Everything You Need to Know About Dropping Naps

Everything You Need to Know About Dropping Naps. Know when to drop naps and how to drop naps.

Toddler rubbing eyes

While the exact time frame for dropping naps varies from baby to baby, the time frame is usually in the same ballpark. Many naps are naturally dropped as feedings are decreased on the Babywise schedule. You drop a feeding, so there are fewer naps held in your Eat, Play, Sleep routine. Other naps are dropped without dropping a feeding. Something to remember as you drop naps, you might need to move bedtime up and/or allow for longer naps. Babies don’t really get less sleep as the drop naps, they just rearrange when they get the sleep. Here is a summary of our nap dropping experience.

Signs Baby is Ready to Drop a Nap

You know your baby is ready to drop a nap when he stops sleeping well for one of the naps. It can either be the nap that needs to be dropped, or one following it. It could even be nighttime sleep is disrupted because he is sleeping too much in the day.

Not sleeping well can be displayed both in taking a long time to go to sleep and also waking up early from a nap.

Also, take note of your baby’s age. Not sleeping well can also mean your baby just needs longer waketimes. But if your baby is at an age where a nap is typically dropped, there lies your answer.

Going From 4 Naps to 3 Naps

Some babies are ready to go to three naps before they are ready to move to a 4 hour schedule (which is the natural transition to three naps). This would typically happen around 4 months. If this is the case with your baby, simply drop the nap between your last two feedings. Take note that the last two feedings might then move closer together because a baby can go longer between feedings if he is asleep than he can when he is awake and staring at his source of food. He will also be fussy for a few days during that time. He will adjust and get used to it and be back to himself.

Going From 3 Naps to 2 Naps (Dropping the Evening Nap)

The next nap you lose is the evening nap–typically a short 45 minutes. According to BW, this happens pretty young (around 6-8 months). Brayden didn’t drop his until he was about 10 months old. I was reading BW and realized he was not supposed to need it, so we dropped it. Kaitlyn is currently nearly 9 months old and still takes a third nap most days. It can be hard to tell just when your baby is ready to drop this nap because it is already short as it is. If your baby doesn’t seem tired enough for bed after napping in the evening, that would be a sign. Also, you can wait to put baby down until he gets fussy rather than when it is time.

I have found Kaitlyn doesn’t need a third nap if she slept really well for her other two naps. If she didn’t, she needs that nap. You can be flexible with it. Rules for dropping this nap are the same as any other. Expect some fussiness as your baby adjusts. Be ready to be an entertainer. You could get a new toy or book or something to pull out only at that time of day to keep the baby happier. When Brayden dropped this nap, I remember he was kind of cranky during the stretch for several days, maybe even a week, but his body adjusted. Dropping this nap might move bedtime up.

Dropping the Morning Nap

Dropping the morning nap is not as sad as it may seem. You suddenly have a large chunk of time when baby doesn’t have to be home! You baby will also most likely take a longer afternoon nap once the morning nap is dropped, so you have a longer stretch in the afternoon to get things done. You also might need to move bedtime up.

Babywise can be confusing on the ages for this. Several different books talk about it, and they all have different numbers. The numbers range from 14-22 months, and all are accurate. By this point your baby is now a toddler. Toddlers vary in their need for sleep, just like babies and adults. Brayden dropped his at 17 months. The time to drop the morning nap kind of displays itself more than other naps.

When your toddler is ready to drop this nap, he will still sleep really well in the morning, but for the afternoon nap, he will hardly sleep at all. This is when he is ready to drop the morning nap. In my experience, they are not as cranky for this dropping of a nap as they are for others. When we dropped this nap, the afternoon nap went to 3.5 hours instead of 2 and bedtime moved up an hour. As they get older, the nap will shorten and/or bedtime will be moved back slightly.

When we dropped the morning nap, we moved the afternoon nap up to 1:00. Some toddlers may need a nap sooner in the day. BW says the nap happens after lunch.

Dropping the Afternoon Nap

Thankfully I have no experience in this yet! This is not supposed to happen until at least 3 years old. If your child seems ready (or claims to be), I would watch for some things. One would be that if you miss a nap, is your child a wreck that evening? If your child cannot be happy without a nap, I would still have one. Even if it is short. Tired children become naughty and disobedient. Another thing I would watch for is if your child isn’t going to sleep at bedtime. If it is summer, negate that. Brayden is a sun sleeper, up and down with the sun, so he sleeps much less in the summer. But if it is winter and he isn’t falling asleep quickly at night, I would first shorten the afternoon nap. Some kids need naps even into Kindergarten age.

Once you drop the nap altogether, do a quiet time, or rest time. This is when you put the child in bed, or your bed, or somewhere you know he will go and stay. You give him books and tell him to rest. This will make a world of difference! There are times Brayden never goes to sleep for his nap, but he is much better behavior-wise if he has been in his bed missing a nap than if he has been out playing and missing a nap. Quiet time can last anywhere from 30-60 minutes. It gives your child a chance to relax and take a time out from the business of their world. We know they don’t do it themselves!

