July 20, 2023
If your baby is suddenly fighting sleeps at naps or bed time, you might be wondering how to drop a nap when it’s time to transition. This is one of the hardest milestones to monitor as a new parent, as often nap transitions happen at the same or similar times as a sleep regression. How then, can you tell if your baby is in a period of transition or a sleep regression? If it is time for a nap transition, then how do you do it successfully? If you’re looking for answers to these questions and more, then you’ve come to the right place.
Remember, dropping a nap is a gradual process, and it’s important to be flexible and responsive to your baby’s needs. Start first by ensuring that your baby is in the right age bracket, be sure that your baby is ready for the transition and then slowly work to drop the nap.
A sleep regression is a period of change and development in your little one’s cognitive and physical abilities. During these times of transitions and disruption, you can often actually see your little one taking huge leaps forward in their development. Often one day they suddenly appear to have a whole new understanding of the world, where their understanding and categorization of the things around them completely changes. These changes mean that your little one might experience an extended period of sleep disruption. These disruptions might be 3 days, 7 days or 3 weeks. For a full breakdown of sleep regressions, and how you can support your little one through them, you can download my free sleep regression guide, Regression Survival.
The main thing with sleep regressions is to be patient. It will pass. Remember that this is a time of change for your little one, so be consistent with your approach to wakings and tweak schedules to support your little one as needed.
A nap transition is when your little one has reached the high end of their wake windows and their sleep requirements resulting in sleep disruption. While nap transitions present very similarly as sleep disruptions there are a few key differences that can help you understand when your little one is ready to drop a nap. The first metric that provides an indication that your baby is ready to drop a nap is their age. Typical nap transitions take place along the following schedule:
To drop a nap, you first start to extend the windows between naps. You will often find that this pushes bedtime later and later into the evening. When the last nap begins to push your baby’s bedtime too late, then you can drop off the last nap of the day and bring bedtime all the way forward. This is particularly effective when dropping from 4 naps to 3 naps, and 3 naps to 2 naps.
While simply pushing bedtime sounds like a fairly easy solution, there are so many different ways that this might not work for your baby. It’s important to note that sometimes your baby will show they are ready with disrupted night sleep, wakings at odd times, fighting naps and early morning starts. If slowly extending windows over time doesn’t solve these problems consistently, then you likely will need to look at dropping one altogether and moving more abruptly to a new schedule. While this can be harder in the moment, it’s often the faster solution.
The most important tip I can give you when it comes to dropping naps off, is to stick with your transition. Rather than wavering back and forth, and having some days with more naps than others, one you decide to drop a nap and start on a new schedule, you should stick with it. While this might feel hard in the moment, rest assured mama that it will all pass soon and you will land on your new schedule soon if you are consistent.
Remember that every baby is different, and will drop naps on different schedules. If you feel like your child might be ready, don’t rush. It’s far better to be sure that your babe is ready than to drop a nap prematurely.