The 2 to 1 nap transition can be a doozy. Your little one now has to go from being awake for about 3-4 hours at a time to 5-6 hours at a time. That’s a big jump but don’t worry I’ve got you covered!
Before we dive in, I want you to keep in mind that all of this advice is based on your little one having independent sleep skills. If they don’t, then making changes to the sleep schedule will likely make sleep even worse! Before dropping to one nap, focus on teaching your little one independent sleep and if you need support reach out. I’d love to help!
The Big Question: When?
Let’s start with age. Most babies are ready for the 2 to 1 nap transition with one long mid-day nap between 15 and 18 months of age. They’re transitioning from baby to toddler! However, this transition does have a wide age range and can happen anywhere from 15 to 24 months! Some kiddos really like holding on to two naps for a long while! Once your little one is in this age range, start looking for signs of readiness. Also, keep in mind that the 2 to 1 nap transition can also come at the same time as the 18 month sleep regression.
3 Signs of Readiness
- Boycotting one or both naps
- Naps are SUPER short
- Good naps plus early morning wake ups
The most common sign your little one is ready for the 2 to 1 nap transition is simply not taking them. Many babies will play in their crib through the whole morning nap rather than sleep. Or your baby might take a beautiful morning nap and then not sleep during their afternoon nap. If this goes on for 2 weeks straight, then it’s time to drop to one nap!
Another sign is when your now toddler starts taking two SUPER short naps. I’m talking 30-45 minute naps when previously the naps were 1-1.5 hours each! When you make the transition to one midday nap, it will lengthen again to 1.5-3 hours of sleep.
Lastly the worst of all the signs, for parents that is…sudden early morning wakings! If your kiddo is still enjoying their two naps as usual but then they begin waking between 4 and 5 am it’s time to transition. This indicates they are getting too much daytime sleep and it’s time to shift that sleep back into nighttime (for everyone’s sake!).
Big Tip: Don’t make the mistake of rushing this transition. Hold onto both naps as long as you can! One way you can do this is by micromanaging naps a bit! If your little one’s morning nap is over 1 hour, shave down the morning nap by 15 minutes to see if that helps keep both naps for a bit longer. For instance, if they usually sleep 1.5 hours, wake them after sleeping an hour and fifteen minutes for a few days. If that solves the problem then great! If not, you can shave off another 15 minutes so they only nap 1 hour but don’t go any shorter than that. By doing this, your toddler may be more likely to sleep for their afternoon nap and you’ll be able to hold onto both naps a little longer.
Timing 1 Nap
We want to keep this 1 nap aligned with biological sleep rhythms so your child can get the most restorative sleep possible. This means the nap will start between 12 and 1 pm. Anything later typically results in a second wind, a skipped nap or a too late bedtime. Any earlier and you’re looking at an overtired kiddo by the end of the day and a perpetually early schedule.
If you have an early riser, 12 pm will likely be the best fit for your kiddo but as your child gets older the nap will shift later towards 1 pm. If your child sleeps later in the morning, nap time will be closer to the 12:30-1 pm range.
Making the 2 to 1 Nap Transition: Cold turkey or Slow and Steady?
If your child was skipping their morning nap but taking the afternoon nap then cold turkey is your best option. It will actually make for a pretty easy transition. Stop offering the morning nap and begin offering one nap at 12 pm.
If your child was taking the morning nap and skipping the afternoon nap use the slow and steady approach. Begin pushing their morning nap later by 15-30 minutes every few days until you land at 12 pm. It will take about 2 weeks to land at noon and up to a month for your little one to be fully transitioned into their new nap time.
Aim for two hours of crib time. We want this nap to be at least 2 hours long and up to 3 hours. Sometimes kiddos who have recently gone through the 2 to 1 nap transition take a short nap because they’re overtired and not quite used to being awake for so long. If this happens, give them extra time to resettle and lengthen their nap. Also use an early bedtime, about 30-60 minutes earlier than usual, to keep them well rested.
If your little one is in the 15 to 18 months age range but naps and nights are still going well, do nothing! Trust me! Don’t make this transition until your kiddo is consistently showing you they are ready!
Dropping to one nap can be a really nice change to your daily routine! You can enjoy a fun morning and after nap activity with a nice relaxing break in the middle. Embrace your new one nap life—it’ll be sticking around for at least a couple years!