Transitioning to No Naps

Naps dictate much of the first three to four years of our children’s lives.  Good nap days, off nap days, short naps, long naps, no naps, wishing to nap – the word “nap” is likely in our daily vocabulary for many years.  Depending on the day, we know those naps affect – positively and negatively – everything!

In my previous blog series, The Need for Naps; A 3 Blog Series on Daytime sleep I discuss why naps are important, short nappers vs long nappers and the 2-1 nap transition.  Continuing to stand by all that is stated, I want to add one other topic on daytime sleep: the transition from one nap to no nap.  This may seemingly be the easiest transition, and even a sigh of relief from parents – “finally our life isn’t dictated by naps” –  yet it can actually be the longest transition for some children.  Here are a few things to know when working through the one-nap-to-no-nap transition:

The typical age in which children drop all naps happens between 3 – 5 years of age.  Often times children will engage in a nap strike sometime during their second year of life, yet I wouldn’t encourage you to jump into no naps.  The 2 year old nap strike is a phase and can be worked through with a plan and tweaking of sleep times.  

I find children fall into two categories when they approach the 1-0 nap transition:

  1. They no longer sleep during their mid-day nap for one to two weeks in a row.
  2. They easily sleep during nap time, yet bedtime becomes a challenge.

If your child falls into category 1, you should be experiencing peaceful nap/quiet times, yet your child is not falling asleep.   This means your child is laying down and resting, but does not fall asleep.  If your child is resisting the nap routine, crying or having a tantrum prior to and during the nap, then it does not necessarily mean that your child doesn’t need a nap (and likely on the contrary – is more in a need of a nap).

For those children who are peacefully hanging out during their nap time, consistently for 1-2 weeks, are on their way to dropping their nap.  The biggest adjustment in this transition is adjusting bedtime to be earlier.  You want to “make-up” for the lost daytime sleep which can only happen if bedtime is adjusted.  You’re likely looking to adjust bedtime by an hour+.  It’s very unlikely that a child who drops their naps will magically start sleeping in later (sorry!) – it’s just not biologically appropriate to do so at this age.  To best know if your child is staying well rested, you want to calculate how many hours they are sleeping in a 24 hour period.  For a child ages 3 -5 years, they should be receiving 11-13 total hours of sleep.  When they are no longer napping, all sleep happens at bedtime.

If your child falls into category 2, mentally prepare that their 1-0 nap transition may take a few months.  Yes, that was not a typo….a few months.  I find the biggest challenge in this transition can be the parents mind set.  This is not a quick transition and will likely ebb and flow over several months.  Staying flexible and mentally preparing for a slower, longer transition will help everyone be happier during this phase. 

For those children who happily sleep during the day, yet have trouble falling asleep at bedtime, there is no clear cut answer through this transition.  You know your child and life best, so take these tips and see what works best for your family: 

  • Cap the nap time.  Allow your child to sleep, yet wake them up after an hour of sleep.  They still may have trouble falling asleep, which is then important to find that sweet spot of the perfect bed time.  Trial and learn.  
  • You can deny a nap.  Doing this, you need to respect a much earlier bedtime, as early as 6:00pm (that is IN bed at 6:00pm).  Children that easily sleep during the day tend to be much crankier in the late afternoon and understanding why they are easily tested and upset is very important….they are tired.  To help them through this time, it’s imperative to respect a much earlier bedtime.   If your life does not allow this, then it may not be the time to deny a nap.  
  • Be flexible.  There will be days of napping followed by a few days of no naps.  It is not important to be consistent every day.  Follow your child’s lead and their needs.  I would suggest offering quiet time and if they fall asleep, great.  If they don’t fall asleep, no problem.  Being flexible is key to this transition.
  • Adjust bedtimes accordingly.   Because your child may have days of naps and no naps, it’s critical to adjust bedtimes according to those days.  Days where he does nap, bedtime will be later.  Days of no naps, bedtime will be earlier.  
  • Mentally prepare for inconsistent schedules.  We adults like predictability.  We like to schedule life…or at least I do!  Yet, during this transition there needs to be some fluidity.  It’s not all black and white and may change each day.  For me, the more I am mentally prepared for the unknown and flexibility of life, the easier the transition phase.  

The beauty in our children and their sleep transitions is that even when the phase seems to go on forever, overall it’s relativity a short period in life.  Every child handles this transition different and that is okay.  The more flexible you can be, the smoother it will go.   When your child is no longer sleeping during the day, it’s still important to offer quiet time …. for them and for you!  

Valerie Birch

Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant at Amazing Little Sleeper
Valerie Birch is a Pediatric Sleep Expert for exhausted families who have tried evvvvverything to get their child to sleep.

Through her informative and supportive blog posts and one-on-one help, she’s here to guide your child into restorative naps and peaceful nights - while making you wonder why you didn’t contact her sooner.

When she’s not consulting?You’ll find her hanging with her 2 children, getting her sweat on at the gym or baking and indulging in warm ooey-googey chocolate-chip cookies….hobbies that balance each other out!

Meet Valerie + prepare yourself for Amazing Sleep ahead…amazinglittlesleeper.com

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