Knowing when it’s time to drop a nap can be one of the trickiest things, not only that but actually dropping the damn thing is an ordeal in itself, especially if you don’t know how to do it. I would like to say, it’s as easy as just one day don’t offer it anymore and all will be well again but it just doesn’t work like that. There’s a few things you need to know even before you drop this nap in order to know it really is time, stay with me…. I will explain.
12 Month Sleep Regression
Congratulations, your baby is no longer a baby, they are now officially a toddler. For me, this was always a massive milestone, I felt like this is when things will turn a corner and be easier. What was I thinking?? Babies go through huge developmental changes both physically and mentally but the changes you see from 12 months onwards are epic.
I mean, over the next year your little one is going to learn to walk, talk, socialise, learn how to be more independent, and some of them even learn to go to the toilet by themselves over the next few months. When you think about those changes it’s no wonder they have huge tantrums.
The 12 month regression is part of these changes and can come on suddenly. It appears like they are no longer needing to nap as they are now refusing naps. If you are unsure whether it is the nap transition or the regression you need to wait it out for bit, I would say at least 10 days before you decide to drop the nap.
If they just keep refusing it and are under 15 months, keep offering it to them but get them up by 10am as a morning nap later than this will mess with the lunch nap.
RULE OF THUMB – If this change has happened suddenly and around 12 months of age, it’s more than likely the regression. You’ll see a new skill emerge within a couple of weeks.
Signs the morning nap need to go
The morning nap is typically dropped around 15 months, usually gone completely by 18 months. The main signs this nap is needing to be cut are:
Early morning wakes – If your toddler is sleeping too much and too early in the morning this can reinforce an early morning wake, as they learn to catch up from the early wake at this next nap time. By early morning wake by the way, I am talking before 6am because guys, 4/5am is still night time NOT morning time and should be treated as such.
Waking early from the lunch nap – This is a sign that they are getting too much day sleep and just aren’t tired enough. So if they were happily sleeping 2 hours solid before and now they’re waking consistently after 1.5 hours and are wide awake then they have just had enough sleep and you need to steal some back from the morning nap.
Refusing the morning nap entirely – This can be tricky as this is what they do during the regression as well but if they are wide awake, not taking it for 2 weeks straight and managing to stay awake and not get grumpy until at least 10/11am then it’s probably time.
Drop the nap SLOWLY….
If you have decided that your toddler really doesn’t need the nap, the best thing to do is cut it back slowly. Cut it by 10 minutes a week and see if that helps first before you cut it completely. It is not uncommon for a 13/14 month old to only need 10 minutes in the morning to help get them to the lunch nap NOT overtired.
The lunch nap needs to change as well.
Once you have cut the morning nap completely you can’t expect your toddler to make it to the normal lunch nap time, this is the mistake I see lots of parents make. You assume that because they don’t need a morning nap anymore they can just be awake until the lunch nap. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that, whilst they are transitioning away from the morning nap sometimes you need to close the gap a little so that they don’t become an overtired mess by the time lunch nap rolls around.
Which means that not only is your toddler now exhausted by lunchtime and not eating a good meal, they are now struggling to sleep for the lunch nap and or waking up early from it. You’re then stuck in a vicious cycle of an overtired toddler that is now sleeping much less overall than they were a few weeks ago. This will have a knock on affect with bedtime and night sleep eventually as your child becomes increasingly overtired.
So what should I do?
As part of the transition, bring lunch nap earlier, more like 11/11.30am and let them sleep longer if they will so up to 3 hours. If they don’t take a longer nap, get them to bed early like 6pm potentially if they have been awake since 1.30pm for example.
This whole transition phase should last for a few weeks before you can start to push the lunch nap back by 15 minutes every few days until they are able to stay awake until their normal lunch nap time.
To summarise, the main thing I want you to do is be mindful of whether or not your toddler is going through the regression phase or if they genuinely need to drop the morning nap. Keep a log so you can spot patterns and keep offering it to them for a good 10-14 days before you decide it’s time.
Don’t drop it too fast or you risk having a very overtired child and make sure you move the lunch meal and lunch nap to accommodate this transition. They may be able to stay awake longer now but they can’t manage such a huge window after just one day.
This nap is tough to drop and can cause lots of issues if not done correctly or cut too soon. If you are completely overwhelmed by how and when to drop this nap, reach out for some more support and we can get this nailed in under 3 weeks.
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