When transitioning through naps can be a problem:
Here's what you should do (and not do!) to help support your baby during a nap transition:
Keep as many naps, as long as you can. What I mean here is that even though there may have been a time or two when your baby skipped a nap or didn’t nap as well as you’re used to, jumping right to dropping a nap is unlikely to be the answer. So, what can you do instead? Provide an opportunity for that nap to happen when circumstances allow, like for instance on the weekends at home if a nap is dropped while at daycare, or on days when naps somehow weren’t as long as usual, so getting that 3rd nap in will be key to helping baby get to bedtime, for example.
Speaking of, when it comes to dropping that last nap of the day, it’s good to have a cut-off time for when daytime sleep should end and time to switch to bedtime mode.
This time frame is usually around 5:30pm for babies under 6 months, or 5pm for those over 6 months. So, you’ll be deciding on whether or not you’ll be aiming to put your baby down for another nap or bedtime, based on how long they typically stay awake for at that time and when they woke from their last nap - can you conceivably help your baby to fall asleep and know they’ll wake up again (from at least a 20-30 minute cat nap) by 5pm? Then go for the nap. If the answer is No, then opt instead for an early bedtime!
And this definitely needs to happen when naps are being dropped. This is the 2nd thing you should do to help support your baby through a nap transition is to bring bedtime forward by at least an hour on days when that last nap is missed. This is essential to ensuring your baby doesn’t get too overtired which can lead to tougher bedtimes, more frequent overnight wake-ups or an earlier than desired morning wake-up call!
The thing with the 2 to 1 nap transition is it’s not the last nap of the day that’s actually being dropped, it’s the first. But while many babies will wake early enough that waiting until midday to get some shut-eye again is just too long of a stretch, so they end up with a later morning nap which creeps too late into the morning, pushing that afternoon nap back to start too late in the afternoon, making it so baby ends up skipping this afternoon nap. And then they're loosing their minds by late afternoon and bedtime either also goes to shit or they do pass out pretty well but then they’re up all night or waking super early again, continuing with the cycle of crap naps!
So, what should you do? Cap that morning nap. This is one of the only times I would say to cap a nap to ensure that afternoon nap is had. It’s that afternoon nap that needs to stick around and it’s that afternoon nap that will keep them from losing their shit!
While the timing of this can look different for different babies, but depending on the situation I’ll generally advise to cut off the morning nap by 10:30p-10:45am to ensure a 1:30-2pm start to the 2nd nap. Usually this is about as late as you can go (just to START the 2nd nap) without it messing with bedtime and most babies will still be able to get to sleep by then.
IF THIS MEANS YOU HAVE TO WAKE THEM UP BY A CERTAIN TIME IN THE MORNING, THEN DO IT.