As your baby grows older, their sleep schedules will fluctuate. If you’re lucky, they’ll make the nap transitions quick and easy, but most babies need a little guidance on how to adjust their daytime naps.
Making the transition from two naps down to one can bring on some anxiety for parents. However, if you have a plan in place and look for the right cues, you can drop their naps quickly and painlessly.
When Do Babies Transition to One Nap?
You’ve probably scoured all kinds of blogs reading horror stories about over or under tired babies, nap refusals, and more. But if your baby knows how to fall asleep on their own, the transition should be a fairly smooth one.
Although every baby is different, most will naturally make the transition to 1 nap around 12 months of age, give or take a couple of months.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if on their 1st birthday, baby would just drop a nap on his/her own, sleep soundly for 2-3 hours during the day, and then sleep another 12 hours at night? Unfortunately this is not the case for most babies and most parents need a little guidance when it comes to baby sleep.
The one nap life is awesome
Transitioning your child to one nap can be great for your own routine, but it can also be terrifying. The difference often depends on how your baby sleeps at night, how comfortable they are to change, and a few other factors.
If you’re thinking about dropping to 1 nap, look for signs that your baby may be ready.
How Do I Know If My Baby is Ready for One Nap?
Parents often ask me how to figure out if two naps are still working or if they need to go down to one. It can be a quick and easy transition or one that takes many weeks.
The most important way to know if your baby is ready for one nap is to check for signs of readiness. You know your baby best and should be able to get a sense of whether they can make the transition or not.
A well-rested baby may very well be communicating to you that they are ready to transition to 1 nap. Here are some of the signs that your baby is probably ready:
1. Fighting naps
If they start to fight the first nap of the day for a few days in a row, that may be a sign, especially if they used to go down fairly easily.
Fighting can look like playing, crying or simply refusing the nap altogether. Alternatively, if they start to fight their last nap of the day, they may be letting you know that they’ve gotten all their sleep they need for the day – and they’re ready to drop the last nap!
2. Early wake ups
Early wakeups can also be cues because too much day sleep can impact night sleep. So if your normally good sleeper starts waking up early, check if it’s time to drop a daytime nap.
3. Fighting nighttime sleep
If baby is fighting sleep at night for several days in a row, baby may be getting too much day sleep. If normal bedtime is now a battle, check if dropping to 1 nap may be the solution – less day sleep will help keep your babe on track for an easy bedtime.
4. Waking up in the middle of the night
Split nights can also be a sign your baby is ready to drop to 1 nap. This means that they are up in the middle of the night for 1-2 hours for a few days in a row. Split nights are the absolute worst but may be able to be solved by simply dropping to one nap during the day!
What if you can’t tell if baby is showing signs of readiness?
If your baby isn’t sleep trained in some way or can’t fall asleep on their own, recognizing these cues may be harder. It’s never too late to work on teaching your baby how to independently fall asleep.
Make sure baby is getting the recommended 12-15 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period.
If you are unsure if you’re seeing or not seeing signs of readiness, try dropping to 1 nap and see if it works. If not, you can go back to 2 and try again in a few weeks!
How do milestones play into this?
Milestones and regressions often go hand in hand. Sleep disturbances usually occur because your baby may be practicing those new skills (increased language, cruising, walking, sit ups, problem solving, etc) in the middle of the night!
Make sure that you are giving them ample time during the day to work on those emerging milestones. This should make them less inclined to do so at night.
Spend lots of time talking to them, explaining their new skills, and asking questions!
Regressions can sometimes last for a few weeks, even when you’re doing everything “by the book.” Just remember it won’t last forever!
Do you have nighttime sleep conquered?
Having a good nighttime sleep foundation is first and foremost to conquering a good nap schedule.
If your baby sleeps soundly throughout the night, the transition should go well. If your baby struggles to fall asleep or stay asleep at night, you may want to consider conquering nighttime sleep before you tackle daytime.
I also recommend parents sleep train before baby is 15 months old. While it’s not impossible to teach independent sleep after this age, it does get a bit harder.
A naptime routine may be the missing element
Lastly, make sure you have good sleep foundations set both at bedtime and naptime! Consistency is key.
A naptime routine is the same as a bedtime routine – except during the day!
Routines help baby know what is coming. A routine can also help calm their body down and can help parents have a sense of control.
Keep the routine short and sweet and do it about 10 minutes before putting them in their crib. If you’re doing a wake window, start the routine about 20 minutes before you know their wake window finishes.
A routine can be as simple as a diaper change and a short bonding activity – nothing too stimulating. I prefer reading a book or singing songs. If you are religious, you could also say prayers here.
Remember to keep the room as dark as possible (if you can) and use white noise if that helps.
Ease the transition with 1.5 naps
Usually I recommend dropping down to 1.5 naps for a while before dropping completely to 1. That half nap can mean that you’ll wake your baby up half through what their typical nap would be.
This should help to make the transition easier.
You know your baby best
Please remember that what works for one family may not be what works for yours! As a general rule, babies usually drop to 1 nap from 12-18 months.
When it comes to baby sleep, just make sure it is working for you and your family. Always refer to your trusted care provider and trust your own mama intuition to know what is best for your baby. You’ve got this!
By Andrea De La Torre, Baby Sleep Consultant of Baby Sleep Answers