The majority of children drop their second nap between 12 and 18 months. My recommendation is to avoid dropping it too soon – ideally somewhere between 14-18 months.
There are many factors which can impact day and night sleep: teething, developmental milestones, leaps, daylight savings, separation anxiety, travel, being out of routine and/or the need to increase the awake time. Before you decide to drop a nap, it is best if you can ensure that your child’s signs are consistent with their developmental readiness – and not just the result a few ‘off’ days, or the parent’s desire for a more convenient sleep schedule.
If your little one is ready to transition to one nap, here’s some signs to look out for:
- He/she is resisting, or taking longer to fall asleep for one or both naps (crying, talking, playing).
- He/she is falling asleep easily at the morning nap, but only has a short sleep (less than one hour).
- He/she falls asleep easily at the morning nap, but after sleeping 90 minutes or more, consistently refuses the afternoon nap (regardless of timing).
- He/she can stay awake until at least 11:30am to 12:00pm without becoming overtired (and catnapping as a result).
- He/she is sleeping through the night consistently (between 11 to 12 hours)*.
- He/she wakes well rested and happy from their one nap and can consistently make it through to bedtime without becoming overly grumpy and tired (and without affecting quality and/or quantity of night sleep).
- He/she doesn’t fall asleep in the car or pram throughout the day around nap times.
* I recommend improving night sleep before cutting out day naps.
- Gradually schedule the morning nap later – e.g. by 15-30 minutes every few days, over the course of two weeks or more.
- For a one-nap day, aim for 11:30am at the earliest to start the nap and allow for some ‘quiet time’ in the afternoon in place of the original afternoon nap. You will need to schedule bedtime at 6:00pm temporarily to avoid over tiredness, and consequently increased night waking.
- Your child may need two naps on some days, and be okay with one nap on others. This pattern may persist for a month (or more) and will depend on factors such as consistency with routine, health, activity levels, developmental stage, teeth, and nutrition.
- For a two-nap day, try 10:30-11:30am for nap one, and 2:30/3:00 to 3:30/4:00pm for nap two. Schedule bedtime between 7:30pm to 8:00pm.
- Four hours is the average recommended awake time before bedtime at the end of the day.
- Keep a close watch for your child’s tired cues, and place him/her down for their nap/s accordingly.
Naps at different times of the day serve different purposes for your baby’s cognitive and physical development at different ages. Morning naps are generally the most restorative, and have more dreaming (REM sleep) – which makes them especially important for young babies who need it for early brain development. Therefore it is important not to cut them out too early.