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Nap Transitions

Is It Time For A Change In Your Little One's Sleep Schedule?


Just when you think you’re in a nice comfortable and predictable schedule with your little one, things start to go off track. Daytime sleep may have been going really well, but then naps may start to change, or simply the whole routine. You may begin to think that it is time to drop a nap.


What are the signs to look for with a nap transition?

Signs to look for that your little one might be ready to drop a nap include; resisting a nap (particularly the afternoon nap if they’re on two or more naps), struggling to fit in naps in the day resulting in a later bedtime, taking a long time to fall asleep at bedtime, or sleeping too long across the day resulting in night wakings or early morning wakings.
 

When do these nap transitions occur and how to handle the change?

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  • 4 - 3 Nap Transition @ 3 - 5 months old - Once our little ones are around 2 - 3 months old, it’s likely they are having 3 or 4 naps per day. Between 3 - 5 months of age however, when circadian rhythms are fully developed, the 4th nap is typically dropped and a nice 3 nap schedule tends to form . Bedtime naturally shifts earlier to around 6 - 8pm, and this transition is usually a reasonably smooth one.
 
  • 3 - 2 Nap Transition @ 6 - 8 months old - The 3rd nap tends to be dropped in this age group. Specific signs for this transition, are when the 3rd nap is being refused consistently for approximately a week, or when the 3rd nap is going past 5pm, and impacting on bedtime. Some days you may need to still offer the 3rd nap and other days you won’t. On the days there is no 3rd nap, it’s best to bring bedtime earlier, to prevent your little one becoming overtired.
 
  • 2 - 1 Nap Transition @ 15 - 18 months old - Signs that this transition is coming up include; your little one may play through their morning nap, their morning nap may be refused or start too late, their morning nap may remain, but they fight their afternoon nap. This transition can be really tough, so you want to try and hold on to 2 naps for as long as you can. Sometimes your little one may start to fight their second nap as they get closer to age 1, however don’t take this as a sign that they are necessarily ready to transition to 1 nap. It’s a common misconception that by the time your baby is 1, they should be on 1 nap a day. To help keep hold of 2 naps, try capping your baby’s first nap in the morning (cutting it back by 10-15 minutes), and increasing their awake time slightly in between nap 1 and 2. Once your baby approaches 15 - 18 months and you are finding it too difficult to keep 2 naps, go to 1 nap and start this around 11am and slowly push the start time out every few days until you reach 12.30pm. Similar to the 3 - 2 nap transition, you may still need to offer the second nap when your little one seems extra tired and while they are getting used to the transition. Again, move bedtime earlier to compensate for the dropped nap.
 
  • 1 - 0 Nap Transition @ 2.5 - 4 years old - There is such a wide range when this last nap is dropped (anywhere between 2.5 – 4 years of age). There are two main scenarios that can occur when they’re ready to drop this nap. The first is when your child’s nap is starting to impact on bedtime and they are taking a long time to fall asleep (30 - 40 minutes+). In this scenario, try and bring the nap a little earlier in the day and capping the nap shorter to see if it helps. The second scenario, is when they start playing through their nap and don't sleep at all. As this is such a big transition, they may still need a nap every other day. We recommend still offering 'quiet time' in place of their nap for around 45 minutes on the days they do not have a day sleep. Again, bring bed time earlier to ensure they don’t get overtired on these days.

Overall, nap transitions can often be tricky, so we need to be really sure that it is time to make the change.  Our key advice is to not rush a nap transition, as the longer you wait to ensure it is the right time, the easier the transition will be on both of you. Good luck and please email us here sleep@sweetdreams.co.nz  or call us if you want some one-on-one help with your nap transitions! 

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