From the moment you brought your little one home, you counted the hours of sleep your baby was getting, or possibly not getting.
Children need their sleep, especially as they are developing babies. In fact, your baby will transition from 5 or 6 naps each day to just 2 naps during the first 12 months.
And sadly, there will come a time in your child’s life when he will outgrow napping altogether. Don’t worry, your child will beg for naps again once they hit their teenage years.
The big question is—when does my child not need a nap anymore? How do I know they are ready to give up naps? We’ve compiled experiences from five parents to help you see the signs and decide when it is time for your toddler to stop napping.
Dropping the Morning Nap
By the time your child turns one, you may be patting yourself on the back for your child’s consistent sleep schedule. In fact, your child’s nap schedule has gotten so predictable that you have gotten used to planning activities between his morning and afternoon nap.
Unfortunately, this is about the time when your baby’s routine of two naps dwindles to one nap. By age 18 months, most children are only taking one nap a day.
The morning nap is generally the first nap to go. We recommend keeping the afternoon nap to avoid those late afternoon meltdowns. Ideally, the nap takes place shortly after lunchtime.
Making the Transition to No Naps
Toddlers need about 10–12 hours of sleep for every 24-hour period. So if your child is getting those hours of sleep during the night, the chances they stop napping are likely.
Many parents forego an afternoon nap in exchange for an earlier bedtime, thus getting a little extra alone time in the evening.
When you do decide it is time to transition to no naps, remember that it may be a gradual change. Follow your toddler’s tired cues rather than setting a rigid sleep schedule in place.
For instance, when you make the transition to no naps you may notice your child is irritable every third day and willingly takes an afternoon nap. Let it happen.
Every toddler will react differently to this time of transition, and you may have to try a variety of solutions depending on the day.
As you’ll see, even children within the same family experience diverse sleep schedules. We’ve compiled various experiences from the five parents below, as you read, it becomes apparent all toddlers are different, but the transition to no naps has a similar feel.
Naps in Exchange for Alone Time at Night
Sarah: My kids stopped napping at age 3. They do go to bed earlier if they don't nap all day, but that does mean that for a few hours in the early evening (between 4 and 6 pm) they are crazy! My children will nap on and off past age 3, but I do make sure they don't nap past 3 pm or bedtime is awful. I miss the naps, but my nighttime alone time is a must!
Quiet Time Instead of Naps
Julia: Both my girls began resisting naps at 2. I kept quiet time for the older one, using a clock that turns colors. My second child mostly fell asleep in the car either on the way to drop off or pick up her sister from preschool. I kept the same routine of having quiet time with her, and she played happily in her room by herself most days rather than sleeping. We still have down time after lunch on days when we are home and we all read.
Getting through the “Witching Hour”
Abby: My first son was an awesome napper until about age 4 and then it started to be hit or miss, but it was a pretty smooth transition all in all. My second son was about 2.5 (when we took his pacifier away), and his transition was a little more rocky. He would sometimes fall asleep in the late afternoon just on his own, but if we let him sleep then he would be up all night. So we tried just about everything to keep him awake during the “witching hour” between 4–6 pm. We try not to drive in the car during that time, or do anything sedentary like watching a movie to avoid the possibility of a late nap.
Different Experiences for Each Child
Melissa: I had two good nappers and two that had a hard time settling down. I think so much is based on their personality. My two oldest children needed a perfect set of circumstances while the two younger ones were more adaptable and could sleep anywhere, whenever.
They gave up their naps around 3, although I had one child who would still take naps after morning kindergarten! We tried quiet time, but my children would just get into mischief like drawing on the lampshade and peeling the wallpaper.
Surviving the Transition
Lindsay: We didn’t have a smooth transition when my children stopped napping, even though my kids were awesome at taking naps. The problem was that around age 3.5 they suddenly couldn't go to bed at night. They would stay awake until 10 or 11 pm. I tried many different things. Waking them up earlier, shortening their naps, napping every other day, etc. Nothing seemed to work. I ended up just not napping them, unless we’d had a really tiring day. I cherished my night time too much to have them not go to bed at 7:30 or 8. We just had to make peace with the fact that we'd have a very cranky toddler around 4:30 or 5ish. We would struggle through that for a year or so, but eventually we made it.