Toddler Sleep | Dropping the Final Nap
It’s a bitter-sweet time in every parent’s life. You realise that your toddler’s precious final nap is about to be history! Goodbye to that sweet couple of hours where you could relax and kick your feet up…or more realistically, tick off a few items from the ever-growing task list.
But is it really time to say goodbye?
It’s helpful to know how to tell when it’s really time to drop the final nap, when you can preserve it for a little longer, or when it’s definitely too soon. Little ones typically will drop their nap between 2.5-3.5 years old. It’s not unheard of, however, for some bubs to drop it a little earlier and occasionally up to the age of five!
It’s always important to respond to cues from your little one. When the final drop does happen, it’s not always going to be a clear line in the sand – the transition can happen over a number of weeks, and it can mean they nap on some days but not on others. Their behaviour and mood can be a good indicator of the need to take a nap on a particular day. Never rush to drop naps.
A guide to dropping your toddlers nap.
Ask yourself these questions to determine if it really is time for that last nap to go!
Is your toddler taking too long to fall asleep for their nap?
Is your little one is fussing or playing for 30 minutes+ when you put them down? It could be a sign that they’re ready to drop their nap, but it is more likely they need a little more awake time before their nap.
Try adding a little more time before their nap, 30 min for example. Keep in mind that you may have to cap the length of their nap so that it doesn’t push back bed time. Wake them no later than 2:45pm, for example.
Is your toddler taking too long to fall asleep at bedtime?
This is a similar concept to question 1. If your little one has and a nap during the day, it may not be leaving enough awake time before going to bed at night, so they’re just not sleepy yet! This can be a sign that you should hold off on offering the nap, in which case you may need a slightly earlier bedtime than normal (at this age, bed times can be from 6:00pm onwards). If you feel that’s too long of a stretch between sleeps, try keeping the nap and just be sure that they’re not napping any later than 2pm or longer than 1.5 hours.
Are you experiencing more overnight wakings or very early mornings?
These are a couple of common signs that your little one is ready to lose their day nap.
Paired with a lengthy nap, they may be reaching their overall sleep needs. In this case try a bedtime of 7pm instead of 6:30pm. You could also try capping their nap at 1.5 hours if its longer than that. If your little one is waking early, I would first encourage trying an earlier bedtime. Just be sure it’s not that and make sure they aren’t cold.
Is your toddler still awake after afternoon car trips or pram rides?
Little ones will generally fall asleep with motion if they still require a nap.
You’ll see this commonly during a car ride or an afternoon stroll in the pram. If your little one is still awake at the end of the journey however, it’s a pretty good sign that they’re ready to drop the nap. When your bub does finally drop it, a car or pram ride is a great way for them to get some chill out time in the afternoon, preventing them from getting exhausted before bed.
If your answer is ‘yes’ to these questions, it doesn’t have to mean no more naps right then and there.
Instead of dropping the nap straight away, try reducing the length of the nap.
- Are they sleeping for longer than 90 minutes? Try cutting it down to 60 minutes.
- Napping for 60 minutes? Cut it down to 30-45 minutes.
After reducing the length of the nap, after a few days you can then reassess if this has made an impact, and then reduce again if necessary. Give it a good 10 days+ before being convinced that the nap definitely needs to go! Your little one may only nap in the car or pram from 2.5 onwards and that is ok to preserve the nap a little longer.
Remember to take the behavioural and mood cues from your little one. Some days they will need a nap, whereas on others they won’t. Zoning out on car trips or television time can spoil their chances of a nap. Keep your little one interactive and engaged in their awake time.
Things can feel a little complicated for a while. Don’t be discouraged if there’s a period of trial and error before you work out your new normal!
Note: If your little one is doing great with long naps and full nights please don’t feel the need to stick to timings or cap naps as suggested.