The 1 to none nap transition can feel like one of the most daunting transitions as a parent. This is a huge milestone for your child and I want you to move into this transition with confidence not run away from it in fear. Change can be difficult to navigate (particularly change in sleep habits), but I’ve always preferred to look at transitions as a good thing because it means your child is growing and with this transition it creates more flexibility in your day (just think: no more rushing home for nap times or feeling guilty for missed naps!)
This transition typically occurs between 2.5 to 3 years old. This does not mean it is mandatory to drop their nap at 3 years – if the nap is still working and not affecting night sleep, then keep the nap as long as possible. That being said, if children are getting too much sleep during the day, their night sleep will begin to shorten, resulting in bedtime battles, frequent night wakings, or early morning wakings.
This blog outlines the typical signs it is time to drop the nap for good. However, it is important to remember that toddlers will be toddlers and fight naps here and there. When you are consistently seeing these signs for at least 2 WEEKS, that is when you will know they are truly ready to drop the nap.
Signs it's time to drop the nap:
Fighting the nap 5 out 7 days per week for 2 -3 weeks (crying, talking, or playing instead of sleeping)
Sudden frequent night wakings
Difficulty falling asleep at bedtime (stalling, crying, talking, or playing for 30+ minutes)
Waking between 4:00am-5:00am ready to start the day
You will know it is time to transition if you're consistently seeing these signs for at least 2 weeks.
How to make the Transition:
1) Temporary Early Bedtime
You cannot take away day sleep without doing an early bedtime. Your child still needs 11-12 hours of total sleep in a 24-hour period, so a temporary early bedtime is crucial in helping your child make this transition. Their little bodies are accustomed to a nap during the day, even if they don’t necessarily “need” the nap anymore. A temporary early bedtime will prevent your child from getting overtired during this transition and adjust to their new sleep schedule. This can be as early as 6:00pm or 6:30pm.
2) Introduce Quiet Time
While your child may no longer need a daytime nap, they still do need some time to chill out and give their brain a little break with some quiet time. Ideally, quiet time will take place at their normal naptime, but doesn’t have to take place in their bedroom. Simply choose a quiet space to do quiet activities like reading, puzzles, or coloring. Avoid electronics or stimulating toys for the duration of their quiet time. The goal is to give their brain a break. Save more stimulating activities for after quiet time.
3) Understand the full transition will take 4 to 6 weeks.
Moving bedtime up and adding in a midday quiet time will help their bodies adjust.
If you've been seeing the signs listed above for 2 weeks or more you know it's time to drop the nap. You have several options on how to tackle this transition. You know your child best so pick the option that works best for your child and situation.
Reduce the nap by 30 minutes each day. If your child is still taking a nap, but it is taking them extra long to fall asleep at bedtime, cut the nap short by 30 minutes each day until you find the right nap length. You will know you've timed it right when they are able to fall asleep within 10 minutes of crawling in bed at night. If their nap length gets to 45 minutes or below – it’s time to say good-bye to the nap.
Introduce "nap days" rather than naptimes. Maybe your child naps some days and not others. Do naps every other day or every 2 days instead. On the days when they do not nap, use an early bedtime to make up for the missed sleep and replace their nap with 30 minutes of quiet time.
Drop the nap cold turkey. If your child is flat out refusing naps, this option is for you! Drop the nap and introduce quiet time. However, you MUST do an early bedtime at 5:30 or 6:00pm to make up for the missed day sleep until their body adjust (takes 4-6 weeks).
Dropping the nap can be an overwhelming thought for some parents! If you would like some help navigating this transition, I would love to connect with you. At Guiding Star Sleep, I will give you a step-by step action plan AND I support and encourage you every step of the way. I love helping family’s get the sleep they need! Schedule a free 15-minute Introductory call here.