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Transitioning from 2 Naps to 1

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Cara Dumaplin

RN, BSN, Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant

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toddler playing during awake time as she transition through 2 naps to 1

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Around the time you find a consistent routine with your little one, everything changes. They’re growing so fast. Their personality is emerging. They’re learning new skills like walking and talking. All sorts of changes are on the horizon. One of the biggest transitions: moving to ONE nap! 

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When do babies drop to one nap?anchor

The typical age for the 2 to 1 nap transition is between 13-18 months. Some babies may transition on the earlier end of this range (or even slightly before), and some won’t be ready until they’re closer to 18 months (or even a little later).

Before making any big changes to your baby’s routine, we want to see signs they're ready to drop a nap for at least one, ideally two, weeks. 

Is 12 months old too early for one nap?anchor

For most little ones, yes. 12 months is typically too early for one nap.

If your baby is showing changes in sleep at 12 months or younger, you may be wondering if it’s time to transition to one nap. Before considering this transition, please understand that most babies simply aren’t ready to drop to one nap until at least 13 months. These struggles are more likely a sign of the 12 month sleep regression, new skills, illness, teething, or that we need to reevaluate wake windows

Daycare Parents: If your little one is in daycare, I understand that naps may be out of your control. Your daycare may transition your baby to 1 nap as early as 11 months. That’s okay! Trust your daycare. Keep in mind what you can control: bedtime and naps when they’re with you.

What are some signs my baby is ready for one nap?anchor

Your baby may be ready for the 2 to 1 nap transition if they are between 13-18 months AND they begin to:

Still having trouble knowing whether it’s time? Here's a more detailed explanation of the signs it's time to drop a nap.

What are the wake windows during the 2 to 1 nap transition? anchor

On a one-nap schedule, wake windows are between 4-6 hours. Here’s what this shift looks like:

2 to 1 nap transition wake windows. For 2 naps: wake, 3-3.5 hour wake window, nap 1, 3-4 hour wake window, nap 2, 3.5-4 hour wake window, bedtime. For 1 nap: wake, 5-6 hour wake window, nap, 4-5 hour wake window, bedtime

Typically, when transitioning to one nap, wake windows are on the shorter end of the range. As babies get older, wake windows tend to increase.

What should wake windows look like once we’re fully on 1 nap?anchor

Once your little one is consistently taking a nap that starts between 12:00 - 1:00 pm and is at least 18 months old, we can let go of wake windows a little bit. I know I've been teaching you wake windows since you were pregnant. But it’s true, after about 18 months (and on a one nap schedule) little ones can have more of a set wakeup, nap, and bedtime. Here’s an example:

  • Wakeup around 6:30-7:00 am

  • Nap starts around 12:15-12:30 pm

  • Bedtime around 7:30 pm

Which nap gets dropped during the 2 to 1 nap transition? anchor

The goal with one nap is for the nap to happen about halfway through the day. This nap typically happens 5-6 hours after waking in the morning. In order to transition to one nap each day, we gradually shift the morning nap later and later. Doing this typically shifts the afternoon nap a bit later and shortens that nap until it’s dropped completely.

Here are sample schedules for a little one who is ready to transition to one nap. Keep in mind, these are just samples and your days may look different based on your child’s unique needs. The first schedule is a two-nap day in which this little one needs wake windows between 3.5-4 hours.

2 to 1 nap transition sample schedules. For 2 naps: 6:30 am wake, 10:00 am - 11:45 am nap 1, 3:30 pm - 4:15 pm nap 2, 8:15 pm bedtime. For 1 nap: 7:00 am wake, 12:00 pm - 2:45 pm nap, 7:00 pm bedtime

Important Note: After transitioning to one nap, wake windows increase to about 5 hours before the nap and just over 4 hours before bed. Notice that when taking two naps, bedtime was falling after 8:00 pm and overnight sleep was about 10 hours BUT moving to one nap led to both more daytime and nighttime sleep! 

How long does it take to transition from 2 naps to 1? anchor

Some little ones transition from two naps to one fairly quickly, while others can take 2-4 weeks. During this transition, it’s common to have some days that don’t work perfectly. You may see times when naps or wake windows just don’t happen the way you planned. That’s okay; this is a normal part of the transition. Your baby can do this! Check out the tips below for how to adjust on those tricky transitional days.

Expert Tip: Please know that the transition to one nap is usually much smoother when your little one is fully ready for it. How will you know? Ideally, they are consistently showing signs of being ready to drop to one nap for 1-2 weeks (not just a couple of rough days). When we drop a nap too early, we often see other sleep issues arise like night wakings, early morning wakings, and short naps.

How do you transition to 1 nap?anchor

1. Gradually shift the first nap later.anchor

Asking your baby to stay awake for 5 - 6 hours may feel like a HUGE change compared to the 3-3.5 hours they’ve been doing on a two-nap schedule. Instead of making that change all at once, we want to gradually shift the first nap later and later. We can do that by adding 15-30 minutes of extra awake time before the nap every few days. In order to make it to that later nap time (around 12:00 pm), you may need to switch activities when you see your baby flashing sleepy cues. If you need some ideas for how to keep your baby awake just a little longer, check out these ideas for stretching wake windows.

Expert Tip: There may be days where your little one simply won’t be able to make it from the end of the nap until bedtime (even an early bedtime). On those days, it can be helpful to add in a cat nap in the afternoon to prevent overtiredness. Just keep in mind that your little one will still need about 4 hours of awake time between the end of that cat nap and bedtime.

2. Provide a wind-down routine.anchor

Just like a bedtime routine helps prepare a baby for a good night’s sleep, a predictable nap time routine sets your little one up for a restorative nap. A nap time routine doesn’t have to be complicated! We just want to allow a few minutes to decompress before a nap.

Here’s one example: remove uncomfortable clothing, change diaper, slip into a sleep sack, read a book, dim the lights, and into the crib awake. All of this sends cues to your little one’s brain that sleep is coming!

3. Adjust bedtime as needed.anchor

Our goal is for your toddler’s one nap to be 2-3 hours long. After the nap ends, we want to aim for bedtime about 4-5 hours later.

If the nap is shorter or earlier than expected, you may find that it is difficult to keep your baby awake until their normal bedtime. A bedtime as early as 6:00-6:30 pm is common during nap transitions and will help restore lost daytime sleep until that nap gets a bit longer.

4. Stay consistent.anchor

Consistency is so important as you help shift your baby’s sleep routine. This transition can often take 2-4 weeks, so be patient and stay the course.

Know that moving to a one-nap schedule can be a bit challenging at first. Even with the right tools, it’s a big change! Give your little one lots of grace… and while you’re at it, give yourself lots of grace too.

If your little one is struggling with sleep or you’d like more guidance with this transition, I have classes for you. The 5–24 Month Collection is a holistic plan that is fully-customizable to meet your family’s goals. I’ll give you a step-by-step plan for consolidated nights, solid naps, and all the bumps along the way while remaining emotionally connected through the whole process.

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