When do babies drop naps?
Naps are one of the more challenging aspects of your baby’s sleep.
As you have probably already learned trying to get your baby into a consistent nap routine can be challenging.
Many parents struggle with naps that are too short and inconsistent or with babies that fight naptime.
But at some point, you start to settle into a routine, and your baby starts to nap in a more predictable pattern. Then suddenly your baby’s naps get shorter again, they miss a nap completely or fight you at every nap time. You find yourself back to square one trying to figure out what the new sleep schedule should be.
How do you know if your baby is ready to drop a nap, or if a developmental change is causing these issues?
Understanding if your baby is truly ready to drop a nap and surviving the nap dropping can have its challenges. In this post, we will cover at what age your baby may be prepared to drop a nap as well as the signs, which may indicate that your baby is ready to drop a nap.
How Many Naps and How Long Should Naps be?
The reality is when it comes to naps; every baby is different. As parents, we often stress about how many naps our baby is having or how long they are. We always worry that our babies are not getting enough sleep.
There are recommended guidelines regarding how many and how long naps should be. It is important to remember these are guidelines. When it comes to your baby no-one knows them better than you. It is essential to watch for tired signs and to put your baby down for a nap before they become overtired. Overtiredness is often the cause of babies fighting naptime.
Whilst no science tells us how many naps or how long the naps should be. Science does tell us the average hours of daytime sleep for babies and toddlers based on their age. There will always be babies and toddlers that fall outside of this, and they are perfectly fine.
Daytime hours can be tricky to calculate in the newborn stage as it depends on what time your baby goes down for their night-time sleep (so which hours are technically day and which are night can be hard to determine).
Below are the average hours of daytime sleep by age.
Average Number of Naps
Birth - 6 Weeks
7 – 9 hours (depending on bedtime
3 - 5
7 – 9 hours (depending on bedtime
3 - 5
4 - 8 Hours
3 - 4
3 - 6 Hours
5 - 6 Months
2 - 3
3 - 4 Hours
7 - 8 Months
1 - 2 Hours
1 - 2 Hours
10 - 12 Months
1 - 2 Hours
1 - 2 Hours
As your baby gets older daytime naps naturally lessen in hours and frequency. Night-time sleep starts to consolidate into longer stretches and awake times during the day become longer.
We have put together a quick guide showing the average number of daytime and night-time hours by age which you can find here.
When do Babies Drop Naps by Age?
Generally, naps tend to drop around the following ages:
Number of Naps
3 - 6 Months
From 4 to 3
6 - 12 Months
From 3 to 2
12 - 18 Months
From 2 to 1
18 Months - 3 Years
Generally 1 Nap
3 - 5 Years
From 1 to 0
3 – 6 Months
Newborns can take as many as 8 or 9 naps a day at erratic intervals. Around the 3-month mark babies generally settle into either a 3 or 4 nap a day routine. When babies drop their 4th nap, this usually happens without too much upset, and bedtimes move earlier.
6 – 12 Months
Sometime in this period, your baby will transition from 3 to 2 naps. Six months is quite a long time, so we have broken this down into a bit more detail. If your baby is taking naps of around 1.5 hours each nap, then they may drop their 3rd nap around the 6-month mark. Most babies however still need a 3rd nap until around the 9-month mark. You may find that as your baby gets older, the 3rd nap starts to become a short catnap of just 10 or 15 minutes.
You may also find that there are several weeks when they will only do this 3rd nap while ‘on the go'. In the car, while you are running errands or in the stroller when you are taking a walk. This does not mean that you should drive around to get your little one to sleep, but some days if their awake window has been too long and they are fighting the 3rd nap you may need to be creative to ensure they are not overtired.
12 – 18 Months
Around this age, your baby will drop down to 1 nap. The nap to drop is generally the morning nap, and during the transition phase, you will likely have to move their afternoon nap and bedtime earlier. Once they settle into just 1 nap, you can move the bedtime back to its original time.
Some babies want to drop a nap before 12 months but generally speaking, they still require two naps before turning 1. If you find your little one objecting to their second nap before this, check that there is not another reason for this. They may want to play with you, which of course is way more appealing than sleeping.
18 Months – 3 Years
Most kids still require a nap until they are 3 years old. This does not mean they will want to nap. Playing and exploring is far more interesting than sleeping. If your child is under 3 years old do not confuse their reluctance to nap with their need to nap still. You can ‘encourage' them to nap by placing them down for a nap in their quiet, darkened room.
Most children will completely stop napping somewhere between the ages of 3 and 5 years old. The majority of which will stop napping between 3 and 4 years old. No matter how frustrating nap time can be, once your child stops napping altogether, you will look back on the days when they napped with great longing.
Signs Your Baby is Ready to Drop Naps
So how do you know if your baby is ready to drop a nap? Here are five signs to look for:
1. Last nap is interfering with bedtime.
When your baby transitions either from 4 to 3 or 3 to 2 naps, their naps start to become longer. As this happens, you may find yourself running out of time for the final nap without impacting an appropriate bedtime. Initially, you may find yourself moving bedtime later to fit in the final nap, but at some point, you will need to drop the last nap to keep bedtime around 7:30 pm.
2. Naptime starts to become a struggle.
If you find that your baby who usually went to sleep within a few minutes of being put down, is suddenly taking 20 minutes to fall asleep or is protesting napping altogether – then this could be a sign your baby is ready to drop a nap. This is often due to your baby being able to tolerate a longer awake time. If you suspect this then try keeping your baby awake longer between naps to see if this makes it easier for them to fall asleep.
3. Your baby is regularly taking short naps.
If your baby was managing to link 2 – 3 sleep cycles together and was continually sleeping between 1 – 2 hours and they are now waking after just one sleep cycle, then they are likely ready to drop a nap.
4. Bedtime protests and early morning waking start to be the norm.
When your baby has too much daytime sleep, you may find your baby taking longer to fall asleep at bedtime, waking in the middle of the night or waking up early in the morning.
5. You have been seeing these signs consistently 4 – 5 days a week for at least 2 weeks.
Before making any changes, make sure your little one is ready. Your baby or toddler may have an off day or two where they are not sleeping as they usually would be; this does not automatically mean they are ready to drop a nap. If you observe these signs for a couple of weeks, then your little one is probably ready to drop a nap.
If you have decided that it’s time to drop a nap but not sure how to approach the transition you can check out our post about How to Deal with Nap Transitions