Is it time to drop a nap?
As babies get older and are able to tolerate more time awake, the number of naps they need in a day will decrease. The timings of these transitions can vary a lot from baby to baby but typical/average transitions are going from 3 to 2 naps somewhere between 6 months and 9 months, and 2 to 1 nap somewhere between 12 months and 18 months.
As with pretty much everything about baby’s sleep, try to take your lead from your baby. Some signs to look out for that it might be time to drop a nap:
- regularly having difficulty settling for naps/skipping naps
- bedtime getting much later or very long (ie over 30 minutes) bedtime settling
- seems to manage ok emotionally on days in which a nap is missed
- increase in night-time wakefulness, split nights or very early starts
If you see any of that happening over a period of a week or so, it could be time to experiment with dropping a nap.
If you are experimenting with dropping a nap, try to get baby outside early on and keep them busy and engaged, so that you can push the gap to the first nap later. Try to lengthen subsequent wake windows too, so that the naps are relatively evenly spread through the day. Bedtime may need to be earlier (perhaps significantly earlier) than it would have been on a day with an extra nap - see how baby is managing. As baby settles into the new rhythm bedtime will gradually shift later again.
If they really struggle to get to even 7pm with fewer naps, you might also consider adding in a short (10-15 minute) power nap to get them through to bedtime, in place of a full nap later in the afternoon.
Nap transitions can be tricky times, with more naps feeling like too many and fewer naps not quite enough. There might be a few weeks of jet lag as your baby settles into their new rhythm. Some people find it helpful to keep offering the extra nap on alternate days or every few days, if baby seems to struggle.