a nap. For example, you may have trouble fitting in the last nap of the day, but you know your baby isn’t ready for the longer wake windows that a nap transition would call for. For more specifics on what wake windows to expect at each age, check out my free Sleep Needs Chart.

Making the decision to drop a nap too early can cause problems on its own so you want to make sure that your child really is ready for this next step. If you’ve determined they aren’t quite ready to drop a nap, then here are some good tricks to help you micromanage the schedule until they are ready.

Don’t let your child sleep in: If your child has been in a habit of sleeping in later than normal, you’ll want to set a wake-up time and stick to it. There’s nothing inherently wrong with sleeping in from time to time, but if it’s negatively affecting their day and making it hard to fit everything in, then you’ll want to be more proactive about morning wake-up time. Try to have a set time each morning that you start your child’s day (i.e. 7am). 

It’s okay to wake a sleeping child: Especially if it means better quality and quantity of nighttime sleep! You may need to wake your baby from some naps during the day in order to keep the schedule moving along. It’s okay to cap naps, just start slowly at about 15 minutes earlier than usual and gradually increase from there if necessary. 

When you’re approaching a nap transition but not quite ready for it yet, a good general rule of thumb for nap cut-offs are as follows:

  • When on 4 naps, 2 can be medium (1 hour), and 2 can be short (30-45 minutes)

  • When on 3 naps, 2 can be medium (1 hour) and 1 can be short (30 minutes)

  • When on 2 naps, 1 can be long (1.5 hours) and 1 can be short-medium (30-60 minutes)

  • When on 1 nap, you can gradually cap it until it is about 60 minutes long

Again, these nap cut offs above are not what you have to follow but this is the most I would cap naps before deciding to move forward with a nap transition.

In some cases, you may even want to wake your child up earlier to start the day. For example, if your child sleeps until 7am in the morning but bedtime is pushing past 8pm and it doesn’t work for the family schedule, starting their day at 6:30am can go a long way towards helping you better manage the extra nap.

It can feel like you are micro-managing your child’s schedule for a period of time, but just remember, it’s temporary. This season won’t last forever and you are doing the best thing for them by helping to preserve their sleep schedule until they are truly ready for a nap transition.

Practical tips for handling nap transitions

Once you’ve finally decided it’s time to drop a nap, you’ll need some tips to help you navigate. These tips are helpful no matter what nap transition you are facing.

Set your expectations: Nap transitions are challenging. They are frustrating for you as a parent and they are hard on your child too. So it’s important that you’re mentally prepared for what the transition will look like and what is realistic. Here are some good expectations to mentally be prepared for:

  • Overtiredness will happen- it’s inevitable. You can’t completely avoid it, so don’t prolong the transition process just because your child is overtired.

  • It will take effort to stretch them to their longer wake windows. You’ll have to get a little creative and probably push through some fussiness but you can do it!

  • You may notice unusual night wakings and early wakings pop up during this transition. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong, it just goes with the territory.

Don’t fear the early bedtime: When you drop a nap, even though wake windows are lengthening, you’ll still need to compensate with an early bedtime. This may mean bedtime falls as early as 6-6:30pm. If you’re not used to this, it can be scary. But I promise, your child needs the earlier bedtime to help curb some of the overtiredness they are experiencing as their body adjusts to this transition.

Parents often worry that an early bedtime will lead to early wakings, but your child is actually more likely to wake up early if you push bedtime later than they can handle. Avoid that temptation to push bedtime later and embrace the early bedtime!

It’s okay to flip flop a little: Early on in the transition, you may find your baby flip flopping between different numbers of naps. For example, a baby who is transitioning from 3 to 2 naps may have several 2 nap days, followed by a 3 nap day, then back to 2 nap days. This is okay in the short term as it helps compensate for some of that overtiredness.

If you find your baby still flip flopping after the first week or so, then you’ll want to more consistently push the new nap schedule instead of the old.

Pro Tip: When flip flopping happens a lot, it’s often connected to a fear of early bedtimes. Parents keep letting their child have that extra nap because they are too worried about skipping the extra nap and putting baby down early for bed. Don’t fear the early bedtime!

Be patient: Nap transitions take time. It may feel like 2-4 weeks before you are really settled into a new schedule. That’s okay and perfectly normal. It’s unusual for nap transitions to be smooth and quick. After all, your baby is used to napping pretty regularly one way for several months before we try to drop a nap so it’s a big adjustment for their body.

Don’t be afraid to seek support: Whether you are already in the thick of a nap transition and struggling, or you’re about to start transitioning, I’d love to help make the process easier on you! I offer 30-minute support calls that are the perfect option for nap transitions. Together, we can come up with a solid game plan tailored to your child’s unique sleep schedule. 

Email me at to book a 30-minute support call.


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