rTjnooyTR-1One nap, two nap, red fish, blue fish?  Transitioning your toddler to one nap may seem as simple and benign as reading a Dr. Seuss Book.  Yes there will be more fun to be had once you are through this transition and can have more time for morning activities, but getting to that point is a bit more like “Fox in Sox”: as trying as a tongue twister.  As the book is prefaced – “Take it slowly.  This book is dangerous!”  The move from two naps to one is not for the faint of heart.  There will be lots of struggling to keep your bleary eyed tot awake till naptime and further struggles to reach bedtime.  It is just a very long time for a little one to be awake and while their bodies may no longer need two naps, they aren’t quite ready for only one.  So what’s a Mom (or Dad) to do?  First, make sure they are truly ready before putting them (and you!) through this sometimes-arduous journey.


Most toddlers make the leap to one nap sometime between 15-18 months of age, however according to Dr. Weissbluth, 23% of 18 month olds are still taking two naps a day – so don’t rush it!  If your 2 nap a day child’s naps have become a bit off kilter and you are thinking they may be ready, make one last attempt to salvage both naps before giving up.  As our babies get older, we become more lax about the starting time of the first nap and let it slide later and later.  Next thing we know, they are not in their crib until 9:30am and then they go on to play, or babble, or do calisthenics rather than taking a nap.  The logical conclusion would be that they no longer need that nap, right?  Well maybe, but it’s more likely that by 9:30 they have actually already become overtired and have caught a second wind.  Once they catch that second wind it is very difficult for them to fall asleep and take a restorative nap.  So before giving up, try moving the morning nap earlier to have them in their crib 8:30-8:45am so that they can be fast asleep by 9am. In turn, move the afternoon nap earlier making sure it starts between 12:30-1pm.  Give this a shot for a week and you may find that your child goes back to taking two naps a day like a champ and buy you another month or so of two naps!  If despite your best efforts, both naps just aren’t happening – here’s what to do:


Nap schedule:
Ultimately you want the  nap to begin in the 12:30-1pm window.  Yes, 12:30pm.  I know you are thinking – “How the H-E-double-hockey-sticks am I going to make it to 12:30pm?” But you will.  Again, that is why we want to keep the two naps for as long as possible.  On day one you will start with the nap at as close to 12pm as you can muster.  You will hold at 12pm for 3 days.  On the fourth day, you will move to 12:15pm and remain there for 3 days.   On day 7, you will hit your first target of 12:30pm.  We will stay at 12:30pm for a month or so and once your child has adjusted and nears age two – you will push on to 1pm.
Remember this is a HUGE transition for your child. In order to keep them from becoming woefully overtired, make sure you move bedtime very early to compensate.  This is one of those times when a 5-5:30pm bedtime is a very useful tool and most certainly in order. And no, this doesn’t mean your child will wake up earlier.


Coping Strategies:
As I’ve said, this is a really hard transition. It’s just a big jump for them and they get tired really easily. Here are some ideas to help:

  • Expect short naps the first week or two of the transition.  Don’t worry this is not forever, but it is common as your child adjusts – again EARLY BEDTIME is your best friend during this move.
  • Try to get out and about in the morning prior to nap and in the afternoon after nap for some sunshine and exercise, but DO NOT let them fall asleep in the car!
  • The first few days they will most likely start to crash at around 10am. Have a snack ready at this point to help keep them going.
  • Be consistent. Your child will be tired and cranky and you will be tempted to revert to a two nap schedule, but this will just make it harder on them. Once you decide to take the plunge into the one nap a day pool, there is no going back. It is just too hard for your child’s body to flip back and forth. You just need to rip the Band-Aid off and go for it.

The Tip Take-Away:
If your attempt at two naps has become as trying as a tongue twister, your child may be ready for the transition to one nap. Before making any rash decisions ;), make one last crack at two naps a day. If it doesn’t work, it is time to transition. This transition is a BEAR, so give the earlier nap a try first. Good luck!

This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid – click here.


Copyright © Well Rested Baby, 2017

Amy Lage is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a Family Sleep Institute certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant. She is founder of Well Rested Baby (www.wellrestedbaby.com). She offers a host of services including in person, phone, email and Skype/FaceTime consultations that can be tailored to meet any family’s needs and schedule. Amy, her husband Jeff, their 44year old Stella, their 4 year old Harley, and their two dogs Jackson and Cody live in Beverly Farms, Massachusetts. Please email her at amy@wellrestedbaby.com with any questions. Be sure to follow WRB on Facebook and twitter for more great sleep tips!

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