How to Transition Your Toddler From Two Naps to One

This transition for your toddler is a big one – both physically and psychologically as there is a period of time where “two naps are too many, and one nap is too little” for your child. And the result can be an overtired, cranky little one as you go through this shift. When  you have decided that your child is ready to consolidate naps, have realistic expectations of this transition as it often causes a disruption for anywhere between one to three weeks.

Signs Your Child Is Ready To Move To One Nap

Most children are ready to make the change to napping once a day anywhere between fifteen to eighteen months. Sometimes it’s a little later than eighteen months, but it is uncommon that it would be before 15 months. Here are additional signs that they are ready:

  • Your child is sleeping through the night:  If they are getting 10-12 uninterrupted hours of sleep, your child is much more likely to be ready for consolidation as they are well rested from sleeping through the night.
  • Your child is taking longer to fall asleep during the morning nap – OR-
  • Falling asleep very easily for the morning nap, but only staying asleep for a short period of time (45 minutes or less) – OR –
  • Logging a long morning nap (2+ hours), which results in a disaster nap in the afternoon where they sleep for a very short amount of time, or more commonly, do not sleep at all.

I knew my son was ready for the transition when he consistently was refusing his afternoon nap. I waited until this pattern repeated itself for over a week to make sure that it was not some other factor that was contributing to this change. I caution that you also wait if your child is showing signs, especially if they are younger than 15 months as it could be a developmental leap or other milestone that is throwing off their sleeping patterns.  The last thing you want to do it try to force this transition on a toddler who is not ready. Follow their cues, not the calendar and keep a log to of napping and waking times to map out their patterns!

How To Execute The Transition

Just like nighttime coaching, choose a period of time that allows you to have all of their naps occur at home in their crib (or at daycare).  Avoid starting this transition if you have a big vacation or some other life event approaching. Here are the keys to ensuring successful consolidation of naps for your child:

  1. Take 7-10 days to make small changes as you proceed gradually to moving their morning nap to occur in the afternoon.  For the first few days, hold off on the nap until 11:00 a.m., then for a few days push it to 11:30 a.m. – then proceed to 12:00 p.m., and eventually ending up with a start time around 12:30 pm.
  2. Don’t get stuck in a place where the nap is occurring in late morning (11:30 start time) – even if they sleep for 2 hours, an awake time of 1:30 p.m. will only mean a tired, cranky baby by 5:00 p.m.
  3. Watch their cues closely – some children are able to adapt quickly to a noon start time, while others need to go through this transition more slowly. If they cannot keep their eyes open at 11:30, offer them sleep as soon as possible and keep moving through the process at their pace.
  4. Move up bedtime if necessary.  If your child was going down at 7:00 p.m., they may need to bridge the gap by going down around 6:30 p.m.  Again, follow their lead.

The ultimate goal is to have the nap start time anywhere between 12:30-1pm. A child that naps from 12:30-2:30, or 1-3 will be much more successful with naps than a child that sleeps from 2-4pm based on their bodies circadian rhythm. It also sets them up for an appropriate bedtime around 7-7:30 p.m., which will help avoid them going to sleep overtired.

Speaking of Overtired….

During this transition, you may see some disruption of nighttime sleep as they make this shift. That is totally normal and occurs when you child goes to bed overtired. They may take longer to fall asleep at night and/or have early rising episodes. To help with this transition, I urge again to put them to bed earlier than their normal bedtime to compensate for the potential lack of naps and/or longer awake time between nap and bedtime. It can take a few weeks to get there (it sure did at our house!) and make sure you are ready too!

I will be covering this topic in upcoming workshops, so make sure you check out the schedule and sign-up today if you are interested in help to get your family and little one more rest!

About Elizabeth Sarles

Elizabeth Sarles is a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach and the owner of Nite & Day. She lives in Edina, Minnesota with her husband Lien, two little guys – Lien and Harrison, and her first baby (and bed-hog), Eddie the Yorkie.

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