How to Transition Your Baby from Two Naps to One Nap: The Complete Guide for Parents

how to transition from two naps to one

If you’re a parent of a young toddler, you know just how precious naps can be. Those daytime snoozes provide a much-needed break for both baby and parents alike. But around 12-18 months, many toddlers start dropping from two naps down to just one. While this transition represents an exciting milestone, it can also be challenging for families to navigate.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through everything parents need to know about moving from two naps to one. You’ll learn when and why this sleep transition occurs, signs your little one is ready, and how to smoothly switch to a single nap routine. We’ll also provide tips to handle common hurdles like early waking, grumpiness, and short naps during the process.

Arm yourself with the knowledge you need for nap training success! With the right preparation and consistency, you can guide your toddler through this aging milestone and come out the other side with a new schedule that works for your family.

When Does the Two to One Nap Transition Occur?

The two to one nap transition often happens sometime between 12 and 18 months of age. But every child is different, so it’s more important to watch your baby’s cues than focus on their age. There are a few key signs that indicate your little one is ready to drop from two naps down to one:

  • Naps are shorter and inconsistent. Toddlers start taking shorter morning and afternoon naps that rarely exceed an hour.
  • Increased nighttime sleep. As naps decrease, many babies start sleeping longer at night (like 10-12 hours) and waking later in the morning.
  • Fighting the second nap. Your toddler may resist going down for their afternoon nap or only catnap for 30 minutes or less.
  • Early waking. Some toddlers start waking very early from the morning nap and are ready to start the day.
  • Longer awake time. Your baby is able to stay awake for longer stretches in between naps without getting overly tired.

If you’re seeing a combination of these cues, it’s likely time to kick the two nap habit and transition to just one longer nap midday. Most toddlers drop their morning nap first, holding onto an afternoon nap for a few more months before fully transitioning.

Why Do Babies Transition from Two Naps to One?

The transition from two naps to one coincides with a lot of growth and development happening in your little one around their first birthday. Here are some of the factors at play:

Maturing Circadian Rhythms

Around 6 months, infants develop a clear circadian rhythm that regulates sleep and wake times. But at around 1 year, their rhythm continues to mature, allowing for longer awake times and consolidated sleep. Dropping to one nap supports this new rhythm.

Decreased Sleep Needs

While babies under 1 year need 14-15 hours of total sleep, toddler sleep needs drop to around 13 hours. Consolidating sleep into one longer nap helps meet their decreased requirements.

Increased Independence

As babies become more mobile and independent, they need less overall sleep during the day. Dropping a nap coincides with toddlers’ need for more time to crawl, walk and explore.

Cognitive Development

Your baby’s brain is developing rapidly in the first year. Napping less allows more opportunities for learning, socializing, and skills practice while awake.

The two to one transition is a natural result of your toddler’s evolving sleep needs and developmental milestones. By following their cues, you can support healthy circadian rhythms and learning at this age.

Signs Your Toddler is Ready to Drop from Two Naps

How do you know exactly when your baby is ready to take the plunge from two naps to one? Watch for these common signs that indicate your little one can handle a new sleep schedule:

  • Naps are short and inconsistent. Your toddler may fight going down for naps or wake up after 30-45 minutes.
  • Morning nap ends very early. For example, waking at 5am after a 7am nap time.
  • Increased night sleep. Your baby starts sleeping longer at night or waking later in the morning.
  • Longer awake time. Your toddler can happily play for 4-5 hours or more between naps without melting down.
  • Fights the afternoon nap. Rocking, nursing or driving to extend naps no longer works.
  • Early bedtime. Your baby gets sleepy for bedtime right after the afternoon nap, like 5-6pm.
  • Sleeps through dropped naps. Missing a nap doesn’t result in an overtired meltdown at bedtime.

Of course, every toddler is different. But if you’re seeing a combination of these signs, it likely means your child is ready to make the switch from two naps to one.

