To transition or not transition, that is very frequently the question.  Whether it be dropping the catnap, transitioning from two naps per day to one, or moving away from naps altogether, my advice is always to be thoughtful in your approach and patient with the process, whichever nap transition it may be.

As a parent, you likely feel as though you are constantly playing catch-up when it comes to keeping up with your little one’s sleep needs.  As a newborn, your baby is very much holding the reins with sleep and feeding and as a result, the term “on-demand” is a mantra you likely live by.  Once our little ones reach the age of approximately 4.5 months of age and are more ready for scheduled sleep, we typically start to see a pattern of three naps develop that occur at more predictable times each day.  Come 6-8 months our little ones are capable of filling of their day sleep bank on two naps per day and the catnap naturally dissolves.  At 15-18 months our toddlers are likely showing signs that one nap per day will meet their sleep needs.  And finally, as our little ones reach preschool age, it’s not unusual for them to start forgoing their daily nap for quiet time instead.

I don’t have to tell you that each baby/child is different and therefore there will be great variability of sleep needs from one child to the next.  So with all due respect to that statement, how on earth is a parent meant to know when their baby is ready for a nap transition and how can they support their child through these sometimes turbulent waters?

Making A Nap Transition

  • Follow Your Child’s Lead
    • While the above mentioned age ranges can be a very helpful guideline, each baby and toddler is different and it’s important that we follow their lead before making any major changes to their sleep schedules.
    • Wait for signs that your little one is really ready for change. Nap/bedtime resistance of the segment of sleep that follows the last can be a sign that your little one is ready to transition down in the number of naps they are having each day. If night sleep that was previously quite consolidated is starting to fragment, it may be a sign that day sleep is cutting into night sleep.
  • Be Patient
    • Parents often make assumptions when it comes to our little one’s sleep in the hopes that we have “found the answer” to a current sleep struggle. Baby is starting to resist the 2nd nap, it must mean that baby is ready for a single nap!  But perhaps the more reasonable course would be to cap the morning nap in order to protect the integrity of the second nap.
    • It can be very tempting to drop a nap, as it often means greater freedom for getting out and about. But it really does pay to be patient – if we make the nap transition to lesser naps too early it can often have the unwanted side effect of over tiredness.  I know it can be difficult, but this is a process that we want to take carefully and thoughtfully to keep sleep banks full and sleep needs met.
  • Be Mindful of Milestones
    • Sometimes we are convinced that our little one’s current sleep struggles (bedtime struggles, nap resistance or night wakenings as example) are related to an impending nap transition, but oftentimes they are related to developmental milestones that are coming into play.
    • Cognitive leaps, language development, increased mobility and the introduction of new activities (solid foods) can really upset a solid sleep foundation in that these newfound skills are much more interesting than sleep! Being mindful of the impact that these exciting skills can have on sleep and being patient as they work through them is really the ideal.
  • Offer an Early Bedtime
    • During these times of transition our little one’s often need time to adjust. Nap transitions, whether 3 to 2 or 1 to none are not always as seamless as we might hope.  To ease our little ones through these transitions, offering an earlier bedtime can help to prevent over tiredness and smooth the road.
    • It may be that you need to hold at the earlier bedtime for several days or even weeks, as your child settles into their new schedule and their natural biological rhythms find a new balance.

Regardless of the transition, it can often be helpful to take your foot off the gas, watch for clear and consistent signs that they are ready for change and be mindful of age-appropriate sleep needs.  Not always an easy recipe, but whether navigating a transition on your own or with the help of a Good Night Sleep Site certified sleep consultant, your little one will soon be on the path to healthy sleep once again.


Written by Good Night Sleep Site Consultant.

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