Is your child ready to transition to one nap? As a pediatric sleep consultant, I’m committed to resolving your child’s sleep habits and in this post, I’m sharing all about the 2 to 1 nap transition.
Transitioning to one nap is going to be so freeing for you and I want you to be able to enjoy it, but before your drop the morning and afternoon nap, I want to make sure that your child is ready to lengthen those two naps into one afternoon nap.
Before we talk about strategy, I am going to just assume that your little one has independent sleep skills. That’s an important foundation— we cannot talk about how to make a change in naps unless your little one knows how to sleep independently.
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So, assuming your little one does sleep independently, the 2-to-1 nap transition happens roughly around 12 and 14 months. Your baby who is becoming a toddler is ready to go down to one nap. Now, 12 to 14 months of age is the average time for your child to switch to one nap (the earliest I’ve ever recommended it was 9 months, but this is rare).
If your little one is about 12 months or up to 14 months, are they going down for their early nap with no problems? Great! But, if the afternoon nap comes and they are fighting you and playing in their bed, then you might be ready for the transition.
If they are rejecting that second nap and/or protesting for a good five out of seven days for two weeks, it’s probably time to make a change.
Every child is different! My second child rejected her first nap of the day and slept fine for her afternoon nap, so it’s not always exactly the same, but in general, if you start to see them reject either the morning or afternoon nap, that may be a good sign they are ready to transition to a one nap schedule.
Another sign is that they will take two naps, but they are mega short (like 30-45 minutes). What we are hoping for is that they will consolidate those two short naps into one long midday nap with a minimum of 90 minutes of sleep. Ideally, they are sleeping at most 2.5 hours, but 1.5 hours is a great start.
Another dreaded sign is although your little one is taking two GOOD naps, they are waking early in the morning. I’m talking like 4-5 AM. They are getting TOO much daytime sleep so they are ready to start the day early. This is NOT ideal! You can read more about problem-solving early waking here!
Sometimes you can make the transition easily during daylight savings or travel and go ‘cold turkey.’ Your daycare may move them up to an older class that only naps once a day, or you are traveling and want to enjoy a vacation without worrying about two naps a day! It can work! My girls dropped their naps during a California vacation and they had a beautiful transition, always fine. All is well. They still sleep 12 hours a night to this day, so that’s okay too. So whether you want to actually force your child to one now because they have great sleep skills, or maybe a life situation or circumstance that you want to get them to one nap, go for it.
I would like for your child’s midday nap to be anywhere between 12 and 1 pm. Usually, we’re looking at a 12:00 or 12:30 pm, but there are some daycare situations out of your control. Or if your child has an 8 or 9 am wake time, we want to go with a 1 pm naptime. 1 pm is the latest I would go—very rarely do I see toddlers who eagerly go down for a nap at 1:30 p.m. Why? Because they get a second wind because they’re overtired and you’re working against their natural rhythm.
So please don’t try for a nap after 1 pm! I know there are circumstances where school pickup and the rush home can interfere, but aim for as close to 1 pm as possible in that case.
Now, I recently had a family asked me, but, “When am I supposed to feed my child lunch?” The answer to that is right before their nap. So depending on how slow or fast your child eats, I want you to offer them their lunch and then immediately put them down for their nap. Because if we linger too long, they will often get a second wind from that delicious lunch.
Right after they eat lunch, wipe them down, clean them up, go to their room, and put them to bed!
Bedtime routines benefit everyone! I would like for you to continue your nap time routine. That might be changing their diaper, putting on their sleep slack, and reading a book. You might also consider putting them in their pajamas now too because although cute, those stylish baby jeans may not be very comfortable or cozy. Your nap time routine should take no longer than 5 to 10 minutes.
Now that you have your goal time in mind, let’s back up and answer how we slowly transition into one nap with their first morning nap. What I want you to look at is every two days, you are going to push their morning nap forward by 30 minutes.
So let’s say your little one takes a nap at 9:30 am. The next day, push that morning nap to 10:00, then two days later, 10:30, and so forth until you reach your naptime goal. Please don’t stop at 11 or 11:30 am, because they can get stuck at the time! Just keep pushing it forward until as close to 12 or 12:30 as possible. It generally takes a week to get there.
What if my child takes a short nap? What do I do? Well, that actually is pretty common, just like the 3 to 2 nap transition. I work really hard to avoid overtiredness, but sometimes it is unavoidable. You just have to face it head-on.
Your little one is going to be overtired. First of all, don’t go out in the car or stroller ride. Keep them at home or keep them with the sitter and offer them a snack like fruit with natural sugar to keep them going. Don’t offer any sippy cups or bottles of milk. We don’t want to create a sleep association with milk. As you push your child later and later, they’re going to be showing you sleep cues all over the place like rubbing their eyes and yawning but don’t give in. Your child is probably going to take short naps at the beginning of this because your child is overtired. That’s normal, but they will eventually lengthen that to a nice, long nap. If they are on the younger side of the transition, say around 13 months old, and only slept from 11 to 11:30, you can offer them a short 20-30 minute cat nap to help them make it to bed.
It’s going to take your child about 4 to 6 weeks to adjust to a one-nap schedule. Thankfully, they will keep this schedule until they are around 3 years old.
Now, if you have the chance to do an early bedtime, that’s always nice as well. And when I say early bedtime, if your goal is normally 7 PM for bedtime during a nap transition, it’s actually quite a wonderful gift to give them an early bedtime, like 30 minutes earlier to help them through their overtiredness.
The next thing I want to address is what about those times where you have an appointment in the middle of the day like life’s gonna happen? What do you do? Perpahs you can call in a sitter. But, if that’s not an option, then you might have to do a stroller or car nap! It will be OK with an early bedtime.
What if you have one nap and then your child is waking up early in the morning? What do you do? At this age, I have to do some checks here. I have a whole blog post about early waking for toddlers. Around this age, your child is going through a lot of transitions—dropping bottles, using a sippy cup, learning to walk, and more! It might disrupt some of their sleep, but let’s celebrate the fact that your child is growing and thriving. You’re doing all the right things.
So as we make this transition from 2 to 1 nap, the reason I ask you to track naps is often during a developmental leap like walking or learning a new skill, they will practice in their crib. Give them some time and it may even out. Hold fast to a consistent morning time so your child doesn’t get used to getting up at an earlier time.
If you’re reading this and you’re like, “My child is doing great on two naps. They’re getting three hours a day between their two naps or getting 11-12 hours at night.” Keep going, and don’t change it until they are showing signs! When it is time, hopefully, these tools can help your child make the transition.
Sweet Dreams, see ya next time!
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