How to Transition from Two Naps to One

Once you determine your toddler is ready to drop to one nap, how you approach the transition can set you up for success or frustration. Follow these tips to smoothly switch your child’s sleep schedule:

Pick a Start Date

Choose a start date like a Friday or Saturday so you have the weekend to focus on the transition without other obligations. Tell caregivers or family members to prepare them for the change.

Adjust Wake Windows

For a one nap schedule, your baby should be awake for 5-6 hours before nap time. Upon waking, allow 4-5 hours before nap.

Move Nap Time

Over a few days, push your toddler’s first nap later until it reaches your desired nap time, like 12-2pm. This will help shift their body clock to the new schedule.

Watch for Sleepy Signs

Put your toddler down for their one nap based on sleep cues like eye rubbing and yawning. Avoid letting them become overtired.

Make Bedtime Earlier

Adjust bedtime earlier after the one nap, about 5-5.30pm, so your toddler gets the sleep they need. Aim for 11-12 hours overnight.

Get Outside

Spend mornings outside or engage your toddler in active play to help them power through to an appropriate nap time without getting overtired.

Stick it Out

It may take a few weeks for your toddler to adjust to one nap. Deal with short naps, grumpiness and early waking as consistently as possible.

With the right strategy tailored to your child’s needs, the two to one transition doesn’t need to be painful for tired parents. The key is watching your baby’s cues, adjusting wake windows gradually, allowing a few weeks of flexibility, and pushing through any initial hurdles.

Sample Schedules for Transitioning from Two Naps to One

What does a sample daily schedule look like when you’re working towards dropping from two naps down to one? Here are a couple options that follow the tips above:

Gradual Morning Nap Push Method

Day 1

  • 7am – Wake and feed
  • 9am – Nap 1
  • 11am – Wake
  • 1:30pm – Nap 2
  • 4pm – Wake
  • 7:30pm – Bedtime

Day 4

  • 7am – Wake and feed
  • 10am – Nap 1
  • 12pm – Wake
  • 2:30pm – Nap 2
  • 5pm – Wake
  • 7:30pm – Bedtime

Day 7

  • 7am – Wake and feed
  • 11:30am – Nap 1
  • 3pm – Wake
  • 5:30pm – Bedtime

Cold Turkey Nap Drop Method

If your toddler can handle skipping naps altogether, you may choose to go cold turkey. Just beware this can lead to overtiredness if your child wasn’t quite ready.

Day 1

  • 7am – Wake and feed
  • No Nap
  • 5:30pm – Bedtime

Day 2 and Beyond

  • 7am – Wake and feed
  • 12pm – Nap 1
  • 3pm – Wake
  • 5:30pm – Bedtime

Customize a gradual plan that fits your schedule. The key is stretching wake time to allow an appropriately timed single nap.

Handling Common Problems During the Transition

Moving from two naps to one often comes with a few bumps in the road. Don’t despair if you hit one of these common snags – just try these tips to get back on track:

Short Naps

For a few weeks, your toddler may only nap 30-45 minutes as they adjust. Leave them to see if they resettle, and put to bed early if needed.

Grumpiness

Your little one may be more prone to tantrums, whining, and acting out as they adapt to a new routine. Respond with extra patience and understanding.

Early Morning Waking

Use light-blocking curtains and white noise to help your toddler sleep later in the morning after dropping their first nap.

Resisting the Afternoon Nap

Stick with the same soothing nap routines even if your toddler fights at first. Being consistent pays off.

Overtiredness

If your child is rubbing eyes and melting down well before nap time, you likely pushed the transition before they were ready. Revert back to two naps for a week or two before trying again.

While frustrating, most of these issues resolve within a few weeks. Stay consistent in your schedule, bedtime routines and nap transitions. And give your toddler extra grace as they adapt.

