Would you recognise the tell-tale signs that it’s time to transition your toddler from two to one nap? Let’s take a look at the common signs plus how to minimise disrupting healthy sleep foundations whilst transitioning from two to one nap.
We can often feel clueless when it comes to knowing the right time, how to approach the 2-1 nap transition and how to help our baby through this sleep shift.
This is a big change for everyone and requires parents to be confident as they support their baby or toddler through the next stage of development.
As we know, our babies are not robots. They don’t always understand time and age appropriate expectations and sometimes despite our best intentions, march to the beat of their own drum.
This being said, you’re not alone in the transition. The guess work is removed right here. As your baby sleep consultant, I’m here to guide you through.
What should you do before you commence the two to one nap transition?
Before trialling the one nap transition (especially prior to 15 – 18 months of age) you could first consider the following nap planning options to keep the two naps going for just a little longer.
Sleep tips to keep the two naps a little longer
- Start your day a little earlier – This would look like a 6:00/6:30am wake up to give your toddler closer to a 13 hour day, making it possible to still fit in two naps. As long as we’re still achieving 11 hours consolidated sleep overnight, this can assist with holding onto two naps for an extra 1-2 months if needed.
- Cap the first nap – If you’ve downloaded my Nap Routines already you would know I’m a big fan of a Short-Long Nap Routine, especially from 10-14 months if the second nap is proving more difficult to achieve. The first nap could be as short as 20-30 minutes.
- Increase awake times throughout the day by 15-30 minutes – This can be really important between nap one and two and again between nap two and bedtime to rebuild sleep pressure. Between nap one and nap two the awake time could be closer to 3 – 3.5 hours and then 4 – 4.5 hours at the end of the day between nap two and bedtime.
- Move bedtime later – If your baby or toddler is sleeping until closer to 6:30-7:00am then we may need to push bedtime a little later to 7:30pm. We’re aiming for your baby or toddler to receive 11-12 hours overnight. Whilst later bedtimes rarely equal a later sleep in, if your baby is achieving their optimal 2 – 2.5 hours total day sleep then they may temporarily drop a little sleep overnight in order to hold onto two naps.
If you’ve run through the above suggestions and your toddler’s sleep hasn’t improved, it’s time to consider the 2 -1 nap transition.
What are the common signs a toddler is ready to drop from two naps down to one daytime sleep?
- Your baby is between 15-18 months old – (as an age guide). Don’t be tricked by the 12 month sleep regression (3 Top Tips to Surviving the 12 month Sleep Regression can be found right here) which can often raise a false alarm for 2 – 1 nap transition. Try capping the first nap back to 20 – 40 minutes to promote sleep pressure on the second nap. Most babies aren’t truly ready to transition to one nap until closer to 15 -18 months.
- Your toddler struggles to sleep at either nap one or nap two – You may notice you start to receive significant resistance to naps which presents as long times to settle in the cot, often not unhappy, just very awake and playful and sleep is pushed much later.
- Nap two is causing bedtime to be pushed back too far – On a standard 7-7 schedule I would consider bedtime going past 7:30-8:00pm to be too late so it would no longer be beneficial to keep two naps, especially if we are dipping below 11 hours of consolidated sleep overnight.
- Your toddler is rising too early – This is often between 5:00-6:00am. Characteristically they’re happy being awake in the cot and don’t mind being left for a while to play independently before becoming frustrated to get up and start their day. They can then comfortably stay awake for their regular first nap timing around 9:30/10:00am. This indicates a loss of sleep pressure for the early hours of the morning.
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If your baby or toddler is showing any or several of these signs where do you start with the 2 – 1 nap transition?
There are a couple of approaches for the 2 -1 nap transition and I encourage you as the parent to consider the methods and decide on the best approach for your baby and the needs of your family.
Keep in mind this is a big jump in awake times. In an ideal world when transitioning your baby, they’d receive roughly 5 hours awake time with a 2 – 2.5 hour nap and a further 4.5 – 5 hours awake time at the end of the day.
During the process of transitioning, it can often result in your toddler becoming overtired so I recommend taking it slowly with a little back and forth in your approach depending on how your individual baby is responding.
How to transition your baby from two naps to one daytime nap
Approach 1. Push your baby’s morning nap back
To do this, you first begin by pushing the nap back by 15 – 30 mins every few days until the first nap starts at around 11.30am – 12:00pm. This may mean the second nap becomes a short power nap of 20 – 30 minutes and could be assisted in the car or pram around 3:00/3:30pm to get them through, especially if their nap finished around 12:30 or 1:00pm
Approach 2. Offer alternate days
Introduce one nap every other day as needed to test if your baby can gradually make it to midday. This is a great option for toddlers already in a short-long nap pattern as your baby slowly eases into the new routine. To do this, you skip your morning nap one day and then offer two naps the next day. This is done over the span of one week. Week two you then skip one nap for two days etc. This can often occur when your baby attends child care where they may transition to one nap earlier than at home or vice versa. Check out the blog How to handle sleep routines when your baby or toddler attends daycare here
Approach 3. Transition straight away
This plays out by drawing a line in the sand and choosing the day you’ll begin to only offer one nap each day. This is most suitable for babies that have already been showing resistance for more than 3 weeks. Your toddler’s nap time will now fall at 11.30am or 12:00pm. I have to acknowledge this is my least favourite approach as it often results in an overtired baby due to the sudden and dramatic increase in awake times, however, as always you can decide the approach that is best for your baby and family.
Now you have a plan to follow, how can you help your baby during the transition?
Tips to help your baby throughout the 2 -1 nap transition
- Bring your baby’s bedtime forward – To compensate for the longer awake times, allow time for your baby to adjust with an earlier bedtime. This could be as early as 6:00pm or 6:30pm or alternatively pushed out as late as 7:30pm on two nap days so that your baby ultimately stays with a 7-7 schedule long-term.
- Keep your routine – As your toddlers adjusts to their new nap schedule, help them remain rested by not making any huge alterations to their schedule at the same time. Predictable wind down routines are a safe and secure option for our babies who thrive on routine and consistency to develop patterns of repetition of events, especially when it comes to their sleep expectations.⠀
- Replace some of their nap time with a period of ‘quiet time’ – This is where your baby has the chance to rest even if they’re not sleeping. If your baby is refusing the morning nap, but you’re unsure if they are truly ready to drop it, plan a short pram or baby carrier walk or run an errand in the car at this time for 15-30 minutes. If they don’t sleep this is still low stimuli time and gives them an opportunity to rest their body.
- Patience and Consistency – This is my final parting piece of advice to you mumma! Approach this time with patience to accept this process will often be two steps forward and one step back but have faith, as this is the last big transition before saying goodbye to naps altogether at around 2.5-3 years of age. Check out the blog How to know your toddler is ready to say goodbye to naps here.
When it comes to consistency, have a plan and back yourself. Don’t panic or start introducing sleep props that weren’t there before or ones you worked so hard to wean out.
It’s no secret toddlers can be tricky and this transition, don’t be fooled, can be a doozy and often takes 2-6 weeks of a little back and forth in approach. As parents we need to be prepared for a little unsettled sleeping patterns and daily unpredictability of 2 naps or 2 nap days.
Do you have a younger baby and not sure when to transition their naps? The Nap Transition Blog will guide you from 4-3 naps, 3-2 naps and 2-1 naps. Read it here. For a comprehensive guide to nap routines Download my Nap Routines here.
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