There’s no exact age your little one will stop napping: it’s generally between ages three and five, but for some, it could be much sooner.
There’s a golden time of the day when all goes quiet, and you can finally sit on the couch and relax. That time of day is your toddler’s nap time, and believe us when we say, those precious few minutes (and hours if you’re lucky) are welcomed with open arms. However, what happens when your usually sleepy-by-2 pm tot decides that sleep is for the birds, and won’t close their eyes?
There are ages when this typically happens, for instance at nine months, many babies start to drop the late afternoon sleep. So your little one goes from three sleeps a day down to two sleeps and has to stretch his awake time in the late afternoon to make it all the way to bedtime. These stages are called cusp ages and are typically when your baby starts to drop a day sleep.
We chat with Meg Faure, the co-author of the best-selling Baby Sense and other ‘Sense-series books’ on daytime naps in the toddler years.
When is the first cusp age and what should parents expect?
In the toddler years, the first cusp age is at 12 to 14 months. At around a year of age, your baby will still be having two sleeps – a mid-morning sleep of about 45 to 90 minutes and an early afternoon sleep of up to two hours.
When your toddler starts to refuse to fall asleep or plays in his cot for an hour in the afternoon before falling asleep or demanding to be picked up, he has probably reached a cusp age. To manage this cusp age, drop the morning nap and put your toddler down at 11 am for a good two-hour sleep. Offer a substantial snack or even mini-lunch at 10:30 and then put him down at 11 am. The difficult part is that when he wakes, he will need to stay awake until bedtime.
Since a one-year-old still needs a little more sleep than this, alternate the days of one sleep with days of two sleeps until he copes better with the new routine of one midday sleep. From 18 months you can move the single day sleep a little later – to after lunch. Offer lunch at 11:30 and put your toddler down at 12pm. This routine stays all the way through the toddler years.
When to limit day sleep
Do not limit the length of your toddler’s day sleep if he sleeps well at night. At around three years of age, your toddler may start waking in the middle of the night and not wanting to resettle for up to an hour. This may be an indication that your toddler is having too long a day sleep. In this case, limit the day sleep to one to one-and-a-half hours and then wake your little one.
Ditching day sleeps altogether
The question about when to drop day sleeps altogether cannot be answered rigidly as every little one is different. Some three-year-olds drop their day sleeps and cope well to bedtime and some preschoolers need that day sleep all the way to five years old. Follow your toddler’s lead on when to drop this sleep.
The signs that he is ready to drop a sleep are when your toddler lies awake at day sleep time chatting for an hour or if he can’t fall asleep at night until after 8 pm, having been put down at 7 pm.