Quick Tip: How To Tell If A Nap Transition Is Approaching

3 Signs a Nap Transition is Approaching for your baby or toddler.

Picture this. You’ve just settled into a nice, predictable daytime sleep schedule, you’re feeling good about life, and then, before you know it, your baby gets a little older and blows your perfectly-crafted routine to pieces.

I’m positive a lot of you know exactly what I’m talking about (even those of you who’ve never been able to establish a nap schedule.) The first few years of a child’s life are full of changes, and those changes add up to mean ever-shifting sleep patterns and schedules.

This is really apparent when you consider a child’s typical nap schedule from birth to toddlerhood. Newborn babies take 5 or more naps each day; by 18 months, toddlers are taking one nap. That’s a lot of change! And transitioning between all those nap schedules can be a huge headache for little ones and for their parents.

Read on to learn more about how to spot a coming nap transition!

Common Nap Transitions: When They Happen

There’s no blueprint, of course, that’ll let you know exactly when your baby or toddler is due for a nap transition. However, here’s a general timeline that most babies and toddlers follow:

  • From 1-4 months, the number of naps your baby takes will be variable, but will hover around 4-5 naps per day, depending on how long his naps are and how long he can stay up between naps.
  • By 3 or 4 months old, she will lean towards just 4 naps, rather than 5.
  • From 5-8 months, most babies will have three naps per day. They will start to resist the fourth nap, no matter how tired they are. There are a few babies who will only have two naps at a very young age, but those naps are usually long.
  • From 9-15 or 18 months, on average, your baby will nap two times a day. Although many people believe most babies can transition to one nap at 12 months, the average age is actually 15 to 18 months.
  • From 18 months to 4 years, toddlers nap once a day. The age to transition away from all napping varies a lot, from 2 to 5+ years old, but the average age is between 3 and 4 years old.

The early nap transitions (from five, to four, to three) usually happen quickly and aren’t as problematic. It’s the other nap transitions (from three, to two, to one, to none) that tend to frustrate parents. Those nap transitions take longer, for one thing (my middle son has been transitioning from one nap to none for the past YEAR), and they seem to affect children more noticeably.

Common Nap Transitions: How To Tell If One’s On The Way

How will your baby or toddler let you know that a nap transition is coming? Here are a few signs to look for:

  • The timing of your baby’s or toddler’s naps begins to change: Before a nap transition, the schedule generally goes crazy. Naptime goes from being predictable to being all over the place. This can interfere with nighttime sleep, too — if the afternoon nap doesn’t happen until late afternoon or early evening, for example, it can interfere with bedtime.
  • Your baby or toddler begins consistently refusing a nap: Most parents find that their little one suddenly starts refusing a nap (usually an afternoon one) that, just yesterday, they agreed to without a problem.
  • The length of your baby’s or toddler’s naps begins to change. You may notice that one or more of your little one’s naps are suddenly much shorter than normal. This can be a sign that your baby or toddler is getting ready to drop a nap.

Can You Make Nap Transitions Easier?

For some babies and toddlers (especially those who are highly adaptable), nap transitions are a piece of cake — they only take a few days. If that’s the case in your home, then a sort of “cold turkey” approach to nap transitions might work well. Simply cut out a nap, re-vamp the schedule, and endure a few fussy days.

For others, though, nap transitions are difficult and loooong. If your baby or toddler is in that second category, you’d probably appreciate some suggestions as to how to make those transitions a bit easier, right?

We hear you. That’s why we’ve included so many nap-focused resources in our VIP Members Area. Check them out below!

Special VIP Members-Only Nap Resources

bss_ebook_masteringnaps_left Mastering Naps & Schedules — For starters, all Baby Sleep Site® VIP Members receive unlimited access to all our e-Books. That’s right – for the price of your membership, you can read all our e-Books at no additional cost! That includes Mastering Naps & Schedules. With over 45 sample schedules (all available for you to view in the Members Area), Mastering Naps & Schedules is THE e-Book for tired parents of non-napping kiddos! We tackle all your top napping issues, including how to get your baby or toddler to take longer naps, how to get your child’s naps to be more consistent and predictable, how to manage nap transitions, how to encourage good napping while traveling – and more! Become a VIP member today, and access the e-Book instantly – no download necessary!

