How to manage your child’s nap transitions
Does your child’s daytime sleep feel like unchartered territory? Read our guide on how to navigate your child’s evolving nap schedule so they stay well rested.
A child’s drive for sleep at nighttime is greater in comparison to daytime which is why their night sleep is typically longer and more consolidated. That’s not to say that their daytime rest is not as important. It is. In this article, we will discuss the evolving daytime sleep.
For newborns, sleep is generally unpredictable and disorganized, and they experience complete day and night confusion. During your child’s first few weeks, trying to put together a rigid schedule for sleep will only frustrate you and could lead to hampered bonding between you and your little one. At this age, we want to pay attention to wake times and creating a loose routine for when they eat, play and sleep so that this routine becomes a signal for when it is time to go to bed.
Infant Sleep: Consolidation of daytime sleep
Our children’s naps actually serve a true developmental purpose. The morning nap is mentally restorative and the afternoon nap is physically restorative. For the majority of our little ones, their circadian sleep rhythms become mature around 4 months of age, which means that they are now capable of learning their sleep skill. This is also an inflection point when it comes to your child’s sleep and you will see a more consistent pattern between day and night. At around 4 months, they should be on three to four naps a day as they become more skilled at daytime sleep. Melatonin production has high points at certain times of the day which makes it easier for our little ones to fall asleep. For the morning nap, you want to shoot for 8:30 to 9:00am, the afternoon nap around 12:30 to 1:00pm and the third and final nap of the day should take place between 3:00 to 4:00pm. They also may need a fourth rescue nap if the other naps were on the shorter side. Once the naps are consolidated for both the morning and afternoon naps, we then move to a ‘three solid naps a day’ routine. The first nap is typically 1 to 1 hour 15 minutes, the second will range from 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours and the third nap is a cat nap and will be about 30 to 45 minutes at most.
As our child grows to be eight or nine months old, you will see the third nap either being resisted completely or it starts to effect bedtime when they do take it. This means you will see it taking a long time for them to fall asleep at bedtime or it starts causing night wake ups. This is the signal that it’s time to transition to two solid naps a day, which is the morning and afternoon nap. The morning nap will on average be 1 hour and the afternoon nap is 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours. Bedtime is typically 3 to 3 and half hours after the afternoon nap at this point.
Toddler Sleep: How and when to transition to one nap a day
The next nap transition will be from two naps to one nap in the middle of the day typically taking place around 12:30 to 1:00pm. This transition can happen as early as 13 months old to as late as 18 months old. The average is fifteen months and you will see two scenarios take place. The first is that both naps start consistently shortening. As long as it does not affect them going to bed and staying asleep through the night, by all means keep the morning and afternoon naps. Once it does start to affect bedtime over a few weeks, then we start to transition to one nap. The second scenario is your child will start fighting or refusing one of the naps consistently for a few weeks. When this happens, we slowly start the transition over to one nap. This transition may take a bit since we are gradually moving their circadian sleep rhythms to taking one nap a day. It is best to start to try to push the nap initially to 10:30am and move it back in 15 minute increments every few days (as long as they are handling it well) until you hit the 12:30 to 1:00pm time frame for optimal daytime sleep. We will also want to adjust bedtime in relation to duration and quality of the nap.
Preschool Sleep: When to maintain the midday nap and when to transition out of it
Your kiddo will keep this one nap until they hit three and a half to four years old, although some kids do keep this nap until five years of age. You will see as they get older that their nap durations will shorten. Once again, if you start seeing that taking this nap effects bedtime then we cap the nap and maintain bedtime around 6 to 7 hours after the nap so they stay well rested and don’t become overtired which can make it hard for them to fall asleep and stay asleep. If they are on the older end of the spectrum then it is a signal to move to no nap. I advise my clients to keep a rest time for these kiddos so that they have some downtime during the day and they might just get that nap in any way!
In all of our children’s nap transitions; remember consistency is key. Keep an eye on their sleepy cues and aim for sleeping at optimal times when melatonin is highest and they will move through this season of nap transitions.
If I may be of service to your family on your sleep journey, feel free to visit www.RestToYourNest.com to book a complimentary 15 minute sleep evaluation. Cheers to sleep!