How to Deal with Nap Transitions

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Your baby has decided it is time to drop a nap, but that is easier said than done. So how do you deal with nap transitions?

Firstly, you need to know if your baby is ready to drop a nap. If you are not sure you can read our related post

When do Babies Drop Naps

Nap Transitions Awake Baby

This details the age your baby may be ready to drop a nap and the signs to look for.

Once you are sure, your baby is ready to drop; you can follow one of two approaches.

2 Approaches for Dealing with Nap Transitions

When dealing with nap transitions, there are 2 approaches that you can take:

  1. Child-Led
  2. Parent-Led

Child-Led

With this approach, you let it happen; naturally, the downside to this is that it can take a few months for the nap to drop altogether. You may find that some days your baby or toddler takes a nap and other days they do not.

If you decide to follow this approach, do not try to force the naps. Put your baby or toddler down for a nap, but if they are not asleep within 15 minutes, then get them up and try again in 15 minutes. Similarly, if they are not sleeping within 10-15 minutes, get them up. Another con of this approach is that as it takes time, you may have a grumpy baby on your hands some days. A positive of this approach is that your baby leads it. 

Parent-Led

Once you have seen the signs that your baby is ready to drop a nap, then you may decide to use a parent-led approach. The advantage of this approach is that it is quicker than a child-led approach. The downside is that you are going to have a cranky baby for a couple of weeks until they adjust to taking one less nap.

If you opt for the parent-led approach, there are 7 steps you can follow that will make the transition smoother.

7 Steps to Deal with Nap Transitions

Step 1 – Gradually push your baby's awake time a bit longer.

Do this gradually by starting with 10 – 15 minutes of longer awake time. You do not want to push your baby too much as this can result in them becoming overtired. 

Step 2 – Change activities when you start to see tired signs.

If you start to see tired signs in your baby, then this is the time for you to get involved. Let us say your baby was happily playing with their play gym and you start to see tired signs, now is the time to change the activity. Take your baby outside to look at the garden, distract them with a new toy, let them play in the sandpit for a while. The aim is to help them stay awake a little bit longer. 

Step 3 – Expose your baby to light.

Light helps to stimulate your baby’s brain and signals that it is time to be awake. If the weather permits, get outdoors but if not, open the blinds and turn on the lights.

Step 4 – When it is time to sleep, minimise the light

When it is time for a nap, make the room that your baby will be napping in as dark as possible. Just as light sends signals to the brain that it is time to be awake, darkness sends signals that it is time to sleep.

Step 5 – Be flexible with bedtime.

Bedtime of around 7:30 pm is ideal. During this transition phase, you may need to bring bedtime forward by an hour or more, which is okay. You do not want your baby to be overtired. On the other hand, there may be days that your little one takes an unexpected nap, and you may need to move bedtime slightly later. As your baby gets used to the new number of naps, you can move bedtime back to its original time.  

Step 6 – Keep a consistent nap time and bedtime routine.

Having a consistent routine provides cues to your baby that sleep is coming. Your baby does not know the time, but they do quickly become familiar with the activities that take place before they go to sleep. 

Keeping this consistency, even though your baby is having fewer naps, will help to send the cues to your baby. Remember your bedtime routine should be simple, done in the same order, in the same place every time before sleep.

Step 7 – Do not put pressure on yourself or your baby.

Nap transitions can take time and can be challenging on both you and your baby. Try and relax, be flexible and know that some days things will not go according to plan, and that is okay. 

Will the Naps Always Stay Dropped?

For the most part, yes, but there will be days when your baby or toddler needs a nap. They may be ill or had a bad night's sleep. If they take a nap, they need it so whilst you should aim for a consistent routine do not be too inflexible.  

Whilst nap transitions can be challenging, they do not last, and your baby will soon settle into their new sleep schedule.

It’s funny because everyone says you sleep when your baby sleeps, or you take a nap when your baby takes a nap. That’s true when you have one. When you have two, that is not true

-Vanessa Lachey

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