Tele-seminarNap Audio Courses — Another great members-only resource? Our audio courses. Hosted by Nicole Johnson herself, these 30-45 minute audio recordings offer you insider-information and our trademark sleep coaching methods and techniques. And guess what? We have a special audio course that’s completely focused on managing nap transitions. That’s right – as a member, you will have access to a 30 – 45-minute coaching session with Nicole herself! She’ll walk you through the basics of navigating nap transitions without destroying your existing daytime schedule, or ruining night sleep.

Members-Only Nap Articles — And now, we’ve recently added a special members-only article on this very topic: 5 Practical, Hands-On Tips For Managing Common Nap Transitions. Learn our 5 top secrets for how to gently and painlessly navigate nap transitions, and help them happen in a way that preserves your child’s sleep while also preserving your own sanity! 😉

For more details about all our VIP Members Area benefits (including weekly chats with a trained sleep consultant and and “Ask the Author” feature), visit our DIY VIP Members Area page, and consider becoming a VIP Member today!

No matter how you decide to handle a nap transition, the first step is to be aware of any nap transitions that are coming your way. Once you know the signs of a nap transition, and are prepared for the scheduling chaos they can create, you’ll be able to plan for how you’re going to get through the transition itself.

How have you handled nap transitions with your baby or toddler?

The Baby Sleep Site® is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and other product affiliate programs. If you click on a product link and make a purchase, The Baby Sleep Site® may (but not always) receive a small commission from the company selling the product, but will not affect your purchase price. We only recommend products that we believe are quality products and are good for our readers.

Holistic Sleep Solutions from The Baby Sleep Site®

e-Book bundles

Do-It-Yourself: Just getting started with your research but you want to stop Googling? Choose from any of our e-Book bundles for practical advice you can put to use TODAY!  

Become a VIP Member

Do-It-Mostly-Yourself: Would you like to continue learning with the option of chatting with a sleep consultant? We have a perfect solution! Become a VIP Member for access to all of our premium content, “ask the author,” audio courses, live weekly chat, and more!

Get a Personalized Sleep Plan

Work With a Sleep Expert: Tap into over a decade of experience with thousands of families before you! Get a Personalized Sleep Plan® just for your unique situation, get guidance and answers to all your “what if?” questions while you work through your plan, and benefit from expert support along the way. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard “I wish I had done this sooner!” Not sure? Read these stories from well-rested parents.

Don’t lose another wink of sleep — GET STARTED TODAY with our gentler, kinder approach to healthy sleep!

Since starting in 2008, we’ve gained over 10,000 comments on our blog!

At this time, we’ve turned the comment sections off. We would, of course, love to hear from you! For help with your specific sleep problems, please learn more about our DIY resources or our sleep consultation services. Or, consider emailing us for a fast and helpful response!

5 thoughts on “Quick Tip: How To Tell If A Nap Transition Is Approaching”

  1. Thanks for the articles….I guess I’ll look up the sleep sacks and see what/how they might work. I’ve never had any problems until just the other day. When I ask him if he’s ready for nigh-nigh he usually starts down the hallway if you can believe that. I put him in the crib usually with a Sip Cup or bottle (wanting to stop that as well) and he is quite content to go to sleep. I suppose there are times he doesn’t want to nap and maybe that’s ahead; but at the same time it’s obvious when he is tired as he begins just aimlessly playing with anything, throwing things around and just discontent with things. I have a feeling the sleep sack will not be accepted well and knowing him, he’ll surely find a way out of it anyway! Ha! Thanks again!

  2. My 11-month old puts himself to sleep (no sleep associations), is night weaned, and usually sleeps 10 hours. Sleep training success! However, I never nap trained him. I have an older son and it was always just easier to nurse him to sleep and then put him in the crib asleep. I see now that this was a big mistake – nursing him to sleep has recently stopped working, and he basically only naps in the car now.

