Going from 1 nap to 0 naps is perhaps the most daunting of all the nap transitions. It can be really challenging to know if it’s really time to drop a nap. Especially when you’ve already endured nap regressions before at around one or two years of age. Once you’re considering losing naptime completely, you may be wondering if you should replace it with quiet time. Or, just keep your kiddo awake with you all day. And what about bedtime? Does that move earlier? Read on for a clear and simple guide on how to know when to go from 1 nap to no nap, and exactly how to do it.
The Best Time to Transition From 1-0 Naps
First, you want to make sure your kiddo is really ready to drop their nap. My advice is to NOT attempt to drop your child’s nap prior to 3 years of age. Even if they are refusing their daily nap. And even if they simply remain awake in their crib (nap striking) for their entire nap. It is best to let them do this for at least an hour a day through to their third birthday.
As long as your child is safe, it’s best to keep giving them the opportunity to nap even if they rarely/never take it. Many kids will nap strike for weeks (or even months) before the age of three. Only to then go back to napping soundly for another several months. If by 3 years old your child is still consistently nap striking, here are your next steps for going from 1-0 naps.
Signs Your Child is Ready to Drop Their Nap
Part of the reason it’s so hard to know if it’s the right time for a child to drop their nap is because the signs aren’t always clear. Some kids would happily nap 3 hours a day…but are then unable to fall asleep for bedtime until beyond 10 pm*. Or they want to nap, but not until after 1:30 pm. Or, perhaps as discussed above, they refuse to fall asleep and are awake when they should be napping. Finally, some kids nap each day and fall asleep easily at bedtime, but wake consistently at or before the 5 am hour. If your child is over the age of three and showing any of these signs… it’s time to accept that their nap may be negatively impacting their sleep.
Before you attempt to drop the nap, it’s acceptable to reduce nap length by 15 minutes every 4-5 days until you reach as little as an hour long nap. This may be all you need to help whatever issue you’re having. With kids that fight falling asleep at night due to their nap, know that a nap of any length may make it impossible for them to fall asleep at a decent hour come bedtime.
So if your child is:
- At least 2.5 years of age,
- Exhibiting any of the above struggles,
- And reducing nap lengths does not help after several weeks…
…it’s time to go from 1 nap to 0.
*It is not abnormal for napping toddlers to take 60-90 minutes of rolling around (or talking or playing) alone before falling asleep for bedtime. This alone should not be a reason to drop your child’s nap. I repeat, it is normal and OK for your toddler to “hang out” or “wind down” in bed for up to 90 minutes before falling asleep.
If your child is:
- Taking longer than 90 minutes to fall asleep for bedtime
- AND isn’t falling asleep until later than 10 pm each night
- (And fits the other criteria mentioned above),
…then follow the guidelines below for dropping the nap.
Start To Transition Slowly – “Off” and “On” Days
The following directions apply even if your child is in the “nap strike stage” of rarely, if ever, falling asleep for their naps. Once you feel it’s time to drop your child’s nap, start with one day “off” and one day “on.” An “off” day is when you skip the nap attempt entirely one day. Instead, you keep them out of the crib, or bed all day long. Follow this with an “on” day where you allow them to stay in their crib for their usual “nap attempt” time of one hour.
On the “off” days, don’t move bedtime earlier. (This is assuming bedtime is regularly happening around 8 or 9 pm, or slightly earlier). Most importantly, do NOT allow your child to fall asleep in the car, or somewhere else in the afternoon on “off” days. Allowing naps-on-the-go will make your child fight bedtime, wake overnight, or both. This then defeats the entire purpose of trying to systematically drop from 1 to 0 naps.
After one day “off” and one day “on,” move to two days “off” with only one day “on.” Meaning, you would do two “off” days in a row of skipping the nap attempt, followed by one “on” day. Then, 3 “off” days followed by 1 “on.” Then four “off”, 1 “on.” Continue adding more “off” days until you reach 7-10 in a row with no “on” days.
Monday – Off / No Nap
Tuesday – On / Nap
Wednesday – Off / No Nap
Thursday – Off / No Nap
Friday – On / Nap
Saturday – Off / No Nap
Sunday – Off / No Nap
Monday – Off / No Nap
Tuesday – On / Nap …and so on!
Please be extremely mindful of keeping your child from sleeping in the late afternoon on days where there has been no nap attempt in the crib or bed. Do what you need to do to keep them awake in the later afternoon. We swear by play baths or going outside!
If you find that your toddler begins to fall asleep again on their “on” day – you can choose to stay where you’re at with that “off” and “on” schedule. For example, if after 3 “off” days, your child actually falls asleep on their next “on” day, you can repeat 3 “off” days again, followed by one “on” day. Continue until nap striking occurs again.
Why the “on” and “off” system for dropping the daily nap?
When children are still used to occasionally napping, stopping all nap suddenly may cause aggregate sleep debt during the day. At first, your child might be fine, but I’ve found shocking the system that way can lead to incredibly unhappy and fussy kids after a few days of no naps. It’s best to “ease” your way out of napping, and give your child’s system a bit of time to adjust. Remember on “on” days to only allow your child to nap a maximum of 90 minutes.
Bedtime and Quiet Time
Many families are actually happy to drop the nap because it means their child is ready to go to bed at an earlier hour. As long as your child continues to sleep until at least 6 am or later, bedtime can be as early as 7 or 8 pm. Meaning, if your child is not napping, but is still waking before 6 am, try to keep their bedtime at at least 7:30 or 8 pm. This encourages them to sleep in until at least 6 am each morning.
Once your child goes 7-10 in a row of “off” days, you can elect whether to keep your child with you all day, or start a “quiet” time. It’s important that you decide early on in the process of dropping to 0 naps if you’d like your child to have daily quiet time, because quiet time will simply replace your child’s “on” days.
How to start quiet time
Once your child has dropped their naps, take them to their room and tell them, “You don’t need to sleep, but you need to rest.” Then use a toddler clock to let your child know when rest time is over. They may resist, but as long as you are certain they are safe, and their room is 100% child proofed, allow them to stay in their room with the door closed. (You can use a child proof door knob cover on their side of the door if you feel comfortable doing so.) You’ll want to do this for the full duration of quiet time.
If your child is resistant to quiet time, try starting with 15 minutes, and adding 3-4 minutes every 3-4 days. (The toddler clock is an essential tool here so your child knows when quiet time is over.) Praise them heavily at the end of quiet time, and reward them with a sticker or marshmallow, or whatever small object or treat you feel is appropriate. Make the end goal one hour of quiet time each day where your child either rests, or plays and entertains themselves independently. It’s best to avoid allowing any access to screens during quiet time in order to encourage this independent play.
- Keep attempting one daily nap for at least 60 minutes until your toddler is around 3 years old.
- When it’s time to transition to no nap, start with one day “off” followed by one day “on.”
- Continue adding one more “off” day before your next “on” day until you reach 7-10 “off” days in a row.
- Don’t let your toddler fall asleep on-the-go, or take a cat nap in the afternoon on “off” days. (THIS IS VITAL!)
- Take heart, and institute quiet time!
If you would like more age-appropriate info to solve your baby’s sleep issues straight to your inbox, sign up for my newsletter!