Just when you think you’ve finally got a grasp on your baby’s routine and habits, things start to change. It starts with a little bit of grouching at nap time, which eventually blows into a full-blown refusal to settle down. Next thing you know, you have to restructure the entire day. So, how do you drop a nap without engendering the kind of meltdowns that give grumpy babies a bad rap?
Midwife and family health nurse Elizabeth Beavon says it’s important to remember your baby has her own sleep pattern, and might need more than what’s typical in her age range. So, don’t try to force her to sleep if it’s clear she doesn’t want to. “On average, babies between 4 and 6 months need 3 naps a day. This drops to 2 naps a day between 6 and 12 months. From 12 months, they generally only need 1 nap per day the age of 4.”
It’s not always clear cut, though, she warns. Although your baby’s nap schedule may run like clockwork from the time she is 3 months old, expect this to change once she starts bustling around the age of 6 months. The naps you’ve become accustomed to may lengthen out – you may even find she snoozes for 90- 120 minutes. Once she’s a year old, she may still require an afternoon power nap after her long midday sleep, but then again, she might be fully energised with just 1 nap after lunch. It’s likely she’ll maintain this until she’s 3 or 4.
Signs your baby is ready to drop a nap
You can tell she’s ready to drop a nap because she’ll start fighting you when it’s time to go down. It’s fine to follow her lead, as long as she’s sleeping well at night. But, says Elizabeth, if she’s showing signs that she’s not sleeping enough, you may need to reintroduce that dropped nap for a few days, until your little one has settled into the new routine. Look out for yawning, irritableness, eye rubbing, fretfulness, a loss of interest in play and general clumsiness. If she’s still making it clear that sleep is a no-go, give her some quiet time rather than a proper nap, or bring her bedtime forward.
Dos and don’ts of dropping a nap
Elizabeth suggests the following tips to help cut down on crankiness during sleep transition phases:
- Follow a solid routine, with set times for meals, play, quiet time, walks and bathing.
- Get plenty of fresh air and physical activity.
- Prepare for naps with quiet play, a drink and a nappy change.
- Allow around 10 minutes to help your baby settle herself.
- Leave the bedroom door ajar while she’s sleeping so she can hear the comforting sounds of regular household activities, like the vacuum cleaner. Remember to keep your phone or the TV turned down, though.
More about the expert:
Elizabeth Beavon is a midwife and family health nurse. She is passionate about nurturing families and committed to making a positive difference in all aspects of their health and well-being. Learn more about Elizabeth Beavon here.
In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.