Tips for Transitioning to One Daily Nap

tips to transition to one nap when and how toddlers babiesNap transitions are a tricky part of new parenthood. It often seems as soon as our babies get into a consistent napping groove (and we parents get comfortable) they start fighting nap time!

When my daughter was 3 months old, we had the BEST nap schedule! She’d have an easy morning nap on-the-go, then we’d get home from running errands and she would nap for 2-3 HOURS!!

I remember thinking “This motherhood thing is a breeze….”

Then she turned 6 months… and everything changed! Her naps got shorter and she was A LOT harder to put down.

We struggled through this for what seemed like an eternity (& I tried EVERYTHING to get her to take that blissful 3 hour nap again…) Then one day I simply accepted that phase was over and she was going through a nap transition and needed my help.

By the time she reached 12 months, I was better informed and on the lookout for signs she was ready to transition to one nap. We mastered the 2-to-1 nap transition with no fuss and she took a 2-3 hour nap everyday for the next two years!

Transition to One Nap: How To Master the 2-to-1 Nap Change

The 2-to-1 nap transition can require more parental patience than other nap transitions. That’s because it’s a slow-mover.

Unless your daily family routine necessitates this transition at a certain age, it’s best to watch your toddler for signs that she’s ready to transition to one nap.

Signs that Your Toddler Is Ready for One Nap

  • Your little one is 15-18 months old. (Some kids may be ready as early as 12 months.)

AND AT LEAST ONE OF THE FOLLOWING FOR 2 WEEKS:

  • Your toddler is refusing one of his naps, consistently for 2 weeks.
    He’s playing, talking or fussing in his bed, rather than sleeping. He either skips the nap entirely or takes only a short cat nap before waking.
    The key here is that he consistently refuses one nap (for example, the afternoon nap) but still takes the morning nap as usual.
    He’s NOT refusing all naps altogether (which is a sign of another issue like a regression, change in schedule or night sleep problems.)
  • Your toddler is refusing the morning nap at its usual time, but falling asleep a bit later. This makes him reject his afternoon nap and become WAY too overtired by bedtime.
    Again, this isn’t a one-off event. It’s happening consistently for 2 weeks.
  • Your little one can go for morning car rides or strolls without falling asleep (on most days.)
  • His mood stays relatively stable despite missing one of his naps. He’s ok with an awake time of 4-5 hours.

Signs that it’s NOT time to transition to one nap:

  • He fusses or stays awake initially when you put him down for a nap, but ends up sleeping well (at least one hour.)
  • Missing a nap makes him cranky, irritable, or leads to tantrums. He can’t handle an awake time of 4+ hours.
  • He’s recently started walking or talking a lot more. Developmental milestones often disrupt sleep for a few days. It’s best to stick to your usual napping schedule during these times.
  • Teething can sometimes disrupt sleep. The first molars appear around 12-18 months, causing discomfort and unsettled sleep. Give some TLC and wait on making this 2-to-1 nap transition.
  • Your toddler’s night sleep has been “off” recently. He’s waking more at night or earlier in the morning. Always focus on fixing night sleep before beginning any nap transitions.

Tips For Mastering the 2-to-1 Nap Transition

Push the morning nap to 11 am. Keep it here for one week.

Take your toddler outside in the morning and expose him to natural light. This is a natural cue for his body to stay awake. Run errands, go for a stroll or take a trip to the playground.

Arrange a morning play date to keep your toddler distracted and stimulated.

Offer a snack at 10 am.

At 10:40 am go to his bedroom. Do a quick, calming pre-nap routine to help him unwind and settle for sleep. Your toddler should nap in his darkened bedroom, with white noise, to ensure he gets long, restful sleep.

If he naps less than 2-3 hours, move bedtime one hour earlier

For the next few weeks, if he’s cranky in the afternoon, give him a 20 minute nap in the stroller/car seat to take the edge off.

Make sure to leave a 3-4 hour window before bedtime. If a late cat nap disrupts bedtime, skip it and move bedtime as early as 6 pm. Always prioritize bedtime over a late nap.

Every 3-4 days push the morning nap later by 15 minutes until nap time is 12 pm. Easy does it.

Naps will stay at 12 pm for several months. After your toddler turns 2, nap time usually gets pushed to 12:30-1 pm.

Stick with an earlier bedtime when you initially start the 11 am nap. As you move nap time later every few days, you can adjust bedtime a bit. See what works best for your little one.

It’s normal for your toddler to need some 2-nap days while making this transition.

If he’s cranky and ready for a nap by 10 am, let him sleep for one hour. And offer an afternoon nap too.

You can try again tomorrow.

What About Lunch?!

Sometimes the trickiest part of this transition is figuring out when to give lunch! 10:30 am seems too early for lunch, but your toddler may wake early from his nap if he’s hungry.

What works best for most toddlers is splitting lunch during the early days. Who says lunch has to be one big meal at noon?!

Offer half before nap time and half when your toddler wakes. I promise, he won’t mind. 😁

Remember, the 2-to-1 nap transition a slow-mover. You may need to offer a 2-nap day every few days to take the edge off. Over time, you’ll see that your child prefers one long midday nap.

If you have the luxury of time, this transition may take several weeks to a month. If you need the transition to go quicker, stay consistent and remember to move bedtime earlier.

This is the BEST nap transition (in my opinion) because it leads to a blissful 2-3 hour nap every day. Which means lots of down time for YOU! Enjoy it…

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2018-11-19T12:00:58+00:00

About the Author:

I'm Jilly. Neonatal Nurse, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and Mom. I help exhausted parents get their babies sleeping better, so they can have the energy to enjoy every day. I've helped hundreds of families like yours sleep through the night. I'd love to help you too.