When Should We Drop From 2 Naps to 1?

Many parents contact me asking for advice about transitioning their child from two naps to one. I hear questions like: “He’s a year old now, so shouldn’t we be dropping to one nap soon?” or “She actually hasn’t been falling asleep for the second nap for several days now. Does that mean she’s ready to drop her second nap?” The truth of the matter is that when babies are ready, we actually transition to one nap by consolidating the two naps (morning and afternoon) into one nap.

I recommend continuing to offer two naps up until babies are about 15 to 18 months of age. The truth of the matter is that even the best-rested babies may still take two solid and restorative naps occasionally throughout the week when we offer it to them. They may not need two full naps every single day, but if we give them the opportunity, on the days that they need the extra rest they will sleep for both naps. By providing two naps, and even if the baby doesn’t sleep, we are allowing her to have some quiet time alone in her room so that she can relax. If by 15 months of age, your baby is not napping at all for her second nap it may be time to drop to one nap. How can you be sure that your baby has reached this next chapter in her life?

Here are some thoughts to consider before making the leap and dropping from two naps to one:

Thought #1 – Don’t transition before your child is ready.  

There should be no rush in transitioning to one nap. I find that babies usually transition most easily between 15 and 18 months of age. Most babies under 18-months can really benefit from getting two solid naps, so we want to at least give them the opportunity to take two naps if necessary. Transition too early and your baby could become overtired. If you have recently transitioned your baby (under the age of 18 months) to one nap and they are suddenly experiencing night wakings or their only nap is short (under an hour) you may want to consider going back to two naps until they are truly ready.

Thought #2 – Be prepared and fully understand your baby’s needs before attempting to transition.

Keeping track of her sleep by logging daily is a good way to understand what your baby’s sleep needs are. It’s not a good idea to drop to one nap suddenly without preparation AND push the first nap later all in one swoop. Transition gradually to avoid confusing your baby or causing her to become overtired. Work with your consultant to determine the best approach for your baby, but one method is to move the first nap back 15 minutes every three days until you reach a 12:30-1:00pm nap time. That nap should last 1.5 – 2 hours before dropping nap two, but nap two should shorten to just a catnap or even quiet time until this goal is achieved.

Offer an early bedtime and/or the second nap on bad nap days or if she becomes too sleepy throughout the day. Finally, don’t be afraid to step back if she starts to get overtired – see Thought #3.

Thought #3 – Patience and consistency are a must during nap transition.

  • Be patient as your child makes this transition. Understand that it can take several weeks to fully transition and you will want to focus on the progress your child makes each day no matter how small it may seem.
  • Stay the course and be consistent. Naps may be short at first and you may need to step back a few times. However, letting your baby guide this transition is better than forcing it on them too soon.
  • Anytime changes are made to a child’s sleep schedule it can temporarily cause disruption. Your child can read your emotions better than you think. Try to remain calm and collected and things will be easier for both you and your child. Her sleep patterns and habits will slowly normalize and your child will be resting peacefully again in no time.

How will you know for sure that your baby is ready to make the leap from two naps to one?

The following may be signs that your baby is ready to drop to one nap:

  • Refusing her afternoon nap more than 50% of the time.
  • Taking a super long time (1 hour or more) to fall asleep for her second nap.
  • Time between morning wake-up and the start time of her first nap naturally becomes longer (without your baby becoming overtired).
  • If she has been taking two strong naps each day and has usually had a consistent morning wake time but suddenly starts waking up earlier and earlier each morning.
  • If your baby is napping well during the day, you have a well established and age appropriate bedtime, but your baby begins experiencing night wakings suddenly and out of nowhere.

Tips for success

  • Never rush your child during transitioning. There is no reason to force any changes to schedules and doing so may make matters harder on everyone involved.
  • If you feel she is becoming overtired you can always continue to offer two naps as needed and then proceed slowly ahead.
  • On days that naps do not go well, always try to offer an earlier bedtime so that your baby doesn’t become overtired.
  • Keep calm and relaxed during transitions.
  • If a nap doesn’t happen, allow your child to have some quiet time alone in her crib around the same time that nap 2 would normally occur.

When in doubt, contact Baby Sleep Well for any support with all of your transition needs!