The day your baby’s naps cease is often a sad one. It means the end of uninterrupted peace and quiet where you can take some time for yourself or tick off some tasks on the endless list of jobs.
But how do we know it’s time to drop your baby’s day sleep and how do you go about dropping naps?
Toddlers usually drop their day sleep around 2.5-3.5 years of age. During this transition time, it will gradually start to decrease in length. If you find your toddler is still wanting to nap for a long time, but the nap is starting to impact night sleep and encouraging bedtime stalling, then we suggest reducing the nap length down to between 45-60mins.
This is just enough to help them recoup and get through the rest of the day without impacting bedtime.
Then, from here (once you’ve finished commiserating the loss of the nap), some of the best things you can do to help your toddler make this transition to dropping naps completely are:
1. Introduce an earlier bedtime
When dropping naps completely you will need to aim for an earlier bedtime for a couple of weeks as your little one adjusts. It may even be as early as 6pm, and this is ok!
It is better to have an early bedtime than it is to hold them out and have them become overtired and difficult to put down. An overtired toddler is not going to be fun and if you miss that window, they will be bouncing off the walls and more than likely waking super early as a result.
2. Get Busy
With all of your might, try to keep your little one busy in the afternoon so you can avoid them falling asleep on the lounge at 4pm! This is often referred to as a ‘disaster nap’ and if you have experienced it, you will know why.
Even a walk to the park or scooter ride can help drag them out until you come home and give them dinner, which can be earlier, as well as trying to get a tired toddler to eat is a whole other battle!
3. Don’t go cold turkey!
When you first start dropping naps, you may find you need to offer a nap every couple of days as your little one adjusts.
On the days you do have to offer this catch-up nap, try to keep it under an hour so that it doesn’t impact their bedtime or overnight sleep too much. A nap in the car is usually a good option!
4. Swap the Zzzz’s for ‘Quiet Time’
Although your toddler may be refusing their nap, it doesn’t mean they don’t need some downtime in the middle of the day. We suggest offering “quiet” time at the time they usually nap instead. Put some books in their room or cot and have an egg timer as a visual queue for how long rest time needs to last.
If they fall asleep that’s fine. It’s still early enough in the day and it’s a sign they probably still need it.
Using a baby monitor is a great tool that allows you to watch on while they have their quiet time and determine if they are actually looking sleepy and closing their eyes here and there, (as this can be common at this age when fear of missing out sets in) or if they are genuinely ready to drop the nap, without disturbing them and potentially disrupting a trip to la la land!
5. An occasional nap is not the end of the world
If you’re going out on a weekend and are going to be having a late night and know your toddler will need a nap to get them through, you can try for a nap in the car during the day if you can get it.
Sometimes if we don’t ask them “to take a nap” they will fall asleep on their own terms.
As I mentioned above, you will more than likely experience this transition anywhere from 2.5-3.5 years of age (yes that is a big variance) but toddlers are all so different and some are more active than others.
The main thing you want to watch for is that bedtime gets pushed back later and later and your little one is taking longer and longer to fall asleep. Once you notice this, that’s the tell-tale sign that it’s time to start dropping naps.
What to read next
- The 7 Stages of Toddler Naptime
- SLEEP CHARTS: How Much Sleep Do Your Kids REALLY Need?
- The 10 Types of Toddlers Currently Ruling our Worlds
Written by: Kristy Griffiths, CuboAi Ambassador & Infant Sleep Expert