When Do Babies Drop A Nap? 5 Essential Signs To Look For!

Author Image By Paula McLaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH •  Updated: 05/22/24 •  Sleep / Naps

In the world of parenting, naps can be both a blessing and a curse. An opportunity to have a quiet moment or a time when an overtired child refuses to sleep… However, they will come to an end one day! So, when do babies drop a nap? And why should you care?

When Do Babies Drop A Nap Featured

The Quick Answer: When Do Babies Drop A Nap?

Your baby’s nap transitions are important milestones in their sleep schedule, the number of naps your child takes will naturally decrease as they grow.

Here are the most common windows when your baby will drop a nap:

When Do Babies Drop A Nap - Young Baby Wide Awake Lying In Crib On Their Front

Signs Baby Is Ready To Drop A Nap

Knowing the signs that your child is ready to drop a nap is vital to the success of their transition. These signs will indicate to you that they need to drop a nap and will guide you to help them create a new nap schedule.

In addition, keeping a close eye on your baby’s wake windows, sleep cues, and keenness to nap will help you decide if they are ready to drop a nap or not.

Typical signs that indicate your baby is ready to drop a nap are:

  1. Disinterest in Napping. When your baby regularly appears to be disinterested in napping or has trouble falling asleep during their usual naptime, it could be time for a change. Previously consistent sleepers might fight naps, indicating a shift in their sleep needs. It’s important to differentiate between a phase and a genuine readiness to adjust their nap schedule so don’t jump to drop a nap after a couple of days of resisting napping. If your baby is becoming overtired from not napping enough it indicates that they are not ready to have less daytime sleep or they are napping at the wrong time.
  2. Sudden Fussiness or Overtiredness. If your baby is fussy or seems overtired at unusual times, this might signal an imbalance in their sleep routine. Babies who are ready to drop a nap may become more irritable if they are not sleeping at the right times. If this pattern persists over several days it is worth trying to drop a nap.
  3. Shortened Nap Lengths. Naps that have suddenly become much shorter are a good indicator that your baby doesn’t require as much daytime sleep. When one or both naps don’t last the usual one to two hours, it may be time to consolidate sleep into one longer nap. 
  4. Staying Awake for Longer Periods. Babies who are ready to nap transition often manage longer periods of wakefulness without showing sleepy cues such as rubbing their eyes or yawning. If your child can comfortably stay awake for 4-5 hours, it might be time to drop to a nap. It is important to ensure your little one is still getting the total amount of age-appropriate sleep needed in a 24-hour period by allowing them to take one or two longer naps depending on which nap they are dropping.
  5. Changing Sleep Patterns at Night. Changes in nighttime sleep, such as waking more frequently or earlier in the morning, can also be a great clue. These disruptions suggest an adjustment is needed in your baby’s overall sleep needs and can mean not as much daytime sleep is required, Keep in mind that sleep cycle changes are normal as babies grow, so track these patterns for a consistent period before adjusting naps.

When Do Babies Drop A Nap - Baby Boy standing In His Crib

What Age Do Babies And Toddlers Drop A Nap

When your baby transitions through sleep stages, the nap schedule changes significantly. 

  1. Newborns sleep frequently throughout the day, with no clear distinction between naps. They require four or more naps during the day to meet their developmental needs.
  2. However, by the time babies reach around 6 months, they generally consolidate daytime sleep into three naps. This will often happen gradually with them being able to stay awake for longer periods of time on some days and not on others until they finally settle into a three-nap routine.
  3. The transition to two naps usually happens between 9 to 18 months. This change is often signaled by your baby resisting one of their usual naps or experiencing changes in nighttime sleep patterns.
  4. As toddlers approach 18 months, they may begin to resist the morning nap, indicating readiness to move to a single afternoon nap. Observing your child’s behavior can guide this shift; increased fussiness or difficulty settling down for a nap will often arise when it’s time for a change. The average age for a child to drop to one nap is around 14 months, but this can range from 10 to 24 months, depending on your little one’s unique sleep and lifestyle needs. 

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How To Drop A Nap

When it’s time to adjust your baby’s nap schedule, it’s essential to do it gradually. 

Patience and observation are key as you guide your child through this nap transition as it will not happen overnight and will take a few days or few weeks to establish the new routine.

  1. Assess signs of readiness: If your baby is resistant to napping or exhibits prolonged energy during their usual nap time, it often indicates that they’re ready for fewer naps. Watch for changes in their daily sleep patterns, such as difficulty falling asleep at their regular nap time or taking only brief cat naps when they previously had longer naps.
  2. Adjust wake windows: This is very important. Gradually increase the time your baby stays awake between naps. This helps ensure they are sufficiently tired for fewer, but more consolidated, periods of sleep. Always ensure the wake windows are age-appropriate and watch for signs of overtiredness. Some days they may need to nap more than others while they are going through a nap transition, so, if your little one shows signs of needing to sleep it is important to let them do so. 
  3. Implement a consistent bedtime: A solid bedtime routine can ease the nap transition. It is important to try and make sure bedtime occurs at roughly the same time each night to help maintain a predictable sleep schedule. This consistency will help your baby understand when it’s time to sleep, despite the changes in nap schedule. And a good night’s sleep will mean you can judge when they are ready to drop a nap more easily.
  4. Introduce quiet time: Replace one of baby’s dropped naps with a period of quiet time. This can involve reading books or playing with soft toys in the crib. Quiet time can serve as a restful period that doesn’t involve sleeping but still offers downtime, which can be especially beneficial if your baby has entirely dropped a nap but still needs some downtime. 
  5. Monitor and adjust: Expect that it may take a few weeks for your baby to fully adapt to the new nap schedule. Watch their nighttime sleep and overall mood to determine if the nap transition is working. Adjust the nap routine as needed, and don’t hesitate to consult your pediatrician or a sleep training expert for guidance.

