Dropping Baby's Nap - The Facts

When does baby need to drop a nap?
Generally you will know that a nap needs to be adjusted (weaned, dropped or moved later) when baby starts sleeping bad for a nap (i.e. takes a long time to fall asleep for that nap or the nap following and/or wakes up early from a nap), bedtime is moved too late, or there are other schedule issues. Obviously you should double check that nothing else, like illness, seems to be going on. Less commonly baby may start to wake up
early in the morning, have difficulty going to sleep at night, or wake up in the middle of the night when a nap needs to be dropped.

Some naps are dropped when you drop a feeding (especially if you are on the eat/activity/sleep routine) while other naps are dropped in between feedings.

      Average Age Naps are Dropped
Average Age Dropped
From 4 to 3 naps
3-5 months
From 3 to 2 naps
6-9 months
From 2 to 1 naps
14-18 months
From 1 to 0 naps
3-4 years (is often dropped at 2 years of age, but is usually still needed for optimum development and a happy mood)
The last nap of the day is often a catnap (super short) before it is dropped for good. These nap times are averages—your child may drop slightly sooner or keep a nap slightly longer.

Before you drop or wean a nap, consider extending waketime length
Sometimes (and I would probably try this first) baby needs an increase in waketime before a nap instead of weaning or dropping. You only want to increase waketime to a point. If it is increased too much it can start to cause other naps to be too late or bedtime to be too late. If waketime can't be increased any more then you want to either shorten the nap, or if it is already pretty short, drop it. Be sure to look at each of the individual nap posts to see the average time that naps are dropped.

What happens once a nap is dropped?
When a nap is dropped it may result in lengthening of other naps, an earlier bedtime (very common for a short time at least), an earlier nap time for the other naps, the disappearance of another nap time and the appearance of a new one (like when the morning nap is dropped and the afternoon nap appears between the old morning nap and old afternoon nap) or there may not be much change in the schedule at all besides the obvious dropping of the mentioned nap. All in all, the dropping of a nap often results in only a slight change in sleep amount.

Some children seem to drop a nap one day (won't go to sleep during it) and never take this nap again, while other children go through several weeks of skipping a nap until they eventually completely drop it.

There is often a transitional period when a nap is dropped. This will usually be lessened by weaning (highly suggested!) from a nap rather than suddenly dropping it. It takes time for a child to get used to not sleeping at a particular time and time to move lost sleep to another period of time. Your child may be a little cranky for a week or two. If he is extremely cranky or irritable and is getting worse each day(or, sometimes starting after several days), then this might be a sign that he is not ready to drop this nap but may need some weaning of the nap done instead. It is best to have nice relaxing activities during the time that he used to nap for a while. Other people find having a snack, watching tv, having solo play time, doing errands, going on a walk, or having a very fun activity for their child helps during this transitional period. What you do during this post nap dropped period depends a lot on your child. If your child has a hard time staying awake then you probably want to do more exciting things. If he gets really hyperactive at this time then you may want to choose calming activities. With my kids I can't leave the house during their old nap time or they'll fall asleep in the car which messes up the dropping process and bedtime for them.

Not ready to drop a nap, but doesn't do well with one...
There may also be a transitional period when baby isn't quite ready to drop a nap but he also doesn't really need the nap. It can be a rough time! During this time you can try shortening the nap or make bedtime earlier or later (depending on whether you have dropped the nap yet). You may also need to do lots of relaxing or fun activities to get you both through this time if baby is cranky.

If his afternoon nap is being dropped then he will continue to have a natural dip in alertness in the middle of the day so quiet activities are especially important at this time no matter your child's age.

Remember, if you drop a nap and you decide that you child is not ready for it there is nothing wrong with adding the nap back in.

Related Posts:
Dropping a Nap - When and How to do it
Dropping a Nap - The Aftermath

Afternoon Nap
Evening Nap (3rd Nap)
Fourth Nap
Morning Nap

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