Tips for a Successful One Nap Routine

Whether you just made the switch or have been on a one nap schedule for awhile, these tips will help ensure daytime sleep success:

  • Make nap time consistent from day to day. Aim for the same 1-3 hour window 7 days a week.
  • Follow age-appropriate awake times. About 5-6 hours before a 12-2pm nap works well.
  • Note sleepy signs like eye-rubbing and have a predictable winding down routine before nap.
  • Choose a quiet, dark room for nap time with white noise playing. Avoid stimulation and check-ins.
  • Stick with the same sleep associations like loveys, pacifiers, or rocking.
  • Keep baby in the crib for the entire nap, even if they cry or don’t sleep.
  • Don’t let your toddler sleep too late in the afternoon, capping nap by 3 or 3:30pm.
  • Adjust bedtime earlier, around 5:30-6pm, for an appropriate night of 11-12 hours.
  • Be consistent with nap routines on weekends and when traveling too.

Following healthy sleep habits in your one nap routine will ensure your toddler gets the daytime rest they need to learn and develop.

Nap Training Tips by Age

The nap transition may look a little different depending on your toddler’s age. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect and tips by age:

12-14 Months

Around a baby’s first birthday, you may start seeing the first signs of nap consolidation as sleep needs decrease. Try these tips for toddlers in this age range:

  • Split the difference between two naps and one nap with a late morning catnap and afternoon nap.
  • Gradually push first nap later and cap it before 30 minutes if possible.
  • Watch for a very early morning wakeup as a sign it’s time to drop nap #1.
  • Move bedtime earlier to account for dropping overall sleep.

15-17 Months

During this time, most toddlers are ready to fully transition to one daily nap:

  • Pick a weekend for the transition and commit to pushing through initial challenges.
  • Gradually move first nap later until it reaches the desired nap time.
  • Increase morning outdoor playtime and activities to bridge the gap between naps.
  • Make bedtime earlier when first transitioning to one nap.
  • Accept short naps at first as your toddler adjusts to the new schedule.

18-24 Months

The months following the initial transition to one nap may involve further consolidation:

  • Child is ready for a lengthier awake stretch before nap around 5-6 hours.
  • Nap length should be increasing from 1-2 hours ideally.
  • Bedtime can possibly move later as nap extends with less need for an ultra early bedtime.
  • Toddler should be on predominantly one nap with rare days of two naps when needed.

Be patient, flexible and consistent as your toddler’s sleep continues to develop through the second year. Watch their cues and tailor your approach to their needs.

FAQs About Dropping from Two to One Nap

Have more questions about this toddler sleep transition? Here are answers to some common concerns parents have:

What if my toddler still seems to need two naps?

If your child is still taking long, robust naps and struggles to make it to nap time on one nap, they likely need more time before transitioning. Let them keep a morning catnap for a few more months.

Should I use a sleep trainer for this transition?

If your child already has healthy sleep habits, you likely don’t need a sleep consultant. But if you’ve had long-term sleep struggles, a qualified professional can help guide the transition.

How long does the adjustment take?

It’s different for every toddler, but expect at least 2-3 weeks of short naps, grumpiness, and schedule challenges as your little one adapts to the new routine.

What if my child starts waking at night again?

Some regression is normal during this transition. Implement an age-appropriate gentle sleep training approach if needed until desired night sleep habits return.

Are there any alternatives to dropping a nap?

You can extend two naps as long as possible, but eventually toddlers biologically need to consolidate sleep as they get older and night sleep is disrupted.

While the move to one nap may be a relief for some parents, it can be challenging for others. Have a plan, be patient with temporary setbacks, and consult your pediatrician if problems persist. Consistency and commitment from the whole family is key!

Conclusion: Smooth Sailing on a Single Nap

The transition from two daily naps down to one is a milestone for every toddler that opens up more time for learning and play. As bittersweet as it can feel to say goodbye to the peaceful mornings and predictable afternoon catnaps, this change means your little one is progressing just as they should.

Follow your child’s cues, adjust wake windows gradually, stick to a consistent schedule, and roll with the punches during the initial transition period. Before you know it, your toddler will be a one nap pro, and you’ll have adapted to the new routine as a family.

One nap a day provides the restorative rest children need at this age while allowing them to practice emerging skills and independence. No matter the unique challenges you hit along the way, remember that this shift reflects your child’s development.

Stay tuned as we support you through all of your little one’s sleepy milestones! For more tips, check out these articles on making naptime easier and troubleshooting short naps during the transition. Sweet dreams!

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