When a child is born, a mother looks forward to when the baby will be sleeping to rush to the shower or have a nap. At a young age, babies do not have a proper sleep pattern.
In most cases, they tend to sleep longer during the day and wake up more often at night. This stage passes, and by the age of 6 months, a regular sleep pattern begins to form.
They stick to two naps in a day, one in the midmorning and another in the afternoon. With time, the midmorning nap is dropped, and they nap mostly in the afternoons.
Sleep is vital for the mental and physical development of your child. During the nap, the child’s body relaxes and refreshes, giving it the energy to play with other children.
Dropping the naps is a process that is different for each child—some stop napping at two years, others at three years. At the age of 5, 85% of kids no longer nap.
How do you tell that your child is ready to stop napping? What are the signs to look out for?
Signs to Know Your Child is Ready to Stop Napping
Your child will continue to grow well and even become more productive after they cross this significant milestone. Therefore, do not panic.
These signs should tell you whether your child is ready to stop napping. There shouldn’t be any rush, especially if your child is still following their daytime nap routine.
You could also observe your child to see if they show any signs of sleepiness like yawning and rubbing their eyes. They also become irritable if they skip their sleeping time.
These signs should let you know that your child is not ready to stop the day snoozes, so you shouldn’t push it.
These other signs indicate that your child no longer needs a nap.
Their mood remains stable all day, even in the late afternoons.
A child who is not ready to stop napping becomes fussy and unsettled at this time of the day. Missing a nap and not have a meltdown afterward means that your child can now drop the nap.
They get sleepy and go to bed earlier than usual and sleep through the night.
They’ll likely get sleepy earlier after a long day of activity and skipping the nap. In total, your child should sleep for about 10-12 hours a day. During this transition, they may wake up earlier than usual too.
Naptime disrupts bedtime
You will observe that your child took a nap on the day, then getting them to sleep in the night is a hustle. But on the day, they skip the nap, then getting to bed at night is much more comfortable.
That is a sign that your child doesn’t need a nap anymore. You would be happier to let them skip the nap and thus sleep better at night, and that means better sleep for you too.
They experience trouble napping.
When you place them to bed for the daily nap, they become fussy and restless. They can take about 45 minutes to fall asleep or not sleep at all.
There would be no need to force them to sleep. If they don’t show any signs of sleep, then maybe it’s time to drop the nap.
Steps To An Easy Transition
This is a major milestone that your child is crossing, and so it should be handled step by step and taking it one day at a time.
This gradual process starts with your child going from many naps to two naps, then to one nap, and now it’s dropping the nap entirely. This transition takes years, and so you can not wean off your child of the nap suddenly.
Start by gradually reducing the length of the nap. Wake your child up an hour earlier than they would usually wake up.
Eventually, your child will stop napping by themselves, but you can guide them through it.
To make it easier;
- Replace nap time with quiet time.
The nap helps your child recharge, but quiet time will serve a similar purpose if they can’t nap.
During the quiet time, your child can read a storybook (or you read it to them), listen to music, do some drawing and painting.
Find something interesting that your child loves doing and do it at this time. It doesn’t have to be for long; an hour is enough. This lets the child relax and recharge.
- Let your child nap anytime they need it.
Since it is a slow transition, your child may need to nap sometimes. This is okay as your child is still adjusting.
Don’t go the “cold turkey” way because you might end up with a crankier and fussier child screaming all over the place. The transition can take weeks or even months; it entirely depends on your child.
- Move up bedtime.
When your child skips the daytime nap, they’ll probably go to sleep early at night. Therefore, you must move up bedtime and make it a new sleeping routine.
Moving up to bedtime might also mean you are moving up waking up time. Your little love-bunch might be up and jumping around very early and deny you your morning sleep.
Remember that this is a passing stage, and your baby will soon adapt, and everything will go back to normal, only with new routines.
- Give yourself a break.
It would help if you had a break, especially when you feel resentful because your child is dropping the naps. I know you depended on the nap times to enjoy some freedom alone.
Understand that, although your child’s napping is a good thing, it’s also refreshing to have them around. Just keep them engaged.
Whether you like it or not, a time will come for your child to drop the nap altogether, so start getting used to it.
- Expect occasional bad days.
When learning a new habit, it’s normal to fall back to old ways along the way. For a kid to transition out of naps, you should expect occasional afternoon meltdowns.
This shows that your child is learning, and with time, this new habit will become their new routine.
- Keep it consistent.
Repetitiveness and consistency always produce loud results. After developing a new routine for your child, keep at it.
Predictability will help your child know when it’s nap time when it’s time to paint or time to get to bed. It won’t be long before your child fully transitions to the new routine.
- Celebrate the small wins
Did your child skip the nap today and remained calm with no tantrums? Celebrate that. It’s a step towards the “end of nap” finish line.
It’s liberating when your child stops napping because now you can do more activities together, even late in the afternoon. Go for a swim or for early dinner as a family and enjoy each other’s company.
What You Should Not Do
Don’t skip a nap just because your child is getting older.
For older children who still want to continue with the nap, let them sleep. Only limit the length of time they sleep.
You can also consider letting them nap earlier in the day so that it doesn’t heavily impact bedtime. Your child will be more relaxed, and it will be easier to fall asleep at night.
Don’t let other things control his nap.
For example, he can sleep well at the daycare around other children but not at home. His nap should be planned and prepared for.
If it’s nap time and your child seems unprepared, consider doing things that will make him feel sleepy. Playing and exercising can be good preparation for a nap.
What To Do To Help Your Child Go Sleep
Weaning off nap time is a great thing. It shows that your child is not a baby anymore. They are growing![Here’s an article I wrote about putting your baby to sleep in as quick as 40 seconds – MUST READ]
But while this transition sounds excellent, there are those children whose bedtime remains a dreaded moment because they can’t go to sleep without throwing tantrums and crying endlessly.
The good news is, you can grab your copy of Baby Sleep Miracle and learn excellent tips to help your baby go to sleep smoothly and sleep better.
Baby Sleep Miracle elaborates the dos and don’ts and tips that work excellently for every child. These tips are workable for any parent and are easy to do.
Every child is different, and they stop napping at different ages. This should not be a concern to you if you already know how your child responds to change.
Other factors such as diet, activity, a sleep disorder, or a medical condition could affect your child’s sleep pattern.
It would be best if you learned to differentiate between typical fussiness and condition-associated fussiness. Remember always to consult your doctor when in doubt or when you notice abnormal behavior.
You can also get the Baby Sleep Miracle guide to help with baby-sleep matters.