If you have a 12 to 14 month old, it’s time to listen up, because your young toddler is likely ready for the 2 to 1 nap transition.
By the end of this nap transition, your little one will remain on the same nap schedule until they are close to three years old – that’s worth celebrating!
In this video and post I’m going to walk you through what the 2 to 1 nap transition looks like, the signs of readiness to look out for, what your new 1-nap schedule will look like, and what to do with your toddler during their newly expanded wake windows!
First of all, happy belated birthday to your little one!
Believe it or not, your sweet little baby is now a young toddler.
It’s crazy that one day your baby is drinking from bottles and crawling around and the next day they’ve dropped their bottles and are taking their first steps!
It’s safe to say that your baby experiences a lot of changes around their first birthday.
Because of that, it’s normal to feel like you still have to hold on to their 2-nap schedule.
You may feel like they are still “too young” and they just aren’t ready for the 2 to 1 nap transition yet.
However, I want to encourage you to recognize that your baby is growing and changing every day and that means that their sleep needs are changing, too!
The 1-nap schedule should be exciting for you because it’s going to help your child with so many aspects of their blossoming toddlerhood and overall development.
***By the way, if you have a child who is not between 12-14 months old, but you would still like a schedule, I’ve got you covered. Check out our FREE schedule generator HERE and share this tool with a friend.
So how do you know if your young toddler is truly ready for the 1-nap schedule?
There are three signs you should be looking for when considering the 2 to 1 nap transition.
You might experience a couple of these signs together or just one of them.
Your little one starts to wake up at 4:00AM, 5:00AM, or 6:00 AM and they are ready to go for the day. It’s common for this to begin happening around 12 to 13 months old.
Your little one’s body is anticipating the naps they are going to have during the day. Because they are beginning to need more awake time, their body begins to rise early because they need to build more sleep pressure before their first nap in the morning.
It’s as if their little body is realizing, “I know I’m going to have two naps today, but if I actually get up at 7:00AM, I won’t be ready for my 9:30AM nap, so I’m going to wake up earlier so I can build more sleep pressure.”
This idea isn’t unique to toddlers. In fact, all of us have to be awake for a certain amount of time before our bodies are ready to engage in restorative sleep.
The “weight” of tiredness that we feel before going to bed at night is called sleep pressure. Sleep pressure is accumulated by being awake for a certain amount of time before you sleep again.
Everyone accumulates sleep pressure by being awake. You and I can’t just lay down and go to sleep for eight+ hours whenever we want to, and neither can your baby or toddler!
We have to be awake an appropriate amount throughout the day so that we can sleep through the night.
If your toddler is supposed to have a certain amount of awake time, but they aren’t receiving that awake time outside of their crib, then they are going to make up for that awake time by waking up early in the morning.
Around 12-14 months of age, it’s common for young toddlers to begin to take a great mid-morning nap but then protest or skip their mid-afternoon nap. You might find that when you put them into their crib for their nap they are rolling around, babbling, fussing, or even playing instead of sleeping! If this is the case for your toddler, it is likely time to consolidate their two naps into one, midday nap.
Maybe your child is falling asleep beautifully for both of their naps, but they are taking a short 30-40 minute second nap and/or are taking a long time (more than 15 minutes) to fall asleep at bedtime. If either of these scenarios are happening with your toddler, I would highly recommend transitioning them to the 1-nap schedule.
If any of the signs above resonate with your toddler and you’ve seen them consistently for over two weeks, then it’s time to tackle the 2 to 1 nap transition.
It’s time to push the morning nap into the middle of the day and remove the afternoon nap altogether.
Your new 1-nap schedule will contain one, long midday nap. We don’t want a late morning or a late afternoon nap.
Rather, we want the nap to be in the middle of the day, right in the middle of your toddler’s newly expanded wake windows, so that everybody has some time to rest and recharge.
Your child will need this midday nap until they are roughly three years old.
On the 1-nap schedule you are aiming for 4.5-5 hour maximum wake windows before and after the nap.
The final goal of the 2 to 1 nap transition is to have a midday, 2-2.5 hour nap with 5 hours of awake time before nap and a 4.5 hours of awake time before bedtime.
It’s important to know that you can’t instantly push your child into a 1-nap schedule.
They can’t be taking a 9:30AM nap one day and then the next day start taking a 12:00PM nap.
Instead, you are going to want to slowly move their morning nap to the middle of the day.
***If your toddler is not sleeping very well, and you’re experiencing broken sleep throughout the night time, it’s perfectly possible to sleep train AND make the 2-1 transition all at once! Simply pair my Baby Sleep Program HERE with the 1-nap schedule I talk about in this post, and sleep really can become a thing for you and your whole family.***
At the beginning of this transition, you are going to shift your child’s morning nap to the middle of the day using 30-minute increments. You will slowly push their morning nap later every two days until it’s eventually right in the middle of the day.
For example, if your child has been taking a 9:30AM nap you will move their nap to 10:00AM for two days, then to 10:30AM for two days, then to 11:00AM for two days, then to 11:30AM for two days and then finally 12:00PM.
I do not recommend making this nap transition cold turkey. You could certainly try it cold turkey, but you will likely have a very cranky, overtired toddler on your hands.
Above all else, here’s my biggest piece of advice for the 2 to 1 nap transition.
Keep pushing your child’s nap to the midday, “target” nap time.
