Have you been wondering when your child might be ready to make the switch from two naps to one? For most toddlers, this happens sometime between 15-18 months. Although some toddlers may make the switch a bit sooner, especially those who are in daycare and typically move up to the next classroom around their first birthday. Here are some guidelines to help you decide when the right time to make the switch from two naps to one might be for your child:
- Your child is consistently sleeping 10-11 hours at night without disruption. If your child is not sleeping well at night, it is best to hold off on dropping down to one nap a day until you can improve his nighttime sleep. Click here to see average sleep needs by age.
- It is taking your child longer and longer to fall asleep for his morning nap. If your child’s morning nap usually starts around 10am but now it’s taking him an hour to eventually fall asleep, he may be ready to drop the morning nap altogether.
- Your child’s morning nap is consistently becoming shorter. If his nap is becoming shorter, he may not be tired enough to really justify a morning nap and could possibly stay awake for a longer stretch.
- Your child takes a long morning nap (2 hours or so) and then resists the afternoon nap completely. While the long nap may be nice, I’m guessing you probably have a cranky, overtired toddler by dinnertime if he hasn’t napped again in the afternoon. It is best to avoid letting your child’s nap get stuck around lunchtime in order to avoid a long wakeful stretch until bedtime. More on how to gradually push this nap later in a moment.
Once you see these changes consistently happening over the course of a couple of weeks, you can consider helping your child transition to one nap a day. One option is to go “cold turkey” by dropping your child’s morning nap and keeping them up until after lunch to start the nap. However, most parents find taking a more gradual approach to be more successful. Choosing this option allows you to consolidate your child’s naps by gradually shifting his naptime later and later until it starts around 12:30 or 1:00. For example, if your child’s morning nap typically starts around 11:00, start by pushing it until 11:30 for a few days. Continue to push his nap later by 30 minute intervals every few days until it’s starting after noon or later.
Here are a few stumbling blocks to watch out for when making the switch:
- As mentioned above, avoid letting your child’s nap start time get stuck in the late morning hour. Let’s say your child naps from 11:30-1:30. He now has a really long wakeful stretch between the end of his nap and bedtime. Therefore, he will very likely become easily overtired before it’s time for bed and will have a harder time falling asleep. Again, it is best to keep shifting your child’s naptime until it’s starting around 12:30 or 1:00.
- Ideally, your child’s nap needs to last between 2-2 ½ hours. However, you may find that your child wakes up from his nap after only 1 hour. If he wakes up crying or upset, he’s probably still tired and not really ready to get up yet. Encourage your toddler to go back to sleep in order to extend his nap to the full desired amount. If he resists and doesn’t fall back to sleep, you may need to resort to a back-up nap method (stroller or car ride for instance) to extend the nap until he gets used to napping longer on his own.
- It’s normal for your child to become a bit crankier than usual during this transition process. It might even seem like he’s stuck between not really needing two naps but one nap doesn’t seem quite enough. While your little one is getting used to his new nap schedule, you may need to bump bedtime a bit earlier for a while to help him avoid becoming too overtired. You may also find that your toddler will need an occasional morning nap while working on this transition process. It’s ok to allow a morning nap every so often if it seems he really needs one-just be sure to limit the morning nap to 1 hour max so that he’ll still be tired enough to take an afternoon nap later.
Overall, the process of switching your child from two naps to one should take between 1-2 weeks. If you’re struggling to make the switch smoothly with your toddler or you have a different sleep challenge going on that you’re not sure how to resolve, feel free to contact Erin Anderson, The Sleepytime Teacher for help!
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