This transition from two naps to one nap has a wider range of ages that children drop it compared to what we see with the three to two nap transition. It also can seem to appear earlier than expected around twelve months and may lead parents to pull a nap. This one is typically related to motor development and not sleep development.
We will cover the range children typically drop from two naps to one, the signs of the nap transition, the step by step plan to dropping the nap and a phase one and phase 2 sample schedule when they are oscillating between 2 and 1 nap.
When does the two to one nap transition happen?
This nap transition can range from 14-18 months with the average being 15 months. It also can happen as early as 13 months to as late as 24 months. On the earlier side of the spectrum, I would look at stretching and tweaking wake windows a bit to see if we can maintain the two naps. If we drop a nap too early, it can cause other issues that weren’t there prior such as having a harder time falling asleep, night waking's or early morning wakes.
What are the signs of the upcoming nap transition?
If your child is at the age for the transition, you may be asking yourself what do we see that indicates it is time to transition?
Here are a few signs that your child may be ready for the transition:
1. Taking longer to fall asleep for naps
2. Skips one nap consistently for a few weeks (tends to be the afternoon one)
3. Night waking's that weren’t there prior
4. Is awake for long periods of time in the middle of the night
5. Taking both naps but seeing early morning wakes (EMW)
6. Bedtime is getting late in the evening
Phase one and Phase two of dropping to one nap
We are consolidating two chunks of sleep in the day to one and recommend gradually moving your child over to one nap. We will have Phase one which is our initial stage of transition and then Phase two when we are fully transitioned to one nap.
Start with stretching the wake window (WW) to 10:30 (if possible 10:45) and let the child sleep the full nap time if possible (Goal is 2/2.5 hours and/or 3 hours max). Every few days stretch the WW by fifteen minutes so that we gradually let the body clock adjust to a later nap with end goal of nap at 12:00pm.
An unexpected short nap may happen and may add in on those days a small thirty minute cat nap in the early afternoon to help with combating overtiredness and as a way to bridge to bedtime .
This will be the schedule that your child will have once fully transitioned to one nap. This phase may take a few weeks to get to so don't feel discouraged as you are working on Phase 1 of the transition.
Steps to dropping to one nap
Now that our child is showing all the signs of the transitions, let’s get the action plan in place to make it happen.
1. Adjust bedtime earlier during the initial phase of dropping the nap.
Bedtime range prior to this transition on a 2-nap schedule (first 2 naps at least 1 hour each) is typically from 7:00/7:30pm. During this transition, we must consider they are consolidating two sleep periods into one and need to be mindful that bedtime will temporarily move up closer to 6:00/6:30pm to stay ahead of the child getting overtired. Use age-appropriate wake windows to gauge the amount of time to stretch from afternoon nap to bedtime (6:00pm is possible during the first week of the transition).
2. Let them sleep in later during the initial phase of the transition
I typically recommend having a set morning wake up time of 7:30am to set their circadian sleep clocks but during this transition if they are sleeping past that go ahead and let the child sleep until 8:00am. This later morning wake will make it “easier” for the child to stretch their wake windows.
3. Move the nap gradually to middle of the day
On the first day of the transition initially aim to do the nap at 10:30 to 10:45 and let them sleep as long as possible (max 3 hours). Every two to three to days move the nap later by fifteen minutes until you get to 12:00. This can take up two to three weeks to move the nap to the middle of the day. Keep in mind early bedtime is your friend during the transition!
4. Stay Consistent
Consistency when approaching sleep patterns changes is key to moving to our new sleep schedule. It can take two to three weeks for a child to adjust to this nap transition. Stay consistent on our routines, responses if wakes occur, use an earlier bedtime as needed and it will help this transition run more smoothly. You got this!
If you would like support during this transition, let’s set up a Discovery Call so that you can ask questions on how I serve families and I can get more information on what is happening sleep wise.