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.
This schedule involves transitioning from two naps a day (morning and later afternoon) to one longer nap in the late morning/earlyafternoon.
Parents may choose to switch to a 1 nap schedule for a variety of reasons. It can be more convenient for families with busy schedules, as it frees up time in the morning and allows for more flexibility in daily activities.
Additionally, some children may have difficulty falling asleep for a second nap or may not need as much daytime sleep as they did when they were younger. However, transitioning to a one nap schedule can also be challenging, as it may take some time for children to adjust to the longer awake time and new sleep schedule.
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, the transition typically occurs around 12-18 months of age when a child’s sleep needs change.
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 1 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!
Your baby is between 13-18 months and follows one of these readiness signs, they are ready for 1 nap.
For babies younger than 12 months, it’s rarely time to drop to one nap. Instead, if you see the signs, try shortening your baby’s morning nap to see if this helps resolve some of your issues.
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!
Transitioning to a One Nap Schedule
When a baby is around 12-18 months, they are usually ready to transition from two naps to one nap per day. However, this transition can be challenging for both the baby and the parents. Here are some tips on how to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Once you notice the signs of readiness, it is time to start transitioning to one nap per day.
Gradual vs. Abrupt Transition
Some parents prefer to make the transition gradually, while others prefer to do it abruptly. Both methods can be successful, so it is up to you to decide which one will work best for your baby.
If you choose to make the transition gradually, start by pushing back your baby’s morning nap by 15-30 minutes each day until they are napping in the early afternoon. This will give your baby time to adjust to the new schedule.
If you choose to make the transition abruptly, simply drop the morning nap and move your baby’s afternoon nap up to midday. This method can be more challenging for your baby to adjust to, but it can also be quicker.
Adjusting Nap Duration and Timing
Once your baby is on a one nap schedule, it is important to adjust the duration and timing of their nap to ensure they are getting enough sleep. Most babies will nap for 1.5-3 hours in the early afternoon.
If your baby is napping for less than 1.5 hours, they may be overtired and need to nap longer. If your baby is napping for more than 3 hours, they may not be tired enough at bedtime and have trouble falling asleep.
It is also important to adjust the timing of your baby’s nap to ensure they are not overtired or undertired at bedtime. If your baby is waking up too early in the morning or having trouble falling asleep at night, try adjusting the timing of their nap by 15-30 minutes.
By following these tips, you can make the transition to a one nap schedule as smooth as possible for both you and your baby.
1 Nap Schedule
Every parent has a different reason for bed times and wake times, but this is what worked for our family when transitioning to 1 nap:
6:30am: Wake up
8:30am: Play time
2:00pm: Wake up
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.
Benefits of a One Nap Schedule
A one nap schedule can offer several benefits for both parents and children. Here are some of the key advantages of a one nap schedule:
Improved Sleep Quality
One of the most significant benefits of a one nap schedule is improved sleep quality. Children who take one long nap during the day are more likely to get a full, restful night’s sleep. This can lead to a range of positive outcomes, including improved mood, better behavior, and increased overall health.
Better Mood and Behavior
In addition to better sleep quality, a one nap schedule can also lead to better mood and behavior. Children who are well-rested are generally happier, more alert, and better able to regulate their emotions. This can lead to a more positive and enjoyable experience for both the child and the parent.
Increased Daytime Productivity
Finally, a one nap schedule can also lead to increased daytime productivity. Children who take one long nap are more likely to be alert and engaged during their waking hours. This can result in more focused playtime, better learning outcomes, and a more enjoyable experience for both the child and the parent.
Overall, a one nap schedule can offer a range of benefits for both parents and children. By improving sleep quality, increasing mood and behavior, and boosting daytime productivity, a one nap schedule can help create a more positive and enjoyable experience for everyone involved.
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!
These 4 steps can set you up for success:
1. Gradually shift the nap
The goal with one nap is for the nap to happen about half way through the day. Typically, this nap begins around 11:30am to 12:00pm, falling for most babies 5-6 hours after waking in the morning.
Asking your baby to stay awake for 5 – 6 hours may feel like a HUGE change if she has been napping within 3 hours of wake-up (as is common with a two-nap schedule). Instead of making that change all at once, we want to gradually shift the first nap later and later.
We can do that by adding 15-30 minutes of extra awake time before the nap every few days.
2. Provide a wind-down routine
Just like a bedtime routine helps prepare a baby for a good night’s sleep, a predictable naptime routine sets your little one up for a restorative nap. A naptime routine doesn’t have to be complicated! We just want to allow 7-10 minutes to decompress before a nap.
Here’s one example: remove uncomfortable clothing, change diaper, slip into a Zen Sack™, read a book, dim the lights, and put him into the crib awake. All of this sends cues to your little one’s brain that sleep is coming!
If your little one isn’t able to fall asleep independently, Taking Cara Babies has a class that can help.
3. Adjust bedtime as needed
Our goal is for that one nap to be 2-3 hours long. After the nap ends, we want to aim for bedtime about 4-5 hours later.
If the nap is short (less than 90 minutes), you may find that it is difficult to keep your baby awake until her normal bedtime. A bedtime as early as 6-6:30pm is common during nap transitions and will help restore lost daytime sleep until that nap gets a bit longer.
If you need realistic examples of what this might look like, check out these sample schedules.
4. Stay consistent
Consistency is so important as you help shift your baby’s sleep routine. This transition can often take 2-4 weeks, so be patient and stay the course.
Know that moving to a one-nap schedule can be a bit challenging at first. Even with the right tools, it’s a big change! Give your little one lots of grace… and while you’re at it- give yourself lots of grace too. You got this!