There a few key things that you need to look out for and these need to happen for several days in a row before you decide to transition/drop a nap.
BETWEEN 6-8 MONTHS YOUR BABY WILL DROP FROM 3 NAPS TO 2If your baby has consolidated their napping and they are doing at least one good long nap as well as a shorter one then they will find it easier to transition to two naps. This transition is also quicker for babies who are having their longer nap as the second one, rather than the long nap being the first/morning nap.
If your baby is having a long nap in the morning followed by a shorter one later on in the day, it can mean they're lasting from late morning to bedtime in the evening, with only 45 minutes of sleep in that period - this can cause your baby to be very overtired by bedtime, which in turn then affects their night time sleep. I highly suggest making the morning nap the shorter of the two so that your baby will have a long, consolidated lunchtime nap to get them through to bedtime without becoming overtired.
When transitioning take it day by day - some days your baby may still need three naps, some days they may only need two. Usually by 8 months most babies are napping well enough their naps become more predictable so you can do away with the third nap altogether.
I suggest while your baby is transitioning to that long stretch of awake time in the afternoon that you bring bedtime 1/2 an hour to one hour forward so that your little one does not get overtired. You can then gradually extend bedtime out again in small intervals over the next month or so.
TWO NAPS TO ONE - 15 TO 18 MONTHS
Between 15-18 months your baby will be ready to drop from two naps to one. This takes longer than the transition from three to two naps. Your baby might have two naps one day and then one nap the next for a couple of months before they are ready to consistently be on one nap. They may have one nap for a couple of days in a row and then suddenly need two naps. The key is to watch your bub and assess whether they need that short morning nap to avoid them getting overtired.
NO NAPS - 2.5 TO 3 YEARS
This is a tricky time in a toddler's life - toddlers are busy little people who expend a lot of energy! As they get older they need less and less sleep in the day. By the time they are 2 they should only be having a maximum of 1.5 hours sleep at nap time and by 2.5 years this should reduce to 1 hour.
If your toddler has been resisting bedtime or difficult to settle for their nap or waking early in the morning, it may be time to start getting rid of the nap. You can replace the nap with a period of quiet time in your toddler’s room so they are still having some important down time even if they are not sleeping.
As the nap is dropped altogether bedtime needs to be brought forward as your toddler will be exhausted by the end of the day!
And as with the two to one nap transition, you may decide that some days your toddler needs a "catchup" nap while making the transition. Expect your little person to be extremely tired and grumpy by bedtime as they make the transition - it is not easy for them to go from sleeping in the day to not sleeping at all.
Lauryn Stanlake - Infant and Child Sleep Consultant