The Ultimate Guide to Your Child’s Naps


Maybe you’ve been here, too: My oldest, at 2,5 years, started saying she didn't want to sleep at nap time. Being the sleep consultant that I am, I didn't pay any attention to that…


But she then didn't sleep!


I realized it was possible that maybe she didn't need the nap anymore. I started seeing more and more of the signs - she didn't sleep at nap time, and if she did it was taking forever for her to fall asleep at bedtime, and she started having night wakings too.


I feel like many of my clients try to delay nap transitions as long as they can. Personally, I’ve both waited on transitions and been proactive in pushing them. Let’s be honest, no parent wants to drop the nap completely. We have 2 HOURS in the middle of the day to ourselves. Taking sleep away seems like it's rocking the ground under our feet, it's kind of scary!


And then, most people don't really know how to do it. In this post, I’m going to get into the average nap expectations by age, all the signs that your child might be ready for a nap transition, AND how to do a nap transition.


Here we go!





Nap Expectations by Age

Here’s a breakdown of realistic nap expectations for you. Note that I have not included anything prior to 4 months of age, because naps up until this point are pretty sporadic and developmental and while you may start to see some patterns start to form, your baby won’t be ready for more of a set schedule until closer to 6/7 months old, when they’re ready to be taking 2 naps daily.


If you want a complete breakdown (or a pretty chart you can print out and post somewhere in your home as a reference), grab my FREE Awake Windows Chart here.


Number of Naps per Age *these are based on average needs - your child’s individual needs may be slightly different*

Age

Number of Naps per Day

Daytime Sleep Average

4-5 months

4 naps

4 hours​

6-7 months

3 naps

3,5 hours

By 7 months

2 naps

3 hours

13 - 18 months

1 or 2 naps

2 - 2,5 hours

18 months - 2,5/3 years

1 nap

2 hours


You’ll see things get pretty predictable after 7 months, when your baby should be on a solid 2-nap schedule.


So, when do those other transitions usually happen? Take a look below!


Average Timing of Nap Transitions

3 - 2 naps

By 7 months

2 - 1 nap

Between 12 - 18 months

1 - 0 nap

Between 2,5 - 3 years


I know, 12-18 months and 2,5-3 years seem like pretty big ranges for when a nap transition might occur, right?? How will you know when your baby is truly ready?


Signs That Your Child Might Be Ready for a Nap Transition

Lucky for you, your baby will let you know by demonstrating certain behaviors. However, you’ll want to be mindful that many of these behaviors that you’ll see are also indicative of sleep regressions too, so you need to be CERTAIN that it’s truly time for a transition.


We recently went through the 2-1 nap transition with my second child, who is now 14 months of age - he initially went to one nap when he was freshly 12 months old. It took a little bit longer because he wasn’t quite ready for it yet at 12 months old, but it was convenient for us. It was a mess for a while! You CAN force it a bit, but for him, it was just too much too soon, and I could tell he wasn't ready. He was exhausted. It was hard for him to make it to his nap and bedtime, and he started having wake-ups at night again. Learn from my mistakes - it's important to make sure you're seeing the signs that they are truly ready for a transition.


So, what signs should you be looking for?

  • Taking a LONG time to fall asleep at nap time or totally refusing a nap at a regularly offered nap time

  • Taking a long time to fall asleep at bedtime

  • Early morning wakings

  • Night wakings occurring where they previously weren’t an issue


Because these can also indicate a regression due to development, travel, or illness, you’ll want to give it time and consistency. If any of the above are occurring more than 10 times in 14 days, it’s probably safe to say your child is truly ready for a nap transition.


However, if you’re just not sure, you can always reach out to me! I offer Video Sleep Consults and Zoom Sleep Consults exactly for situations like this. Head to savvy-sleep.com to learn more about these options.


How to do a Nap Transition

If you’ve identified that, yes, it is time for a nap transition, then I’ve got you covered.


The 3-2 Nap Transition

This transition is usually identified by bedtime getting pushed awkwardly late. Your little one is taking two solid naps each day, and a final catnap to get them to bedtime.


This catnap, though, is starting to get pushed later and later, consequently pushing bedtime later and later.


We always want to prioritize night sleep, because that sleep is more restorative for your child. Naps are just the bridge to bedtime.


Once bedtime is getting pushed too late for your liking, you can simply drop the catnap and bring bedtime earlier for a few weeks. Overtime, it will stabilize again - this can take a few weeks.


It might look like this to start:


REGULAR DAYS

7:00 a.m. wake up

9:00 nap 1

12:30 nap 2

4:30-5:15 catnap

8:00 bedtime


Then, moving towards:


TRANSITION DAYS 1-3

7:00 a.m. wake up

9:15 nap 1

1:00 nap 2

6:00 bedtime


And for a few more days:


TRANSITION DAYS 4-6

7:00 wake up

9:30 nap 1

2:00 nap 2

6:30 bedtime


To finally:


TRANSITION DAYS 7 AND BEYOND

7:00 wake up

9:30 nap 1

2:15/30 nap 2

7:00 bedtime


You can see that over the course of a few days, you’re gradually pushing your little one to longer wake windows, with the longest being before bedtime.


It may take a few weeks for your little one to fully adjust, so make sure you’re being patient.


The 2-1 Nap Transition

The same is similar for the 2-1 nap transition. You’ll notice that your child simply isn’t tired at their 7:00 bedtime anymore, or they’ve started to refuse that first morning nap because they simply aren’t tired enough to take it. Or, they may take an AMAZING morning nap, and totally refuse their second nap, forcing you to put them to bed much earlier than planned.


This is okay to do here and there, but if you find yourself falling into this pattern you could see some early morning wakings come from it, and find yourself stuck in an early schedule based on your child’s circadian rhythm.


Here’s a sample of how this transition might look:


REGULAR SCHEDULE

7:00 wake up

10:00 nap 1

2:30/3 nap 2

7:30/8 bedtime


Then, moving towards:


TRANSITION DAYS 1-3

7:00 wake up

10:30 nap 1

3:30-4:15 catnap

7:15 bedtime


And for a few more days:


TRANSITION DAYS 4-6

7:00 wake up

11:00 nap

6:00 bedtime


For a few MORE days:


TRANSITION DAYS 7-10

7:00 wake up

11:30 nap

6:30 bedtime


To finally:


TRANSITION DAYS 11 AND BEYOND

7:00 wake up

12:00 nap

7:00 bedtime


You can see this one will likely take the longest. I’ve seen it take upwards of 6 weeks for a child to fully adjust. You can follow your child’s lead and go faster or slower depending on how they’re responding.


The 1-0 Nap Transition

This one is usually the hardest for parents, simply because it’s hard to say goodbye to naptime! But, that doesn’t mean you won’t get your midday break anymore…


…it’s now time to implement quiet time!


Basically, instead of offering a nap, you’ll offer your child a quiet playtime all by themselves in their bedroom.


A few tips:

  • Talk to your child about quiet time expectations

  • Use a visual timer

  • Have specific toys only for this time (books, puzzles, coloring books and crayons, etc.)


Start with a small amount of quiet time, like 15-20 minutes, and work your way up to an hour or an hour and a half, depending on how your child responds.


What if your child does fall asleep during quiet time??


That’s okay! Just push bedtime back that night to make up for it.


Keep in mind that as you are starting to utilize quiet time, you may need to have bedtime be earlier for a few nights until your child’s body has adjusted. Just as with the other transitions, you can gradually push it back to their normal bedtime.


Questions specific to your child’s situation?? Make sure you reach out and look into my video or Zoom consultations. I’d love to help you!