Don’t stop pushing your child’s nap later just because they are taking a 2-2.5 hour nap.
You might find that at 11:00AM your child is sleeping for 2-2.5 hours. Perfect, right?
Not exactly – if you keep your child’s nap at 11:00AM, it’s actually going to cause their bedtime to shift earlier, which will then lead to them waking earlier in the morning – a vicious “early bedtime” cycle.
Keep pushing your child’s nap later into the afternoon until your little one has a solid, 5 hour wake window in the morning.
Here is a snapshot of the 1-nap schedule:
Use the above 7-7 schedule to build your child’s schedule according to when they wake in the morning and when they go to bed.
Now that we’ve covered the schedule details, let’s talk more about the length of your child’s nap.
This transition is a big adjustment and it takes time.
In reality, you should expect your child to be overtired during this transition.
Their body is learning to consolidate their sleep into one, long nap, and the longer wake windows can lead them to feel very tired at first.
Because your child will experience some over-tiredness, it’s very likely that during the first two weeks of the transition (especially when you’re moving the nap back by 30 minute increments) your child won’t sleep the full 2-2.5 hours for their nap.
If they wake up before the 2-2.5 hour mark and are visibly upset, or crying and wanting to get out of their crib, you can wait a few minutes and then go ahead and get them up and move on with your day.
If they wake up before the 2-2.5 hour mark and they are playing with their stuffed animal, rolling around, or dozing off and on, then allow them to remain in their crib for the full 2.5 hours.
Letting them rest and doze in their crib is helpful and counts for something.
You should always aim for a full 2.5 hour nap, but sometimes a shorter nap can be okay.
Some toddlers take a solid 2 hour nap and they are happy, healthy, and well-rested for the remainder of their day.
The very bare minimum length for a 1-nap schedule would be a 1.5 hour nap. Anything shorter than this will undoubtedly leave your toddler overtired which will likely lead to issues during bedtime or throughout the night.
On the other end of the nap length spectrum, 2.5 hours is the maximum length we want for the 1-nap schedule.
For some of you, that may mean that you need to wake your child up at the 2.5 hour mark.
I know some of you are thinking, “Wake my child up, Becca?!?”
Yes! Your toddler should not be sleeping for 3-3.5 hours during the day.
It’s a simple math equation.
If your child sleeps too much during the day, it will take away from their night time sleep.
Wake your child up from their midday nap so they can have an adequate length wake window before bedtime and a great night of sleep.
Let’s take a look at some quick facts regarding the 2 to 1 nap transition.
Quick fact #1: The 2 to 1 nap transition happens between 12 to 14 months old. Use this window of age as a guide when making this transition with your child.
Quick fact #2: Aim for a 2.5 hour nap. If it’s shorter, that might be okay, but we want a minimum of 1.5 hours. Ideally, your toddler’s nap should be 2-2.5 hours in length.
Quick fact #3: The second nap simply disappears during the 2-1 nap transition.
Quick fact #4: Once you complete the 2 to 1 nap transition, your child’s 1-nap schedule can be used for the next few years! You won’t have to make any transitions until they are closer to 3 years old.
The 2 to 1 nap transition can take 4-6 weeks. Remember to be patient with your toddler and yourself. Everyone needs time to acclimate and adjust to the longer wake windows and the new schedule.
Speaking of longer wake windows, I’m sure you are now wondering what you are supposed to do during the new, longer wake windows – 4.5-5 hours is a lot of awake time!
The best thing you can do as you and your child adjust to more awake time during the 2-1 nap transition is to go outside.
Whether you live in a place where the weather is warm and ideal, or you need to bundle up to enjoy the great outdoors, exposing your child to sunlight and fresh air will help to energize them to their new, later nap time.
When you go outside, be careful that your child is not falling asleep (or getting drowsy) in the car or the stroller because that will hinder or even possibly ruin their nap.
Be sure to engage your child in things like outside play, music, story time at the library, mid-morning snacks, and whatever you can do to push and energize them through to their new, midday nap time.
Okay, now let’s talk about what to do if your little one does take a short nap as they adjust to the new schedule. If your toddler only sleeps for 1.5 hours total, they are going to likely be cranky and overtired.
If you find that your toddler is overtired from their short nap, Then you may need to offer a tiny, on-the-go catnap.
This catnap should be on the go and not in their crib or on you.
Take a quick drive to do an errand quick errand, or pop them in the stroller and take a walk around the block.
I cannot give you the exact time to offer this short catnap since every schedule and every family rhythm is different.
Let your child fall asleep for 15 to 20 minutes around 4:00-5:00 PM.
However, from both my personal experience and working with other families, I’ve found that offering a catnap between 4:00PM and 5:00PM is the most ideal time.
Drowsiness can reenergize a child for up to an hour so allowing your child to doze for 10-20 minutes around 4:00PM or 5:00PM is a great way to re-energize them just enough to make it to bedtime.
If your child isn’t a good cat-napper or it’s just not an option for your family, then I recommend offering a 30-60 minute early bedtime.
When it comes to offering an early bedtime there is no “one size fits all.” Some children are more sensitive to over-tiredness and others are more adaptable.
You, as the caregiver, know your child best so it’s important to offer an early bedtime based upon your experience with them and their sensitivity to over-tiredness.
The 2-1 nap transition allows your young toddler to consolidate their daytime sleep into one, midday nap!
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