Knowing When and How To Transition Your Baby To One Nap

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A Smooth Transition: Shifting From Two Naps to One Nap a Day for Your Child

Transitioning your child from two naps to one nap per day is a big step in their sleep schedule. It can be a complex process, but with the right timing and patience, it can be done smoothly. This article helps you know when and how to make the transition to one nap a day. It gives a simple step-by-step guide to help you succeed.

Knowing when your child is ready to transition from two naps to one is important.

Most children usually transition between 12 and 18 months of age, but there isn’t a fixed timeline.

Here are some key signs of readiness to transition to one nap a day: 

  1. As your child gets closer to transitioning, the morning nap may get longer. The afternoon nap may get shorter. Your child may fall asleep fast for their morning nap. They may seem exhausted in the morning and unable to stay awake longer.
  2. Playing During Afternoon Nap: Many children who need to transition to one nap a day can’t sleep for this nap. They end up playing in the crib. Or they cry in the crib until you come to get them. If you try for a car or stroller nap, they may sleep occasionally but not always. Often, it takes forever for them to fall asleep for this nap.
  3. Sometimes, one of the two naps can be difficult. Your child might cry and refuse to sleep. If this pattern persists for several days a week, it’s a good indicator that it’s time to make the switch.
  4. Sometimes, both naps are glorious. However, decreased sleep needs show up in other areas like night waking, bedtime, and early waking.

How to transition to one nap a day and what to expect

Transitioning from two naps to one requires commitment and patience. It usually takes at least a month for your child to adapt and feel well-rested during the day. This is true no matter the age of the child. I’ve worked with parents whose child has all the signs of needing to transition. But when they start transitioning, they notice how grumpy their child is. And then they stop. But when they try again when their child is much older — even 20 to 24 months old — their child is still tired during the day.

It’s a hard nap transition.

It’s the hardest nap transition of all, no matter the age. My take on it: Do it when your child is showing signs of readiness and avoid the months of sleep problems. Night waking, bedtime struggles, early morning, and nap resistance can be solved faster.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help your child transition to one nap a day:

Step One: Shift the Morning Nap

  • Begin by moving your baby’s morning nap later by half an hour.
  • For example, if the usual nap time is 10:00 a.m., move it to 10:30 a.m.
  • Continue with this schedule for three days, allowing your baby to nap as long as needed.

Step Two: Implement Afternoon Quiet Time or Screen Time (Did I really say that?)

  • Even if your baby no longer naps well in the afternoon, ensure they have some quiet time (in a stroller or car seat).
  • If you can’t do a car or stroller ride and are willing to allow some screen time, now is the time. Around 30 minutes of something like Little Baby Bum gives their mind and body a rest. It can carry them over to bedtime in much the same way a nap can.
  • If they nap, limit it to no later than 3:30 or 4:00 to preserve the bedtime schedule.

Step Three: Adjust Bedtime

  • If the afternoon nap, car, stroller, or screen time didn’t happen, move bedtime earlier. You could try as early as 6:30 p.m. to avoid them getting too tired and cranky.

Step Four: Further Shift the Morning Nap

  • On day four, move the morning naptime to 11:00 a.m. and maintain this schedule for three days.
  • Continue with the afternoon quiet time and bedtime adjustments.

Step Five: Continue Shifting Naptime

  • On day seven, push the morning naptime to 11:30 a.m., again for three days.
  • By this point, there may not be time for afternoon quiet time.

Step Six: Transition to a Single Nap

  • On day ten, set your baby’s naptime at 12:00 p.m.
  • Adjust lunchtime if necessary.
  • Your child’s naptime may hover between 12:00 and 12:30 p.m. for several months.

Patience and consistency are key.

Transitioning your child from two naps to one takes time and consistency, so be patient. Your child might need time to get used to the change. You can assist them in adjusting by making appropriate changes. Chances are, though, they’ve been skipping that second nap some days on their own.

Staying consistent with one nap a day and moving the one nap to midday will help them adjust faster. This is better than going back and forth between one and two naps.

To summarize, when your child goes from taking two naps to just one nap a day, it’s a big change in their sleep routine. But with the right strategy, you can make the transition go smoothly. Timing and patience are key in this process.

Watch for signs of readiness.

It is important to pay attention to signs that indicate when your child is ready to transition. Look for changes in nap length and timing. Look for difficulty falling asleep during one nap or night-time disturbances.

Expect the full transition (with feelings of well-being) to take about a month.

Transitioning from two naps to one may take around a month, regardless of your child’s age. It’s essential to be committed and persistent. Don’t be discouraged by the initial signs of grumpiness. You don’t have to wait longer than two weeks after your child shows clear signs of readiness. You can go ahead and make the transition then. That way, you can avoid months of sleep problems. That can include night waking, bedtime struggles, early mornings, and nap resistance.

For guidance through this transition, follow the step-by-step plan provided in this article. Shift the morning nap gradually. Incorporate afternoon quiet time or limited screen time. And make necessary adjustments to bedtime. This method ensures a smoother transition. It helps your child adapt and feel a bit more well-rested during the day.

Remember that the key to success is consistency. When you’ve settled into one nap a day, aim for bedtime between 7:00 and 7:30. To help your child transition to one nap a day and improve sleep for both of you, follow these steps and be patient. If you need help getting through it, I can help. If you’ve found yourself in the midst of a regression in the midst of it, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’d love to talk with you in more detail about your child’s sleep.

Kim Rogers, M.A.
Kim Rogers, M.A.

Hi, I’m Kim Rogers, pediatric sleep consultant, parent coach, maternal mental health advocate, and child mental health advocate. I waited a long time to become a mom, and I’m so glad I took that leap. Looking back at the hard times alone, it’s worth it for the love we have. I started this website to share helpful information that was so hard to find when I needed it. I mainly focus on sleep, but other things as well. No judgement zone here. This is my attempt at creating a village for those who need it like I did.

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