As a Pediatric Sleep Consultant, I’m committed to helping you navigate all things sleep, and the transition when your baby drops to one nap can be a doozy. Don’t worry, though! I’ve got you covered! I’m sharing my tips to help you successfully navigate the two-to-one nap transition!
First, this advice assumes your little one has independent sleep skills. Without that, making any change to their sleep schedule will be super challenging. If your baby hasn’t mastered independent sleep, I’d start working on that first before dropping to one nap.
Signs of Readiness
Now that we’ve got that covered let’s start with age. Most babies are ready to consolidate their two naps into one long mid-day nap between 15 and 18 months. They’re transitioning from baby to toddler! It’s important to know that this transition has a wide age range and can occur anywhere from 13 to 24 months! Some hold onto both naps a bit longer, while others transition earlier. If your little one is in this age range, the next thing to do is look out for some signs of readiness.
1. Boycotting One or Both Naps
The most common sign your little one is ready to transition to one nap is simply not taking them. Many babies will play in their crib through the whole morning nap rather than sleep. Or your baby might take a beautiful morning nap and then not sleep during their afternoon nap. If this goes on for about two weeks, it’s time to drop to one nap!
2. Naps are SUPER Short
Another sign is when your little one starts taking two SUPER short naps. I’m talking 30-45 minutes naps when previously the naps were 1-1.5 hours each! When they transition to one midday nap, it should lengthen again to 1.5-3 hours of sleep.
3. Early Morning Waking
And possibly the worst of the signs . . . sudden early morning wakings! If your little one is still enjoying their two naps as usual, but then they begin waking between 4:00 and 5:00 am, it’s time to transition. This indicates they are getting too much daytime sleep, and it’s time to shift that sleep back into nighttime (for everyone’s sake!).
Sleep Consultant Tip: Don’t make the mistake of jumping the gun on this transition. Hold onto both naps as long as you can! One way you can do this is by micromanaging naps a bit! If your little one’s morning nap is over one hour, shave down the morning nap by 15 minutes to see if that helps keep both naps for a bit longer. For example, if your kiddo usually sleeps an hour and a half, wake them at the hour and fifteen-minute mark for a few days. If that solves the problem, then great! If not, you can shave another 15 minutes off, so they only nap one hour but don’t go any shorter than that. By doing this, your toddler may be more likely to sleep for their afternoon nap, and you’ll be able to hold onto both naps a bit longer.
Timing the Nap
Now that you know your kiddo is ready to drop to one nap, you might be wondering what time the nap should fall. The general rule of thumb is to start the nap between 12:00 and 1:00 pm. Anything later typically results in a second wind, a skipped nap, or a too-late bedtime. Any earlier, and you’re looking at an overtired kiddo by the end of the day and a perpetually early schedule.
If you have an early riser, noon will likely be the best fit for your kiddo. But as your child gets older, the nap will shift closer to 1:00 pm. If your child sleeps later, nap time will be closer to the 12:30-1:00 pm range.
Managing the Transition
You’ve got two options: cold turkey or slow and steady.
Cold turkey is your best option if your child is skipping their morning nap but taking the afternoon nap. This will make for a pretty easy transition. Stop offering the morning nap and begin offering one nap at noon.
If your child was taking the morning nap and skipping the afternoon nap, use the slow and steady approach. Begin pushing their morning nap later by 15-30 minutes every couple of days until you land at noon. It will take about two weeks to land at noon and up to a month for your little one to fully transition into their new nap time.
Aim for two hours of crib time. Sometimes kiddos who have recently transitioned to one nap take a short nap because they’re overtired and not quite used to stretching their wake window yet. If this happens, give them extra time to resettle and lengthen their nap. Also, use an early bedtime, about 30-60 minutes earlier than usual, to keep them well-rested.
Don’t Rush It!
Do nothing if your little one is in the 15 to 18 months age range, but naps and nights are still going well! Don’t make this transition until your kiddo consistently shows you they are ready!
Dropping to one nap can be a nice change for your daily routine. You can enjoy a fun morning and after nap activity with a nice relaxing break in the middle. Embrace your new one nap life—it’ll be sticking around for at least a couple of years!