Transitioning down from two naps to one nap is by far the trickiest of the naps transitions. If you’ve downloaded my Nap Guide, you know that I recommend making the two naps to one nap transition between 15 and 18 months. I realize that’s a big window. Most of the families I work with do make the transition closer to the 15 months, but it’s a transition you don’t want to rush or you could end up with a very overtired toddler.
If you reach 15 months and your little one is still happily taking two naps a day and sleeping through the night, then keep on truckin’ with your two naps. If you’re little one is 15 months or older, you’ll know it’s time to transition when your child starts playing through one of their naps multiple days in a row, or if you start experiencing new bedtime struggles or unusually early wakings. That’s when you should start making the transition.
How to Drop To One Nap. As you get started with just one planned nap, try to keep your little one up until 11:30 a.m. to take their one nap. Hopefully that 11:30 a.m. nap will last 2+ hours and then go with an extra early bedtime. If you feel like you’re torturing your child to make it to 11:30 a.m., go with an 11 a.m. start for one week and then push to 11:30 a.m. Once 11:30 a.m. doesn’t feel like a push, start to shift closer to 12 p.m. Many find 12 p.m. is the ideal time for their child to go down easily and take a nice long nap and others find closer to 12:30 p.m. works well.
That’s the easy version of the two naps to one nap transition. But what do you do if somewhere around 12 months your little one starts resisting one, or even both, naps?
Nothing has changed in their schedule, but it’s getting harder and harder to consistently get two naps a day. First, take a deep breathe. You’re not alone in this struggle. And it’s possible you may be in for a couple of challenging months.
Here are some troubleshooting scenarios:
Scenario One – Skipping Nap One. If your child starts playing through nap one, but is still taking a quality second nap, they are likely ready for an early transition. Make the transition as described above.
Scenario Two – Skipping Nap Two On Occasion. If your child is playing through nap two on occasion, but still taking two naps most days, cap nap one at 60 minutes (maybe even 45 minutes, if the 60 minute cap doesn’t work) and hang tight with the two naps. Put your little one down extra early on days the second nap is skipped.
Scenario Three – Skipping Nap Two Consistently. This is the most frustrating scenario. If your child is taking a very long time to fall asleep for nap two or skipping it consistently, and they are younger than 14 months, there are a couple ways to approach improving things for the short term.
- Solution One – Shift Nap Earlier. If the start time of second nap has been 1 p.m. or later, an earlier nap time might do the trick (counterintuitive, I know!). I have found that at around 12 months there is often a sensitivity to the sleep wave time for the second nap. If that’s the case, and the nap has been happening at 1 p.m. or later, a shift to 12:30 p.m. often helps. You’ll also want to cap the first nap at 60 minutes (or even 45 minutes) and start nap two at 12:30 p.m. Try this for 3 days and see if it helps your child fall asleep faster for and/or take the second nap.
- Solution Two – Shift Nap Later. If the start time of second nap has been between 12 and 12:30 p.m., it’s possible your child is preparing for the transition, but I’d still recommending making a shift to see if you can hold on to two naps a bit longer. I want you to cap the first nap at 60 minutes (maybe even 45 minutes) and try a 1 p.m. start time for 3-5 days to see if more awake time between naps will help your child keep two naps. You can even try a bit later than 1 p.m., but be careful not to let it creep too late in the day because it will end up being a less restorative nap, and if your little one wakes from their nap late in the afternoon it can disrupt bedtime and nighttime sleep.
If you’ve tried everything you can to keep two naps and it’s just not happening, you can start to play with transitioning from two naps to one nap. Extra early bedtimes will be critical if you’re making this transition early. If your child starts to become overtired during this process, try throwing in a day with two naps every few days.
While this two naps to one nap transition can be tricky, I have good news. Once your child is comfortably on a one nap schedule, they will stay on that same schedule for years to come!