Two-to-One Nap Transition: Toddler Survival Guide
By Carolynne J. Harvey,
Founder of Dream Baby Sleep®
One of the trickiest transitions that babies go through is switching from two naps to one nap per day. In fact, navigating this transition is one of the most common questions parents ask me about. Not to worry—I’m going to equip you with everything you need to know in order to help the process go as smoothly and as successfully as possible.
When should I transition my toddler to one nap? I can’t emphasize this point enough: the biggest mistake many parents make with this transition is doing it too early. Most toddlers are ready to transition to one nap per day between 14 and 19 months old. Many babies go through a phase between 10 and 12 months old during which they protest one or both naps. This doesn’t mean that they’re ready to drop a nap. For babies younger than 14 months old, a nap strike is most often due to cutting molars or working on a developmental milestone such as learning to stand or walk. Stay the course and continue putting your baby down for both naps. She’ll likely get back on track within a few days or a week. The longer you hold off on dropping to one nap, the smoother the transition will be.
Watch this quick step by step 2 to 1 nap transition IGTV video.
How will I know that my toddler is ready? The first telltale sign that your toddler is ready to drop a nap is that she’s between 14 and 19 months old and is skipping one or both naps per day. Is she skipping the morning nap and taking the afternoon nap? Is she taking the morning nap and skipping the afternoon nap? Does it vary depending on the day? If you find yourself in this awkward naptime limbo and your toddler is between 14 and 19 months old, then you know that the transition is upon you. You may also see sudden bedtime battles, night waking or early rising when you previously did not struggle with those issues.
However, you’re not going to let it happen just yet—especially if your toddler is on the younger end of the ready-to-transition range. With a few simple tweaks, you might be able to get another month or so out of two naps. This is important because it’ll naturally make the transition more seamless when it happens.
To stick with two naps, remain consistent about putting your toddler down for both naps every single day. The difference is that you’re going to cap her morning nap at one hour to increase the likelihood that she’ll take the afternoon nap, too. Here’s what you’ll do:
- Put your toddler down for a morning nap between 8:45 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.
- Wake her at 10 a.m. so you’re only offering a one-hour-long morning nap. Even if she doesn’t fall asleep until 9:30 a.m., you’ll still cap the nap at 10 a.m. in order to protect the second nap.
- Put your toddler down for her second nap between 12:45 p.m. and 1:00 p.m.
- Cap the second nap at 3:30 p.m. in order to ensure that she falls asleep at bedtime.
If this approach doesn’t work or stops working after a few weeks, then it’s officially time to transition to one daily nap.
How do I make the transition? Now that you know your toddler is absolutely ready to transition to one nap, it’s time to make it happen. When she wakes up on the very first morning of your new one-nap schedule, keep her as busy as absolutely possible and preferably at home. Be sure to avoid anything that could potentially allow her to fall asleep before her nap, such as the car seat or stroller.
You’re going to keep her awake until 11 a.m. When you put your toddler down for her nap at 11 a.m., apply the 90-minute rule. This means that from the time you place your toddler in her sleep space at 11 a.m., you won’t take her out until 12:30 p.m. at the earliest. If she wakes before 90 minutes, apply your sleep training method of choice (Check and Console, Pick Up Put Down, Chair Method, or Silent Return) until she falls back asleep or until it’s been 90 minutes since you first put her in her bed. This is only if your toddler wakes up before 90 minutes has passed. If she sleeps longer than that, allow her to continue sleeping.
How do I get the nap to start later? The one nap will start at 11 a.m. for just a few days. Your goal is to slowly move the start of her nap to 12:30 p.m. To do that, add 15 minutes to the start of her nap every three to five days. So, on the first day, the nap will start at 11 a.m.; three to five days later, you’ll start the nap at 11:15 a.m.; three to five days later, you’ll start the nap at 11:30 a.m., and so on until you land at a regular naptime of 12:30 p.m.
What time should bedtime be? In the beginning, your toddler is going to be very sleepy in the afternoon. In order to compensate for this very long awake time, be sure to rely on an early bedtime. Move her bedtime up to as early as 5:30 p.m. As the start of her nap moves closer to 12:30 p.m., you’ll be able to push her bedtime slightly later. Lean on an early bedtime any time she takes a short nap, too. To find out what your toddler’s optimal bedtime should be based on her age and the quality of her daytime sleep, download bedtime by age chart.
Can I go back to two naps if my toddler wakes early in the morning? Once you’ve decided that your toddler is ready to transition to one nap per day, I don’t recommend going back and forth between one and two naps. Doing so will take much longer for your toddler to adjust to one daily nap. However, if your toddler has a difficult night or wakes earlier in the morning than usual, you have the option of starting the one nap sooner. For example, if you’re in the process of pushing the start of her nap to 12:30 p.m. and were planning to put her down for a nap at 12:00 p.m. today, you could temporarily pause that process and start the nap at 11 a.m. The following day, if she wakes at her normal time, then you could start the nap at 12:00 p.m. as you’d planned to do the previous day and get back on track. However, if she rises early again, then start the nap at 11:00 a.m. or 11:15 a.m. if that worked well the day before.
Moving your toddler’s nap from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. isn’t always a straight trajectory, so you may need to adjust and adapt along the way. Until your toddler is able to comfortably make it until 12:30 p.m. without becoming too tired (or cranky), you’ll start the nap some time within the 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. range based on the quality of her nighttime sleep and her temperament that morning.
Do you have questions about your baby or toddler and want to learn more tips to improve sleep? Sign up for your free 15-minute sleep consultation with a certified infant & toddler sleep consultant by visiting dreambabysleep.com/scheduler or join our free private self-soothing facebook group.
About Dream Baby Sleep
Dream Baby Sleep® is a loving group of certified experts who are successfully teaching families how to create and maintain healthy sleep. Our diverse education and team dynamic empower us to customize a plan catered to your family’s personal needs. By studying the temperament of your baby, parenting style and family dynamic we’re able to draw from all sleep training methods available to create success for your family.