Sometime around a baby’s first birthday, parents often reach out to me and ask “When should I start the transition to one nap?”
Nap transitions are a tricky part of new parenthood. It seems as soon as our babies get into a consistent napping groove (and we parents get comfortable) they start fighting nap time! And we parents wonder “when do babies go down to one nap?”
When my daughter turned 15 months old… everything changed! She had been on a great 2 nap schedule for ages, and it seemed like one day she just decided she wanted to switch to one nap.
She started fighting naps and when she did fall asleep, her naps were much shorter.
I recognized this as signs she was ready to transition to one nap. It took a few weeks, but we mastered the 2 to 1 nap transition without much fuss and she started taking a 2-3 hour nap everyday! For me personally, the one nap schedule was my favorite!
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Transition to One Nap: How To Master the 2-to-1 Nap Change
Transitioning from two naps to one can require more parental patience than other baby nap transitions. That’s because it’s a slow-mover.
Most babies switch to one nap sometime between 14 – 18 months. The average age for transitioning to 1 nap is 15 months.
Unless your family routine (or daycare) 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 Baby / Toddler Is Ready to Switch to One Nap
- Your toddler is 14 – 18 months.
AND DOES AT LEAST ONE OF THE FOLLOWING FOR 2 WEEKS:
- Your baby 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 nap.
- 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 a nap at its usual time, but falls asleep later. This can make him skip another nap or push bedtime very late.
- Your baby used to take 2 naps of equal length, but now nap lengths vary. One nap might be long and the other nap really short.
- Your toddler 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.
Again, this isn’t a one-off event. It happens consistently for 2 weeks.
Signs that it’s NOT time to transition to one nap:
- Baby fusses or stays awake initially when you put her down for a nap, but ends up sleeping well (at least one hour.)
- Missing a nap makes baby cranky, irritable, or leads to tantrums. She can’t handle awake times of 4+ hours.
- She’s recently started walking or talking more. Developmental milestones often disrupt sleep for a few days. It’s best to stick to your usual napping schedule during these times.
- Your toddler’s night sleep has been “off” recently. She’s waking more at night or earlier in the morning. Always focus on fixing night sleep before beginning any nap transitions. This guide will help if your toddler is waking up too early every morning. If teething is the culprit check out how to help a teething baby sleep.
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RELATED: How to Extend your Baby’s Short Naps
Tips For Mastering the Transition to 1 Nap
Push the morning nap later
Gradually push the morning nap later by 15-30 minutes until you get to an awake time of 4-5 hours between morning wake up and the nap.
You can do this by pushing the morning nap later by 15 – 30 minutes every 2-3 days. You don’t have to make any big jumps, you can go slowly and take a few days. Hover at 4 hours awake time until your baby is able to nap close to two hours (or more.) Then you can push to an awake time of 5 hours, if you want.
Let your toddler nap as long as he wants for this nap. Only wake him once the nap hits 3 hours length (it does happen!)
Distract your baby to keep her awake
Take your baby outside in the morning and expose her to natural light. This is a natural cue for her body to stay awake. Run errands, go for a stroll or take a trip to the playground.
Arrange a morning playdate to keep your toddler distracted and stimulated so she doesn’t want to nap early.
Offer a meal before nap time
A common concern when babies go to one nap is “When do I feed him?” 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 of lunch before nap time and half when your toddler wakes. Or give a protein-rich snack before nap time. I promise, your little one won’t mind.
Create the right sleep space
Now that your toddler will be napping only once each day, it’s important that this nap is at home. Napping at home in the crib is more restorative than naps on-the-go.
Go to baby’s bedroom 15 minutes before nap time. Do a quick relaxing routine to help her unwind and settle for sleep. You can find all the details about how to create a calming sleep routine in my Exhausted Mom’s Starter Kit.
Let baby nap for 2-3 hours
Your toddler needs 2-3 hours of daytime sleep everyday. This nap transition will help him get all the hours of sleep he needs in one long beautiful nap. It’s a dream!
At first, many toddlers will only nap 1-2 hours. That’s ok, this nap transition takes time. In this case, either offer a 30 min cat nap in the afternoon or move bedtime earlier to prevent over-tiredness.
A good rule of thumb is if your toddler can skip the cat nap and have bedtime be 6 pm, go with that option. But if the awake time will be too long, offer a cat nap instead and keep your usual bedtime.
If a late cat nap disrupts bedtime, skip it and move bedtime earlier. Always prioritize bedtime over a late nap.
Settle into the right nap time
Choosing the right nap time is the key to mastering the transition to one nap and settling your toddler into a one nap schedule without becoming overtired.
There are a few ways of finding the right nap time. The first is to pick the time that falls in the middle of baby’s previous naps.
For example, if your baby used to nap at 10 am and 2 pm, his “new” one daily nap time should fall somewhere in the middle of his previous nap times. In this case, a nap at 12 pm would be ideal.
Another way to decide the best time for your baby’s one nap schedule would be 5 hours after waking in the morning.
Your baby wakes at 6 am & has bedtime 7 pm. Baby should settle into one long nap everyday from 11 am – 2 pm.
Your baby wakes at 7 am & has bedtime 7:30 pm. Baby should settle into one long nap everyday from 12 – 3 pm.
The 2 to 1 nap transition takes time
Remember, switching to one nap takes time. It’s normal for your toddler to need some 2-nap days while making this transition.
If she’s cranky and ready for a nap at 10 am, let her sleep for one hour. Then offer an afternoon nap and try again tomorrow. Over the next few weeks you’ll see that your toddler 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.
If you are having problems with your toddler’s night sleep I can help you with my toddler sleep training course.
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…