The nap transition from two naps to one nap typically happens between the ages of 12 to 18 months, which is quite the range. I often see it closer to the 15-month mark.
Babies like to pretend like they're ready for a nap transition right at a year old. So, I always tell my families that if your child is showing signs that they do not want that second nap, that they're protesting it or a lot more than they used to, they're not even sleeping during it, hold out for at least a month, if not six weeks, because there is a sleep regression right around 12 months. This regression typically affects naps more than anything. So we don't want to drop that nap when they genuinely still need it. You’re giving them the opportunity to move through that regression and then keep the two naps afterward if they still need both.
So hold on to those two naps until at least 13 months.
Then if your child is for sure showing that they are not wanting that second nap, you can make the transition.
First, let's see what the other signs are.
Signs 1 & 2: protesting the second nap or completely skipping it
One of the signs is that your child is full-on protesting the second nap or they're just not taking it at all.
Typically, independent sleepers fall asleep happily. If they're going through a sleep regression for naps or trying to transition naps, they'll just hang out in their crib and talk to themselves, roll around, babble, and just have a grand old time in a pitch-black room in their sleep sack and crib.
If that is the case, then hopefully you won't feel bad at all for letting them hang out in there for an hour, at least, for their second nap. They're perfectly fine. You know that they're safe. They’re content. And that is okay to do because they're still resting - it is dark in there, there's no stimulation. At least they're getting a little bit of downtime even though they're not sleeping.
If that happens, 100%, for sure, do an early bedtime so that they can catch up on lost sleep. Even though they're resting during their nap time, they are obviously not sleeping, so we want them to still have the sleep that they need.
Then, if it's been a solid month to six weeks of this playtime during sleep time, you're going to do that transition.
Sign 3: Having a hard time falling asleep for naps and/or bedtime.
Another sign that it is time to transition is similar to the other that they're just having a harder time falling asleep for their naps. Or they're napping great, but then they're falling asleep super late for bedtime or is a huge battle to get them to bed.
That just tells me that they are not tired enough at those times. They're getting too much sleep during the day. So it is time to transition.
How to transition:
So how you're going to do the two to one nap transition (again the earliest being 13 months) is
You're going to drop that second nap,
Push that first nap as close to noon as you can, and
Do an early bedtime.
Typically at the beginning, little ones aren't gonna make it all the way until noon. Even if they are not needing the two naps, it's still a transition. They're not used to all that wake time. So get their nap as close to noon as you can. Typically 11 is a good starting place and that is fine.
So you'll transition their nap to 11 o'clock and let them sleep up to three hours. Cap their nap at three hours. Then do an early bedtime as early as 5:30 pm, depending on how well the nap went and how you’re little one is hanging later in the day. This might be consistent for a little while as they're transitioning.
Stay with that 11 o'clock naptime for a couple of days to a week. Once they're able to get not as tired at 11 o'clock then start nudging that time later, just a little bit every few days until you get to noon. That's where we want their nap, at noon, for up to three hours.
This nap won’t always look this way. There will be some adjusting until they fully drop their nap around age 3. Nap time will eventually be a little bit later than noon, like 12:30, 1 o'clock and the nap will shorten to be about an hour and a half to two hours instead of three.
But right now, when they're first transitioning, absolutely let them sleep for those three hours and then do early bedtime when necessary.
And just be aware that anytime we're messing with our child's sleep schedules, it can interfere with other parts of their sleep. So stay 100% consistent with the routines and expectations that you have around sleep times. The sleep training method that you may have used in the past is absolutely okay to use again as we were readjusting things.
Obviously, if they're waking in the middle and that’s not normal, check on them! Don't feel like you need to wait. If they're not well, hold off on the new stuff. But, if they're healthy and well, know that is okay to implement whatever sleep training technique that you are most comfortable with.
You're just setting boundaries.
That's a lot of what parenting is, as hard as it is.
I hope you found that helpful. And as always, if you have any questions please don't hesitate to reach out and ask me more than happy to answer them for you.
If you are just full-on struggling with this nap situation, sleeping is just not your thing, unfortunately, for your family, I'd be more than happy to help you with that as well. If you would like to find out more information about how to make that happen, you can schedule a free 15-minute call here!