Naps are tricky.
Not so much for adults - I personally could probably nap twice a day and still be tired. But naps are hard for babies to organize. Just when your baby finally gets on a good napping schedule, something goes awry and those naps get all thrown off. When you find yourself in this situation, the first thing you should think about is whether or not your baby is ready to drop one of their naps.
I help clients with these transitions all of the time. Sometimes it is easy for me to spot when a baby is ready to drop a nap, sometimes the signs are more hidden. It is important to monitor your baby's naps and keep up with the transitions because poor naps can reek havoc on nighttime sleep. I have put together some common signs that may indicate that your baby is ready to decrease the amount of naps they take a day.
First let's talk about naps in general. Most babies will decrease their amount of naps incrementally. So once your infant is on a fairly consistent 4-nap schedule, be looking for signs that they are ready to transition to 3 naps. Very rarely will you find a baby that transitions from 4 naps to 2 naps, or from 2 naps to zero naps. Most of the time the incremental steps are needed to help ease the transition and help re-regulate the sleep cycles within a 24-hour period.
Here are the average ages for nap transitions (remember these are averages):
Transition from 4 naps to 3 naps: 3-5 months
Transition from 3 naps to 2 naps: 6-8 months
Transition from 2 naps to 1 nap: 14 months -19 months
Transition from 1 nap to 0 nap: 3-4 years old
So how do you know if it is time to begin the transition process? Here are some common signs that your baby is ready.
Your baby is begins to wake (too) early in the morning. This could be a sign that they are getting too much daytime sleep.
Your baby begins fighting a nap. This could mean that you are putting them down for their nap too early (if it is the first nap of the day) or that they are not tired enough for the next nap (if it is a nap happening later in the day). Both are signs that naps should be more spaced out, and that one of the naps should be dropped.
Not being tired at their appropriate bedtime. This could be another sign that they are getting too much daytime sleep.
Sleeping later in the morning (past their typical wake time). This could be a sign that they are ready for longer periods of awake time during the day before needing the first (or next) nap.
Taking a longer first nap. Once naps begin to extend, babies are often ready to take naps less frequently throughout the day and for the duration of each nap to extend.
Able to stay awake longer in the morning without an early first nap. The first period of awake time each day is typically the shortest for babies. When they begin to be able to tolerate a longer period of awake time before their morning nap it is often a sign that they are ready to have naps more spaced out, and that one of the naps should be dropped.
Be cautious when making nap transitions as it takes time for your baby's sleep cycles to re-regulate.
If your baby begins resisting bedtime due to being overtired you need to work more slowly through the transition. It is normal, and it should be expected, that your chid will be a little more tired during the day as you transition to fewer naps but they should still be able to go to bed without protest. As with any type of transition this will take some time and patience, but making sure your child get the correct amount of daytime sleep is one of the keys to better nighttime sleep and to an overall happy, well-rested child.
Want some help?
Let's chat naps! One of my Hold My Hand packages may be just what you need to support you through this transition. Let me help you.