Out of all of the nap transitions that you will go through with your child, the 2 to 1 nap transition seems to be the hardest for most parents (and for little ones alike). Why? Because their body must adapt much longer wake times and consolidating all of their day sleep in one single nap.

Toddlers are usually ready to drop the morning nap when they are between the ages of 14 and 18 months. Although your friends, daycare centers or your parents will tell you that your little one should be on one nap at 1 year of age this is simply not true. The average age is 15-16 months.

Most parents will probably notice you hit a bit of a ‘grey zone’ where two naps seems like too many, and one nap seems like too little. It can be a bit of a tricky time to navigate. But often the parents try to merge morning and afternoon sleep too quickly. Many parents let their 12-month-old baby sleep for two to three hours in the morning. As a result, your child will refuse to go to sleep in the afternoon and will never make it until bedtime after that and will collapse at the end of the day. But this situation does not mean it’s time to drop a nap, the naps should be better spread over the day to regulate the wakeful windows.  

When and how?

Instead of thinking in terms of dropping a nap it’s better to think in terms of a schedule change. The change from two naps to one nap is rarely a one-day occurrence. Most often there will be a transition period of several weeks when your child clearly needs two naps on some days, but one nap on others.

Signs that your child is ready to change to one daily nap:
  • Your child naps well for one of his naps, but totally resists the other nap.
  • Your toddler is refusing his regularly scheduled naps but falls asleep later in the day.
  • When your child misses a nap he is cheerful and energetic until the next nap or bedtime.
  • Your toddler has at least 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep during the night.
  • He needs more time to fall asleep during the morning nap.
  • Sleep shorter during the morning nap or longer sleep so that he refuses the afternoon nap.
  • As a parent you have the feeling that one nap is too little and two is too much.
How to transition to one nap

When your child is ready for the transition to one nap, it might take a few weeks to make the change. It’s a gradual process, the steps below could help you to make the change a little smoother.

  • Slowly start delaying the morning nap each day until it becomes an afternoon nap. Try to delay nap time by about 15-30 minutes each day until you reach 12:30-1:00 pm. You continue to offer the afternoon nap in the beginning, but shorten it and wake up your toddler at 3:30 pm. at the latest.
  • If there was no second nap, offer a very early bedtime, 6pm or even 5:30 pm. might be necessary for a while. Your child’s wakeful window is 5-5.5 hours so try not to exceed this awake time too much. 
  • Wait with the nap transition until 18 months if your child is not consistently sleeping through the night.
  • Every now and then your child will be so tired that it still needs two more naps, just allow this but try to wake him around 3:30 in the afternoon to not interfere with bedtime. 

If your little guy switches to one nap, but then starts waking too early in the morning and seems overtired all day (irritable, staring, rubbing his eyes, falling back asleep while snacking, being more clumsy, etc.), go back to two naps for a month or two.

The danger of dropping a nap too soon

There are a great number of toddlers who switch from two naps a day to one nap, or drop naps altogether, many months before they are biologically ready. This can result in a devastating effect on their mood and behavior. For those parents who suffer with rebellious and defiant toddlers, an inappropriate nap schedule may be the culprit.

Transitioning too early will almost always lead to a child who becomes overtired and thus may begin taking short naps and/or waking several times throughout the night. My recommendation is to hold onto two naps as long as possible, even if you’re in the “grey zone” (in between 1 and 2 naps) try to keep BOTH naps but shorten them a bit so bedtime won’t be pushed out too late.

Signs that your child still needs TWO naps daily:
  • Your child is 12 months or under.
  • When you put your child down for a nap he plays or fusses for a while but always ends up sleeping for an hour or more
  • When you take your child for car rides during the day he falls asleep
  • If your child misses a nap he is fussy or acts tired until the next nap or bedtime
  • Your child is dealing with a change in his life (new sibling, sickness, or starting daycare) that disrupts his nap schedule
  • Your child misses naps when you’re on the go, but when you are at home he takes two good naps

Sleeping is a skill 

Don’t forget that sleeping is a skill. We need to teach our children the right way to sleep, that way they learn to deal with their own need for sleep when they grow older. It is very tempting to forgo a nap because it suits the parents’ schedule better. But remember that you both pay the price for this at bedtime. As long as your child still needs the two naps, enjoy this quiet time in your busy day. It could be a time to relax and take some time for yourself, or it might just be the time when you can give extra attention to an older child!

If the transition to one nap is not successful or the moment is unclear, or your child has other problems sleeping and you might need some help, please contact me via info@sleep-champs.com or just leave a comment below.Do you find this blog interesting and would you like to stay informed about my future blogs? Then like my facebook page www.facebook.com/sleepchamps or instagram www.instagram.com/sleep_champs .