As your little one grows and develops, his daytime sleep requirements change. It seems just about the time you’ve got this whole nap schedule routine figured out, it’s time to alter it again and your baby is ready to drop a nap.
[If you are not sure if your little one is ready to drop a nap, please check out 5 Signs It’s Time to Drop a Nap.]
Here are your 6 steps to dropping that nap:
1) Gradually push your baby to stay awake just a bit longer.
Start with 10-15 minutes later than his normal nap time. Our goal is NOT to push him into an overtired mess, but just ever-so-gently widen his awake time (also referred to as his “wake window”).
To see appropriate wake windows for your baby’s age, visit Nap Schedules: 5 Months to 25 Months.
2) Change your baby’s activity when you start to see sleepy cues.
As babies begin to get tired, you’ll start to see rubbing of the eyes, yawning, blank stares, and even some fussiness. When this begins, it’s time for you to become more involved.
For example, your baby was playing on the floor having tummy time and begins to flash those signs of being tired. It’s time for you to get creative. (Remember our goal: Help him stay awake just a bit longer.) Now would be a great time to go outside and count how many trees are in your front yard, distract him with a toy that he hasn’t seen in a while, or stand at the sink and let him splash in the water. You are simply telling his little brain, “Let’s stay awake just a bit longer.”
Pushing these wake windows sometimes requires creativity, and it definitely requires you to be actively involved for that little stretch. Want to see real-life examples of moms stretching wake windows? This video can help:
(Video from highlighted stories on Taking Cara Babies’ Instagram)
3) Expose your baby to light while she’s awake.
Light stimulates your baby’s brain and signals that it’s time to be alert. If possible, GET OUTSIDE. Babies exposed to natural sunlight while awake tend to be better sleepers. If the weather keeps you inside, then open the blinds and turn on the lights.
4) On the other hand, when it’s time to sleep, cut the light.
Darkness sends a signal to your baby’s body that it’s time to sleep. Make it REALLY dark at naptime; block out all light (use code Cara for 10% off) in the baby’s nursery! No, I mean ALL light. If you can see your hand in front of your face, it’s not dark enough. A bit of light seeping through the blinds can end naps prematurely and wreak havoc on your entire day.
Expert Tip: I understand that you may worry that your baby will need “cave-like conditions” for sleep. You can start adding in more light later if that’s your concern. Right now, we are attempting to help set up a new nap schedule and darkness is so helpful!
Constantly struggling with 30-45 minute naps? Check out 10 Questions to Ask if Your Little One is Struggling with Short Naps.
5) Be flexible with bedtime.
Yes, a 7-8pm bedtime is best for most babies beyond the newborn stage, but as you’re adjusting nap times, you may find that your little one can’t make it much past 6:00pm. That's an acceptable bedtime during a nap transition. Please know, we don't want an overtired baby.
On the other hand, you could find that your baby took an unexpected snooze late in the day and bedtime needs to be later than normal. Both are OKAY! As you gradually adjust and drop the nap, bedtime will become more predictable.
6) Maintain a consistent bedtime and naptime routine.
This consistency cues your baby that sleep is coming. Often, this little ritual prior to sleep is the most important part of altering her daytime schedule. Remember, she doesn’t know the time on the clock; she just knows the activities that happen before sleep. This routine doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply do the same activities in the same order in the same place.
If you're struggling, know that I have classes and resources to help you with nights and naps based on your baby's developmental age. Give yourself and your baby some grace. Transitions are hard on everyone and can really take some time.