If your baby is about 12 -15 months or so, you might be wondering when it is time (and how!) to drop down to one nap. Let’s learn the signs your baby is ready to make this transition and how to go about doing it!
Signs your baby is ready for one nap
Most babies show readiness for one nap around 12-15 months old. Some are ready earlier and some a bit later. Each baby is different.
Start to notice (better yet, track!) your child’s current napping situation. Generally, when one of those naps (usually the morning nap) becomes shorter and shorter and/or they simply refuse it, that is a pretty good sign your child is ready. Watch and track such a pattern for at least two weeks. Why? Because developmental milestones, including teething, can cause sleep disruptions which may fool you into thinking your child is ready, but in reality they are just going through a typical and temporary shift.
One you have established a clear pattern of your child fussing over one of the naps and you think you are ready to try one nap, go for it! The trick here is that once you make the decision to do it, commit to it. Any wavering back and forth will just confuse your child and will prolong the transition.
Adjusting to one nap involves stretching out a wake window. When children are on two naps, they are generally working with about a 3 hour wake window and now we will be asking them to stretch that to closer to 4 hours. This takes time, so be patient with your little one and your self!
How to make the transition:
There are two ways to do this -
Option 1: Gradual: Start by nudging the morning nap back 30 minutes ever 3 days until nap time hits 12 or 12:30 (or perhaps 1:00, but that depends on their wake up time!). For example, if your child’s nap typically is at 10:00 a.m., move it to 10:30 for three days, then 11:00 a.m. for three more, etc.
In the first 7 days of the transition (until you’ve pushed the nap back to 11:30), keep a quiet time around 2:30 p.m., especially if your child is struggling in the afternoon to help take the edge off. If your child falls asleep during the quiet time, let them sleep but not go past 3:30 p.m. If they don’t fall asleep, consider moving up bedtime approximately 30-60 minutes earlier than usual. This is temporary, but will help your child not get over tired which we certainly want to avoid!
You’ll also want to adjust lunch time, so just be mindful and have them fill up their tummies before nap time. And, try to avoid car rides or anything that will possibly induce a nap.
Option 2: Hard and Fast. Pick your ultimate nap time (I like 12:30) and simply cut out the morning nap and go for this 12:30 nap. Often this is what happens when kiddos are in daycare and they jump right to a set schedule of one nap – there really isn’t a choice. Yes, it may be rough for a few days (perhaps a few weeks). But soon (and with consistency!), things will be a lot smoother. If you go with this, be sure to be stick with it and not look back.
Ultimately, which ever method you choose (and I don’t really think one is better than the other), expect it to take about 4-6 week for their body clock to adjust and you will likely have some inconsistency in the nap length. This is normal – not to worry! Just keep at it and be consistent.
I personally LOVED a one nap schedule. Babies this age can usually handle a set schedule and knowing when nap time is (vs basing it SO much on wake windows and the time they woke up from their last nap, etc.) is so so nice. It will give you so much more freedom in being able to plan your day and do so much more. And, on the mom side, you will be able to plan on roughly 2 glorious uninterrupted hours during your day to do what YOU need to do. Ahhhh, so so nice!! Better yet, you will want to hold on to this nap for as long as possible so you can look forward to this mid day break for the next 18+ months!!