The transition to no nap is a big milestone in your child’s life, but I don’t want you to run away in fear! It may be the right time for your child to make this change and I am going to walk you through all the signs.
One to none, let’s cover the one to zero nap transition! This may surprise some of you, but I recommend that your children drop their naps anywhere between 2.5 and 3 years old. Children around the age of 3 will begin to shorten their night sleep if they are getting too much daytime sleep.
There’s a bit of variance on this, but if your child is still napping well and it’s not affecting their sleep, then it’s not mandatory to drop the nap. If you start to see their long naps disrupting their night sleep, then it’s definitely something to explore.
What if your toddler goes to daycare? How can you possibly drop a nap?
Before we get to the “what-if’s,” the average age of a child dropping their nap is between 2.5 and 3 years old.
Your child might be ready for the transition to no naps if they are rejecting their nap, but what about short naps? Or really long naps?
Another sign is that you’re having to cap their sleep. Your child could, if they wanted to, sleep for two and a half to three hours. If you don’t get them up, then they will never fall asleep at bedtime. If your child is showing some of these signs for more than two weeks, then it’s time to make a change.
If your child is showing some of these generic nap signs, should you drop it old turkey? Definitely not! If your child is around 2.5 to 3 years old, slowly begin cutting their nap by 30 minutes at a time.
Both of my girls were around 2.5 years old when they begin having nap difficulties, and while I would really love for your child to hold on to the nap as long as possible, some children are ready.
Once they begin the transition, your child will likely need an earlier bedtime. You cannot take their nap away and keep doing your normal bedtime.
My oldest daughter is more sleep sensitive and couldn’t make it past 5:30 p.m. before she began melting down. We would begin dinner early and put her down. When my younger daughter dropped her nap, she was more flexible and could handle being awake until 6.
As they got older, we could move towards a slightly later bedtime. While it may seem early, they need more nighttime sleep overall now that they have cut down on their nap time.
As a pediatric sleep consultant, I have worked with a lot of parents who didn’t move the bedtime earlier after dropping all naps and their child began waking early or having night wakings. So be sure to adjust that bedtime routine earlier.
Now that your child has given up their nap, they are likely going to need some downtime (you likely need it too!). Every family handles this differently, but I recommend a 20-30 minute ‘quiet time’ during the middle of the day.
One word of caution—this is not tv or screen time. Quiet times allow your child to practice independent play. Have a basket of books or independent toys your child can look forward to at quiet time.
Start with a kitchen timer and a short amount of time, like 5 minutes. Every few days, increase the time duration. Your goal is to hit at least 30 minutes of independent play, but if your child can go longer, then that’s great!
This can often be the biggest problem. If we can have an open and honest discussion with the daycare director, I would encourage you to share with them openly that daytime naps affect your child’s nighttime sleep.
Explore if the daycare can offer a short quiet time activity like a puzzle or coloring book. If that’s not an option, maybe your child can go to another room where no one else naps.
If daycare is letting them fall asleep and you’ve tried to get creative, let it go! Sometimes we can’t completely control their environment and schedule. Their schedule might look a bit different on daycare days. Don’t get discouraged!
The no nap transition is going to take about four to six weeks. While their bodies are adjusting, be sure to move up bedtime and offer some midday downtime.
I know it seems like a big step in your child’s life, but you can do it! You are doing a great job! Looking for more sleep tips? Subscribe to my podcast or try out our Little Z Sleep Society.
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