    I thought it would be easy to nap train him since he goes to sleep alone for bedtime – wrong! I have tried putting him down awake at the right nap times after a consistent and relaxing pre-nap routine and letting him cry for 30 minutes for several days. Even being consistent, he will just sit up and cry the entire time. Any tips? This guy is exhausted. He so needs to nap and I’m worried I’m past the window where I can successfully nap train him. HELP!

  3. I would look forward to your reply to this as I am not sure just how to address this. It’s been a long time since I had babies and don’t know that mine ever did climb out.


  4. I’m not quite getting the information about a toddler climbing out of his crib. I see nothing about discipline here. Transitioning to a bed doesn’t teach the child that it’s not okay to get out of his bed when it’s bedtime, especially at night. I share custody (which just recently began in early Nov) with my brother-in-law of his great-grandson and my great-great-nephew who is 19 months old. We are 73 and 68 respectively and so far it’s working out. However, I have been taking care of him pretty much every week since he was born – 2-3 days a week, and never had any issues with him sleeping. In fact, he still sleeps 10-12 hours at night when he’s with me. I don’t let him cry – nothing like that. However, when my brother-in-law began keeping him, he wakes up every night in the middle of the night and ends up in the bed with my brother-in-law. Then in another several days when he comes back to me, he sleeps right through the night. My BIL initially put him in a toddler bed which I told him was unwise and so the baby learned right off that he could get out and thus I feel began the ritual of getting up each night, even after the BIL got a crib. Now the baby has begun climbing out of my crib as well. I’m more strict about it and had considered a crib tent but read your definitive NO on those. The mattress is lowered as far as it can go. So now my opinion is that he needs to learn that he is not allowed to do that, but not sure how. It’s a safety thing for sure but also it’s all about boundaries and learning – just like you stated – as though he were climbing a bookshelf. I saw no real “solution” – other than transition to a bed, but how do you make an 19 month old stay in a bed? Frankly, I still am using a port-a-crib and recently found that the old-fashioned wooden gate fits perfectly over the top of it by laying it flat and putting the tension against each upper railing of the crib. It’s very secure, but not really a long-term solution of course. My BIL has just texted that he’s conceding that he is going to accept that the baby is a “toddler” and keeping him in a crib is not an option. Sleep sacks are out, tents are out, gates probably not an option as I’m planning on getting a full-size crib (though now I wonder); so what else is there? I don’t think “physical” punishment is acceptable either, but you can’t let a toddler roam around in the middle of the night either. Did I miss something?

    • Hi Leslie,
      Thanks for your comment and for visiting us at The Baby Sleep Site! I’m sorry that you and your BIL are having trouble with your 19 month-old leaving the crib. This can be a tough time for toddlers and sleep, as they’re gaining independence. We do have a few resources that I hope will help you.
      – We have an article all about how to handle a toddler climbing out of the crib here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/toddlers/toddler-climbing-out-of-crib-tips/
      From personal experience, let me echo the article’s suggestion to try a sleep sack! My almost 4 year-old is still in a crib and very happy about it, and I think the sleep sack is a big part of that 🙂
      – If you and/or your BIL do decide to transition to a bed (though it is a little early), we have an article about the best ways to do that here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/toddlers/toddler-transition-crib-to-bed-how-when/
      – Also, some families try a Montessori style floor bed, where a child has access to the room from a young age. The room does need to be very child-proofed. We have an article with more about that option here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/montessori-floor-beds-baby-toddler-sleep/

      I hope these will help you decide the best option for your family, but please do get in touch if you need further help! Our direct email is [email protected]. Thank you again for visiting!

Comments are closed.

FREE Guide: Five Ways To Help Your Child Sleep Through the Night

Join over 450,000 parents around the world & sign up today to receive the guide and our Baby Sleep Newsletter absolutely FREE!