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How to Drop the Kid Nap Like a Pro

Sleep expert Heather Turgeon, co-author of "The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night's Sleep—Newborn to School Age," will fix your family's sleep problems in this space as she does in her home consultations. Turgeon's solutions are nonjudgmental, kind and—best of all—based on science.

No situation is too challenging. Leave your sleep problem in the comments. Let's all get a good night's sleep, finally.

Dear Heather,

How do I know when it’s time to drop the nap? My 3-year-old only naps half the time and, when she does, her bedtime is much later. Should she stop napping completely?

Nap or Not

Dear Nap or Not,

It’s a puzzle! Let’s figure it out, because there isn’t a set age when kids should stop napping. To nap or not to nap depends on your child's schedule and individual sleep needs (some kids need slightly more or less sleep, just like adults).

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First, kids 3 to 5 years old need 11 to 13 hours total sleep in 24 hours. Three-year-olds are on the young side of that spectrum, so let’s say the average kid this age needs 12 to 13 hours. Your 3-year-old could nap for two hours and sleep 10 to 11 hours at night. Or, she could stop napping and sleep 12 hours at night consistently. Often when kids stop napping, they get the same total sleep, but consolidated into the nighttime.

Signs your little one is ready to make that jump are:

1. She’s at least 3 (closer to 3.5).

2. She lays calm but awake in her crib or bed for 1 to 2 weeks straight. This doesn’t mean she’s jumping out of bed (which is more of a protest than a genuine not-tiredness). Rather, you'll notice she’s laying there or quietly playing, but she’s awake.

3. When she does nap, she can’t fall asleep until 9 p.m.

4. If she sleeps 12 hours at night but doesn’t nap, she holds it together pretty well and seems alert and happy in the afternoon and evening.

RELATED: Sleep Expert Warns Against This Toddler Bed Pitfall

The key is that if you do decide to drop the nap, your preschooler needs a super early and consistent bedtime—7 p.m. or even a little earlier. If you can’t accommodate that, it’s better to keep the nap in place, so she can make up for lost nighttime sleep during the day. The biggest mistake would be to drop the nap but have her get to bed at 8 p.m.—unless she’s one of those rare kids who can sleep in till 8 a.m.

Sleep happy,

Heather

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