Managing Nap Transitions

When handling a nap transition it is essential to keep an eye on your baby’s sleep cues and adjust the nap routine based on these signs. 

Having an established schedule will definitely help ease any nap transition and should align with your baby’s age-appropriate sleep needs.

Here’s a guideline for how much sleep your child needs in a 24-hour period:

Age Appropriate Childhood Sleep Amounts

If you spot signs such as resisting naps or being overly energetic at naptime try modifying the nap schedule forward or back by 15 minutes at a time.

Naps get dropped in the following order:

Remember that flexibility is key, so be prepared to flip-flop between two schedules during this time. 

Balance is also crucial – don’t be tempted to transition too quickly. 

Dropping the early morning nap is usually the easiest as your baby having slept all night will naturally start to be able to stay awake until the late morning.

Extend the time before the first nap gradually, until you put your baby down at around 11am. Your goal is to find a sweet spot that doesn’t lead to an overtired baby or disrupted nighttime sleep due to being overstimulated.

When Do Babies Drop A Nap - Baby Standing In Crib Looking Bored and Not Tired

Nap Transition Vs Sleep Regression

When your baby starts resisting naps or waking up more at night, it can be concerning and you might naturally wonder if this is a sign of sleep regression or if it’s time for a nap transition. 

Understandably, these shifts in sleep patterns can be confusing and a bit daunting.

Sleep regression is defined as a period when a baby who’s been sleeping well suddenly has trouble at bedtime or wakes often during the night. 

It’s typically tied to developmental leaps or growth spurts. These regressions are temporary and can happen at any age but most typically at 8, 12, 18, or 24 months.

Sleep regressions can cause short naps and increased night wakings, but there will usually be other indications such as a growth spurt, reaching a significant developmental milestone, or increased nighttime waking with your baby showing signs of being overtired as well.

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On the other hand, a nap transition refers to a change in the daytime sleep schedule. As babies grow they need less daytime sleep, leading to a drop in the number of naps required. 

Managing your little one’s sleep can be challenging but knowing how much age-appropriate sleep they require and keeping an eye on sleep cues and wake windows can really help. 

My best advice is that you follow your instincts and if your little one is tired, offer a nap or quiet time.

If you’re truly in doubt, it’s always a good idea to consult with a pediatrician or a sleep consultant.

To learn more about sleep regressions in babies, read these posts:

Frequently Asked Questions About Babies Dropping Naps

When it comes to your baby’s sleep patterns and nap transitions, having the right information is crucial. These FAQs will guide you through common concerns regarding nap changes.

Q: What is the typical range of months when babies consolidate to a single daily nap?

A: Typically, babies transition to one nap a day between 12 and 18 months. However, some may do so earlier or later depending on their individual needs. Watch your child’s behavior as the best indicator of the right timing for this change.

Q: Are there developmental milestones that indicate a baby is ready to drop a nap?

A: Yes, there are several signs that baby is ready to drop a nap. These include your baby being able to stay awake for longer periods, showing less fussiness when missing a nap, and resisting going down for naps. Transitioning to fewer naps often coincides with other developmental leaps, such as crawling or learning to walk.

Q: Is there a suggested approach for adjusting a baby’s nap schedule when reducing the number of naps?

A: To adjust your baby’s nap schedule, gradually push the morning nap later in the day to merge it with the afternoon nap. Ensure consistency and a calming pre-nap routine. It’s also helpful to offer quiet time, even if your baby does not sleep.

Q: At what age do infants typically transition from three naps to two?

A: Most babies are ready to move from three naps to two around 6 to 9 months of age. You might notice that your baby’s third nap (typically the early morning nap) becomes shorter or that they skip it entirely, which are signs that they’re ready for this transition.

Q: What are common signs that a baby is ready to reduce napping from two times to once daily?

A: Common signs your baby is ready to drop to 1 nap a day include resisting the second nap, waking up earlier from the first nap, or both naps becoming shorter. If your baby is active and not overly cranky even with less sleep during the day, they might be ready to drop to one nap.

Q: How can parents support their baby during the transition from two naps to one?

A: Support your baby during a nap transition by maintaining a consistent sleep environment, a nap routine, and a bedtime routine. It’s also important to be flexible, as your baby might need a longer single nap or occasionally two shorter naps. Remember to offer lots of reassurance and comfort as your little one adjusts to their new schedule.

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Author Image Bio
Paula McLaren is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and a highly qualified childcare expert with over 40 years of experience as a Norland Nanny. She holds a BA (Hons) in Early Years Development & Learning (0-6 Years) and the prestigious Norland Diploma. Paula has worked as a night nanny, run a successful daycare center in London, and helped raise countless children using her tried and tested developmental and guidance methods.

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