The transition from 2 naps a day to 1 nap a day usually occurs sometime between 12 and 18 months for most babies. It can sometimes be difficult to tell when your baby is ready to make the switch from 2 naps a day to 1, and dropping a nap too soon can backfire and lead to an overtired baby and sleep issues at night. There are a few signs that can signal that your baby is ready to make that switch and drop a nap:
- Your baby might begin to sleep longer for their morning nap and shorten their afternoon nap.
- Some babies who are ready to make the switch will start to play in their crib for the afternoon nap, and either not fall asleep at all, or fall asleep too late in the day and need to be woken up in order to preserve bedtime.
- Occasionally it is the morning nap that becomes the challenge, while the afternoon nap lengthens.
- They might suddenly protest one of the naps and fuss or cry for much longer than normal, or they don’t sleep the entire time.
- These issues may not occur every day, but if you find that they are occurring most of the time (4 to 5 times a week), then it is likely time to make the switch!
The transition from 2 naps to 1 is one of the hardest transitions they will make, and it can take them a month or more to adjust to the change. In the beginning, they might be overtired and do some short naps, making it harder to stretch to their normal bedtime. Bumping bedtime earlier might be necessary on occasion while they are adjusting. Although it can be challenging, and tempting to sometimes give them 2 naps again, it is best not to go back and forth between 2 naps and 1.
If your baby still seems tired at their normal naptime, just keep them busy. If your baby gets grumpy you can try distracting them by taking them outside, or by replacing the usual naptime with a snack time.
Making the Switch
STEP 1 – Start by moving your baby’s morning naptime later by half an hour (if they usually napped at 10:00 move it to 10:30), keep it at this time for 3 days and let them sleep as long as they like, do not wake them.
STEP 2 – Put your baby down for “quiet time” around 2:30 p.m. in order to take the edge off until bedtime. Leave them in their crib for an hour. They may not sleep, but at least will have some downtime on their own. If they do fall asleep, wake them up by 4:00 p.m. at the latest so that bedtime is preserved.
STEP 3 – If your baby did not sleep during quiet time then you will need to move bedtime up as early as 6:30 p.m. to prevent them from becoming overtired.
STEP 4 – After 3 days move the morning nap later by another half hour (11:00 a.m.) for 3 days. Follow the same advice for the afternoon quiet time and bedtime.
STEP 5 – Move the morning nap later by another half hour (11:30 a.m.) for 3 days. There may not be time for afternoon quiet time at this point, and you will likely find your baby very difficult to deal with around the suppertime hour. Don’t be afraid to put them to bed early!
STEP 6 – move naptime to 12:00 p.m., which might mean that lunchtime is now bumped up before the nap. It is normal for them to be very tired during lunch, they might even be nodding off the sleep while you try to get them fed!
Naptime will likely hover between 12:00 p.m. and 12:30 p.m. for several months before gradually being pushed back to around 1:00 p.m. Some toddlers stick with the earlier 12:30 p.m. nap as their optimal nap time.
Be patient throughout the process, this is a tough transition and can take a month or more for them to properly adjust. The child should be going to bed somewhere between 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. during the transition period.
Transitions are always a little tough, but by following these guidelines, getting there should be a little smoother.