Naps are beneficial to a baby’s emotional development and learning ability. There are many sleep transitions babies have to go through. Roughly around 12 to 18 months, you probably find your baby tends to stay awake longer and resists taking a second nap. It means your baby is ready to move on to the next phase. However, for most parents and babies, the 2-to-1 nap transition seems to be the hardest. During this change, babies consolidate their many naps in one, and their bodies become accustomed to staying awake longer. This is often the most challenging nap transition you and your little one will have to go through, because changing a sleep pattern means changing the baby’s circadian cycle. It takes time and patience to adapt to a new rhythm. Ideally, the 1 long nap should be around 2 hours. It gives the baby enough energy for the rest of the day but doesn’t disrupt the nighttime sleep.
Before we get down to how to transition to one nap, you might wonder why your baby needs to do so.
Why transition to one nap?
As baby grows, their sleep requirements change. You will start noticing the change in the time they usually fall asleep and wake up from naps. As your baby begins to walk, their sleep requirements decrease slightly. Your baby’s body has learned to stay awake during the day to avoid waking up in the middle of the night. And of course, if the baby successfully transitions to a blissful 2-3 hour nap, guess who has some treasured downtime? Enjoy, parents!
When to transition to one nap?
The average time most toddlers transition from 2 to 1 nap is between the ages of 12 and 18 months. However, the actual time your baby is ready to switch to one nap differs from many factors. It can depend on the activities they do during the day, their own internal biological rhythms, even the temperature, just to name a few. The key is to let your baby take the lead and slowly adjust his or her routine (e.g., sleep schedule) before quitting the second-nap habit.
If your baby is starting to show any of the following signs, they may be ready to give up the extra naps and take just one nap instead.
Signs to transition from 2 to 1 nap
Common signs that your baby may be ready to go to one nap include:
- Resist to take naps for two consecutive weeks (especially the second nap)
- The length of naps have become irregular and significantly shorter
- Bedtime keeps getting pushed later because your baby is still energetic from the last nap
- Waking up in the middle of the night or waking up too early in the morning for no apparent reason
If situations that match these criteria for longer than 2 weeks occur, it may be time for your baby to transition to one nap.
How to transition from 2 naps to 1 nap
So what should you do?
The key is to take it slowly. Group 3 days as a cycle and gradually implement the new schedule for your baby.
Here is a step-by-step 10-days guide:
Cycle 1 (Day 1-3)
- Delay the first nap by 30 minutes
- Move the second nap 30 minutes later and shorten the sleep time to less than 20 minutes
Cycle 2 (Day 4-6)
- Move the first nap later for another 30 minutes
- Keep the same time and duration for the second nap
Cycle 3 (Day 7-9)
- Delay the first nap for another 30 minutes
- Make changes to baby’s sleeping spot for the second nap
Last cycle (Day 10)
- Move the first nap later for another 30 minutes
- Drop the second nap
After 10 days, your child should basically be able to adjust to the nap transition. However, this does not mean that your baby can take a steady 2-hour nap immediately. You can aim for at least 1-1.5 hours of naps at first. If your child adjusts well during this period and doesn’t want to take a second nap, consider moving bedtime up an hour.
It may take your baby a few weeks to move back and forth between one and two naps. Give your child 8 weeks to allow their body to fully adjust. In addition, many parents find that the best strategy for this “intermediate period” is to have at least one nap in the morning (with white noise and, perhaps, a bit of reading or massage). If your child seems restless, put on an educational or nature show for about 20 minutes. Watching cartoons is not recommended because it will usually make them more energetic.
During any nap transition, you don’t want to rush into prolonged wake-up time without planning. For some toddlers, it may be suitable to skip directly to noon nap time, but for most toddlers, it can backfire. Switching naps too early will almost always cause your baby to become exhausted, and they may start to nod off and wake up several times in the middle of the night. The recommendation is to keep two naps as long as possible until baby is ready to transition into 1 nap.
How to overcome the phase of the nap transition
If your baby changes to one nap and then starts waking up too early in the morning and appears overly tired (fidgety, be in a trance, rubbing eyes, falling back asleep during snack, becoming more clumsy, etc.) throughout the day, go back to two naps for one month or so.
When they finally get used to a one-nap schedule, the midday nap will last longer, which will move bedtime slightly earlier, allowing parents to catch a breath.
The nap transition can be difficult and frustrating. However, if you stay consistent and trust the process, everything will work out. Don’t give up if you don’t see immediate results, your consistency is the key to the success of the nap transition for your baby. Please remember that this is only a phase. As soon as you and your baby overcome the transition, growth and development are following too!
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