Are you ready to dive into the transition from two naps to one? This phase can feel like a significant milestone in your child’s sleep routine—a delicate balance between ensuring enough daytime sleep and adjusting to stay awake longer.
The 2-1 nap transition marks a shift in your little one’s sleep pattern, a move away from the familiar rhythm of two naps towards a single nap around lunchtime. It’s a transition that often stirs a mix of anticipation, uncertainty, and anxiety for parents.
In this blog post, I’ll share:
- At what age does the transition happen
- Possible signs indicating your child might be ready
- Schedule adjustments to keep the two-nap schedule a bit longer.
- Two strategies you can use when transitioning.
- How long it takes for your child’s body to adjust to one nap fully
- Practical tips to ease this shift.
At what age does this nap transition take place?
Most often, this transition happens between 13-18 months of age. The average age is 14 months. However, if you have a child in daycare and they only offer one nap for 12-month-olds, you can transition earlier!
Recognizing the Signs:
- Your child may struggle with short naps when they previously took longer ones.
- Early morning wakes/ night wakes begin to happen when previously sleeping through.
- They begin to have difficulty falling asleep for nap time OR bedtime.
- They are no longer tired at their regular nap time.
- Night sleep is less than 10.5 hours (i.e. baby is going to bed at 8pm and waking before 6:30am)
Pro Tip: make sure you are seeing signs for at least 1-2 weeks before making the change.
A Strategy to Keep Both Naps Intact:
Some babies begin showing signs they are ready to transition before 13 months. While it’s 100% possible to make the transition if you need to (daycare is a perfect example!), I recommend stretching your child’s nap schedule and capping daytime sleep BEFORE jumping into one nap. Transitioning prematurely can lead to extra nighttime wakes and a more challenging transition than necessary.
Below are two example schedules using both awake windows and clock-time naps. Remember, the examples provided are stretched out to the max. The naps in the example are capped at 60 minutes. If your child current is taking two 1.5-hour naps, start by capping the naps in 15-minute increments until you reach 60 minutes.
Example Using Awake Windows:
3.25 hours awake
Nap 1: (capped at 60 minutes)
3.25-3.5 hours awake
Nap 2: (capped to 60 minutes)
3.5-4 hours awake
Example Using Clock-Time Naps:
Morning wake up: 6:45am
Nap 1: 10-11am
Nap 2: 2:30-3:30pm
If you find that your child is STILL showing signs, then you may need to transition down to the one nap schedule. Don’t worry! Keep reading and I’ll share exactly how to do that.
Two Strategies to Choose From: Cold turkey or Gradual
Cold Turkey: This is an extremely simple approach where you jump to the new schedule on day one. This can work well for older babies, and babies who are less sensitive to changes in their sleep schedule (think late nights and skipped naps). On the day that you choose to “make the transition”, you will keep your baby awake until noon. They WILL show signs of being tired, however, know this is to be expected as you are asking your child to become temporarily over-tired. Once the clock hits noon, put your baby down and allow them to sleep for up to 2.5 hours. Bedtime will fall between 6-7pm as your child makes this adjustment.
Gradual: With this approach, your goal is to shift your child’s morning nap later by 15-30 minutes every 2-3 days. You can shift as quickly or slowly as you would like. I recommend shifting 30 minutes every few days until you reach your goal nap at noon. While shifting the nap later, you can allow your child to sleep up to 2.5 hours during the day. If your child wakes up BEFORE 12:30 pm from their first nap, I would aim to give them a quick afternoon nap of about 20-30 minutes. This nap on the go could be done in the car, carrier, stroller, or crib, and its main purpose isn’t for restorative value, but rather to help your child get through to bed without melting down!
If your child wakes up AFTER 12:30pm from nap one, then you will want to have an extra early bedtime, i.e. as early as 6-6:30pm.
How long will it take for my child’s body to become used to one nap?
This is a tough transition on your child’s body. It’s very common for children to still show signs of being tired around their old nap time. (i.e. your child may yawn and be fussy around 10am when they USED to go down for a nap. This WILL get better with time! Allow your child 4-6 weeks or even longer to consider them “fully adjusted” to the one nap schedule.
Pro Tip: An early bedtime can be a really great tool if you’re child is particularly tired. Use bedtime as early as 6pm on days when naps are short.
Practical Tips To Help Ease the Transition:
Check the sleep environment:
Ensuring your child’s room is PITCH black can be very helpful during this transition. If you haven’t already, cover all sources of light in their room, and aim to play white noise to help drown out external noise (i.e. siblings playing!)
Shift daytime meals:
Make sure to shift around mealtimes to accommodate for the nap-taking place over lunchtime. Doing some meal prep or using leftovers from the night before as a meal for your child can be really helpful if it doesn’t work to shift YOUR meal schedule earlier. Aiming to eat lunch at 11:15-11:30am will help to distract your child and give you enough time to do a quick pre-nap routine.
Daycare naps take time:
Naps at daycare can be shorter than you like and often more difficult for children. Remember to give your child time to adjust to the new nap schedule and communicate with your daycare provider your preferences around sleep. Your child MAY compensate on the weekend and sleep longer as they have a familiar sleep space. If they do, make sure to cap the nap at 2.5 hours in length so that bedtime isn’t disrupted.
Lastly, if your child has transitioned prematurely due to daycare (i.e. 12 months), you can add an extra nap in on the weekend if it helps your child catch up on sleep. Only offer this extra nap as your child works through the transition, and then do your best to replicate the daycare schedule at home.