And take note that dropping this nap does not have to be one day they are napping, the next day they are not. On Becoming Preschoolwise puts it this way, “Children don’t suddenly one day stop napping forever. Everyone benefits when Mom sees it as a weaning process” (p.100). To wean someone is to “accustom [them] to manage without something on which they hae become dependent or of which they have become excessively fond” (American Oxford English Dictionary). Brayden did just fine with the “cold turkey” approach for his other nap-droppings, though it did take him a week or two to be happy without it as he adjusted. I will be taking the weaning approach with him when I drop his only nap. See the Weaning from Naps post for more thoughts on this idea.

Some days, your child will nap, other days he will just rest. That is just fine with the weaning process.

For even more information on dropping naps, see these posts:

Reader Naps Questions:

  • Meredith said…
    Hi Again! My little one seems to be very against his very first nap of the day. Is it just that we are doing CIO and he has enough energy in the AM to cry through the entire nap? He has done it consistently for about 4 days now. I have adjusted the time that I put him down and there doesn’t seem to be a difference. He’s 7 weeks old – seems really early to have him awake from 7:00AM-11:00AM (eats at 7 and 10). What do you think?
    January 7, 2008 8:31 AM
    Plowmanators said…
    That is too long for him to be awake, and he will need a morning nap until he is 14-22 months old, as you saw in this post. I would keep a log and analyze what is going on with that nap versus other naps when he is successful. It might just be that he is learning and the first nap is difficult for him. How long is your waketime? At that age, it will likely only be 45 min. to an hour. Be sure you are in that range. Also, for many the first wake time of the day is shorter than others.
    January 7, 2008 1:46 PM
  • Angela said…
    My 15 month old went through a week & couple days just as described – sleeping 1.5 hours in the morning, then suddenly won’t nap at all during the normal afternoon nap time. We figured it was time for him to drop his morning nap. So, today, I took him out for errands in the morning, then came back for lunch. Then at 1pm, he fell asleep! The only problem that I saw today was that he didn’t eat lunch well and was sort of moody due to the dropped morning nap. I’m hoping this behavior will correct itself in time.
    April 1, 2008 2:22 PM
    Plowmanators said…
    It will. Some kids need to go down a bit earlier at first, too. Honestly, you will love having all of that time in the morning! At least I did. It took my son about a week to get used to no nap.
    April 1, 2008 3:06 PM
    Angela said…
    Yikes, he only took a 1.5 hr nap even though he was really tired from the dropped nap. Will the nap time eventually increase to 3-3.5 hours?
    April 1, 2008 5:55 PM
    Plowmanators said…
    That is totally normal. It should get longer once he gets used to it. Right now he is over-stimulated, but once his body adjusts, he should take a nice long nap.
    April 1, 2008 10:45 PM
  • Fortibus Marketing of Charleston, L.L.C said…
    Hello!! You are an angel, thank you for you blog!! My son is 23 weeks we just put him on a 4 hour schedule a couple of weeks ago, at about 21 weeks old. He has adjusted perfectly! For the last couple of days, he has not wanted to take his evening nap. One day he didn’t sleep at all, cried practically the whole time, today he cried off and on for an hour before he fell asleep for his 2 hour nap. Is this a sign that he might be ready to drop this nap and go to 2 naps instead of 3? So that means he would be up from 2:30 in the afternoon until his bedtime at 8:30 pm?? That seems so long, do I adjust his schedule accordingly?? I’m so confused about all of it, thank you for your help!! Dayna Paul
    April 18, 2008 4:11 PM
    Plowmanators said…
    I would move bedtime up if you drop that nap. You could also movoe the nap later–so if it is 4:30 now, try 5. But wake when you would if he went down at 4:30. 6 months is the age you can drop that nap (some go later)–and if your baby is earlier, you can certainly do it earlier.
    April 20, 2008 6:14 PM
    Plowmanators said…
    Oh, and thanks for the thanks!
    April 20, 2008 6:15 PM
  • Jamie said…
    My daughter just turned 16 weeks old. Up until now we have had a very happy routine with good naptimes and night sleep. At three months she was consistently sleeping 10 to 6. So I started to gradually move her bedtime up and went down to five feedings a day. Her last feeding is now around 9pm. Since doing this she has been extending her nighttime sleep to 9 or 10 hours.The longer night sleep has been great, but her naps have become a mess. Waking up at cycle shifts, crying when going down, etc. Even when she goes down well she can’t make it for more than an hour. I know she is not rested as she grows cranky and is drowsy while nursing. This is abnormal for her. I have tried dropping the catnap she used to take before her bedtime, but she has been very fussy about it and inevitably ends up falling asleep in my arms. She sleeps for 20 or so minutes then we begin our bedtime routine and she still sleeps for 9+ hours. When she misses this catnap she does not go down for bed without a fit and does not sleep as well.I think she is napping too often, but am not sure how to reorganize things. Do I need to move her bedtime earlier? I know something is amiss, but I am stumped over how to make this transition. Thanks for the help.
    May 6, 2008 8:59 PM
    Plowmanators said…
    Four months old is often a hard time for babies for naps or night or both. I would check out this post:Naps: Troubleshooting: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2007/12/naps-troubleshooting.htmlLet me know if you have questions beyond that.
    May 7, 2008 8:41 PM
Everything You Need to Know About Dropping Naps. Know when to drop naps and how to drop naps.