Dr. Mona's Mom Blog

How to transition to one nap

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We love the one nap life. It has made planning outings so much easier. I enjoy having a block of time in the morning and afternoon with a break in the middle when he naps. And once the nap extends to 2-3 hours, it is easier to get things done or have some downtime.

To start, here’s Ryaan’s schedule when he was 16 months old

  • 7:30 a.m. – Wake up and have milk
  • 8:00 a.m. – Breakfast and brush teeth
  • 10:00 a.m. – Snack
  • 12:00 p.m. – Lunch
  • 1 – 3 p.m. – Nap
  • 3 p.m. – Milk
  • 4:30 p.m. – Snack
  • 6:15 p.m. – Dinner
  • 6:45 p.m. – Bath, milk, brush teeth and book
  • 7:30 p.m. – Bedtime

When do babies usually drop to one nap?

Typically babies will drop to one nap between 12-18 months, but remember that some may drop it earlier than this and some may drop it later. The period of dropping naps can be rocky, where adjustments can take two weeks or even longer. Ryaan dropped his nap at 13 months and the transition took about 3 weeks.

What are signs they may be ready to drop to one nap?

  • Your baby is consistently refusing a nap.
  • Your baby who normally went down for naps with no issue is struggling to go down.
  • One nap is consistently getting shorter than it used to be – less than 45 minutes.
  • Bedtime is becoming a battle. They may be getting too much daytime sleep, so they are ready to drop a nap.
  • Early wakings (before 6 a.m.) are becoming the norm. For this, they may be getting too much sleep throughout the day.
  • If any of these are occurring for more than 10 days, a nap drop may be in your future! I give it 10 days because a stretch of days less than that could be a fluke and they’re not quite ready.

How can you transition them?

  • Aim for one mid-day nap.
  • Nap time start goals should be anywhere from 4-6 hours from morning wake time. This nap can vary depending on your baby.
  • Gradually, move their morning naps.
    • Depending on your baby and their temperament, you can decide how big of increments you want to move this: 15 – 45 mins.
    • Example: If baby’s morning nap is at 10 a.m., move it back to 10:30 for 3-5 days, then 11 a.m. for 3-5 days, then 11:30 for 3-5 days, etc.
    • Moving it cold turkey (all the way to 1 p.m. as an example) can lead to an overtired baby, which can make going down for naps and bedtime tougher.
  • One of the toughest parts can be keeping them awake a little bit longer as you transition them.

How can you stretch them to help them reach this later nap time?

  • Get outside if weather allows. Sunlight when your child is awake can help at all ages, especially when you are trying to stretch them during this transition.
  • If you are pushing them in these increments, watch for sleepy cues: rubbing of the eyes, yawning, blank stares, etc. Redirect them to other play activities or go outside to stretch them to these increased wake windows.
  • Look at 4-5 hour wake windows in the afternoon. If during the nap transition your baby wakes up at 1:30 p.m. when normal bedtime is 7:30 p.m., consider putting them to sleep a little early (6:30 p.m.). An overtired baby can lead to more fussiness during sleep. And while transitioning naps, it’s okay to adjust bedtime if need be.
  • Continue a bedtime routine and incorporate a short nap time routine if you weren’t already. Dim lighting and a book to prime them and remind them it’s time for sleep.

What to expect when they are on one nap?

Initially, their nap may be 1 – 1.5 hours. This is why the transition can be rocky as they are getting into this new rhythm. Eventually, they should stretch to be anywhere from 2-3 hours. I do suggest waking your toddler up if their nap extends more than 3 hours on a one nap schedule because it can effect their nighttime sleep. Enjoy it. I love the one nap life! It’s so much easier to plan our day including outings.

Remember the following:

  • Night time sleep should be established first before considering any changes/transitions in the day.
  • Don’t fix what doesn’t need fixing. If your child is doing great with their schedule, don’t change anything.
  • Make sure the signs I mention are occurring for more than 10 days. Changes in sleep can happen for various reasons: growth spurts, developmental changes, teething, illness, etc. So, I wouldn’t want you to look at 3 days of changes as a sign they are ready. Wait it out and if it persists, consider this as the solution. Remember, every baby is different so the month they do this transition can vary.
  • I am big on wake windows before a child drops to one nap. It’s the first thing I look at to trouble-shoot infant and toddler sleep concerns (besides environment). I generally like a 4-6 hour wake window in AM (between the time they wake up and their nap) and 4-5 hour wake window in the afternoon (between the time they wake up from their nap and bedtime).
  • Be patient with them. If the transition doesn’t go well, it’s okay to go back to their old schedule and wait a few more weeks (perhaps they weren’t ready).
  • Remember to be flexible when you are looking at sample schedules. Understand that your child may not fit the exact schedule you are seeing. Also, remember that things will happen and you will have to adjust meal times/nap times/bedtimes.
  • Aim for a usual bedtime between 7pm-8pm.

Tune in to the PedsDocTalk Podcast to hear some tips and strategies on nap-refusal in the toddler years!

P.S. – Check out my resources page with need-to-know information

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All information presented on this blog, my Instagram, and my podcast is for educational purposes and should not be taken as personal medical advice. These platforms are to educate and should not replace the medical judgment of a licensed healthcare provider who is evaluating a patient.

It is the responsibility of the guardian to seek appropriate medical attention when they are concerned about their child.

All opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer or hospitals I may be affiliated with.