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2-1 Nap Transition (Navigating the One Nap Schedule)

Think it’s time to drop down to one nap? You are going to want to SAVE this blog, possibly even print it out. This transition can feel wonky in every step of the process! It’s a BIG change, and it’s incredibly normal to doubt yourself a few times as you are working through it.

Step 1: Assess for Readiness

The average age to transition to one nap is between 13 and 15 months. Children with lower sleep needs may transition as soon as 12 months, while children with higher sleep needs may transition between 16-18 months.

In general, I do not recommend rushing into this transition. This will be a BIG change to your child’s schedule, resulting in much longer wake windows. These changes go much more smoothly if your child is truly ready.

The most common signs of readiness include (You may experience one or all of these symptoms!):

1. Taking a long time to fall asleep for the second nap of the day. It may take so long that the nap then starts and ends at an awkward time, and bedtime is uncomfortably late. They may even skip that second nap all together, but then be EXTRA tired at bedtime.

2. Only taking 30–45-minute naps for both their naps. Let me pause here and mention that if a short nap schedule is working for you, as it may with toddlers who have low sleep needs, then do not fix something that is not broken. For most children, short naps simply won’t be very restorative and you will find yourself with a grumpy toddler most of the day! But if your toddler is happy go lucky even with short naps AND sleeping great at night then no need to make changes!

3. Experiencing night disruptions which may include split nights (long periods of being awake overnight) or early morning waking's (consistently waking before 6 AM on most days).

Step 2: Work out what you want your starter schedule to be

A starter schedule is exactly what it sounds like. Write down what you want your schedule to be once you transition to one nap. Don’t over think it, this is your starter schedule! It’s an estimate, and it won’t be perfect yet. It’s just a guideline, once we have implemented your starter schedule then we will tweak it to match your child’s individual sleep needs.

A one nap schedule most commonly has a longer wake window in the morning, and a slightly shorter wake window in the afternoon. Use wake windows to design your schedule, but ideally we will want to come up with a time based schedule so that your child’s body can more easily adjust!

I prefer to start the day with a 5-5.5 hour wake window, and end the day with a 4-4.5 hour wake window. Ideally we will want that one nap to lengthen out to 2-3 hours. Some children with lower sleep needs may max out at 90 minutes, while other children will need to be woken up after a full 3 hours! My favorite starter schedule is this:

7:00 AM wake

12:30- 3:00 Nap

7:30 PM Bedtime

Step 3: Decide How you want to Transition:

There are two tactics you can use to transition. For either approach you should start by implementing a daily wake time. A daily wake time means that you will start getting your child up at the same time every day (or within 30 minutes of the same time if you are able to withhold a more flexible schedule!). This is also a great age to introduce an Okay to Wake Clock. If you have a Hatch, then you already have the ability to program your Hatch as an okay to wake clock! If you don’t, then I LOVE using my Echo Glow (Amazon Affiliate Link)

1. The gradual approach: For babies with more sensitive temperaments, a slow and easy approach may be key in transitioning to one nap! This approach tends to especially work well for babies who are experiencing early morning wakings or split nights. Night disruptions tend to result in it being difficult to transfer cold turkey to a new schedule because they are not going to be able to handle a long first wake window yet! For this approach you will want to gradually push your child’s napping schedule by 15-30 minutes every day. For example, if your child normally takes their first nap at 10 AM, then you will push that nap to 10:30 AM. Wake your child up after the normal length of their first nap, and offer their second nap 30 minutes later as well. For a short time, this approach may make bedtime feel uncomfortably late. This is temporary and will not always be the case!

2. Ripping off the Band-aid: If your child is more so struggling with taking short naps or skipping naps all together then you can likely simply rip off the band-aid and immediately transition to your new schedule!

Step 4: Have a Way to Fill the Day

Wake windows are much longer than they were before on a one nap schedule. This can be a big adjustment for you AND your child! Even if they are ready for one nap a day, they might start to seem sleepy during those long wake windows. It might feel like a big stretch to get them to nap time at first, or even to avoid them falling asleep face first in their spaghetti plate at lunch time!

I want you to prepare for this day by having a list of fun new sensory games to play! The easiest way to introduce sensory play is to get outside or to get in the bath! However, I realize over the winter your ability to get outside may be limited, and no one can take a 5 hour bath. For easy (but effective) play ideas I recommend following some of my most favorite Instagram accounts: Mothercould and Busytoddler! Scroll through their Instagram or purchase their guides. Write down a shopping list of the simple materials that you will need and have a plan for the day.

Watch your Toddler like a hawk during the day as well! If they get a sneaky cat nap on the couch then it can really throw off the day. If you start noticing that they are looking a little dazed, change up the activity!

Step 5: Prepare for the craziness

Over the next three weeks you are going to doubt whether you were TRULY ready to transition to one nap. This transition can look, and feel a little wild, In fact, it’s the most common reason that previous clients schedule a 30 minute tune up call with me!

As I mentioned before, it is normal for some toddlers to only nap for around 90 minutes when they transition to one nap, but MOST will eventually nap closer to 2-3 hours. However, it usually takes 2-3 weeks for this nap to lengthen out. In the beginning it might feel like this nap is all over the place, lasting anywhere from 45 minutes-2.5 hours). My own boys didn’t nap longer than 90 minutes for the first 3 weeks of the transition. After three weeks their bodies will start to regulate and you will start to see more consistency with that nap. Until then, I want you to use these tools:

1. Stay consistent: No matter the length of the nap, do not return to offering two naps a day. Our goal is to help your child’s new schedule regulate! This might feel pretty bumpy at first, but the best way we can help them do this is to be consistent in how many naps we are offering.

2. Practice Crib 90: Crib 90 is a tool you can use to help your child’s body become accustomed to their new schedule. For this tool you will have your child stay in their crib for 90 minutes during their nap time, whether they are awake or asleep. You can use your preferred sleep training method if they are upset. Keeping the room dark for this length of time, and keeping your interactions boring will help your child regulate to their new schedule.

3. Move bedtime up to an hour earlier on short nap days: If your nap has been short (1.5 hours or less) then I want you to move bedtime up to an hour earlier than you would normally have it so that your child does not become overtired while going into bedtime.

Final Thoughts – When to bail

The transition to one nap IS a tricky one, and while consistency is important, if things are going extremely south then don’t be afraid to call it and return to two naps. Follow your instinct here. If you are one or two weeks into the transition and you are frequently experiencing one or all of the following symptoms then consider returning to two naps for the meanwhile:

1. Only taking a short nap and having an increase in night disruptions (false starts, split nights, and early morning waking's)

2. Impossible to keep awake during awake time – no matter how many distractions you bring out

3. Consistent increase in meltdowns and tantrums (note: some behavior changes can be normal as you are working through the transition! But if every day feels like an all day melt down from sun up to sun down then it might be time to re-evaluate)

4. Bedtime is having to be moved earlier and earlier due to a poor nap schedule (6:00 PM is generally the earliest I like to do bed time! If your child is passing out by 5:00 PM, before you have even had dinner, then they may simply not be able to handle these long wake windows yet!)

Need More Help?

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