The transition to one nap has a beautiful outcome — one less step in your routine and a move towards more quality sleep. However, changing your toddler’s sleep habits can be a shake up. According to Dr. Harvey Karp, author of The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep, “Children usually go from 2 naps to 1 between ages 1 and 2.” As a real mom in the trenches, I’ve experienced it closer to 12-15 months.
For those of you whose child has stopped sleeping when he used to sleep soundly, I’m here to help!
4 Basic Signs to Look For …
(1) Your child’s age (1-2 years old).
(2) Your child has stopped sleeping during one of his morning or afternoon naps, then is a cranky wreck because he’s sleep deprived.
(3) Your child takes “forever” (15+ minutes) to fall asleep, or plays in his crib the entire nap time.
(4) Your child takes “forever” to fall asleep, and then once he does he sleeps longer than usual and is not ready for his normally scheduled afternoon naptime.
If your child exhibits just one of these sleeping traits for as little as 5 days in a row, it’s time to transition to one nap. This is a scary, unsure time in your parenting career. Up until now your schedule has been somewhat stable. I’m not going to lie — switching to one nap is on par with sleep training, yet worse because it takes months until your child’s brain can learn how to sleep a 3-hour stretch.
Follow these steps for 28 days, don’t give up, and your kid will soon transition to one nap! Noon is a preferable naptime if your child sleeps 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. (adjust accordingly).
Day 1-3: Put him down for his nap 15 minutes later than usual. Keep him awake until then and always put your child down awake in his crib.
Remember you’re messing with his internal clock, so he will start doing wacky things that he may not have done before. During the transition to one nap, maybe he sleeps his normal length, maybe it’s shorter, or maybe it’s 3 hours (your goal nap length).
When he wakes up, have a snack and remember to stay patient through the new routine “grumps.” In the evening, you’ll be putting him to bed an hour earlier than usual (yahoo)!
Unless: He naps a full 3 hours; then he goes to bed at his normal time.
Days 4-6: Again, push his nap back by 15 minutes. Feed him when he wakes. If he’s napping less than 3 hours, put him down to bed an hour earlier because he’s tired (and so are you!)
Days 7-28: Continue with this plan … Day 28! You did it. Noon is your child’s new nap time!
An Outline for Your Toddler’s New Schedule
- 7 a.m. – Wake up & eat breakfast! Then get dressed and leave your house. You have new morning freedom — use it!
- 9:30 a.m. – Snack time
- 11:00 a.m. – Lunch (can’t be too close to nap, or he will be too tired to focus)
- 12:00 p.m. – Transition to one nap – it’s go time!
- 3:00 p.m. – Snack (or whenever he wakes up. Never wake a sleeping child; do you like being woken up?)
- 3:30 p.m. – Head outside or let loose at Bubbles Academy’s Open Play!
- 5:00 p.m. – Dinner
- 6:00 p.m. – Bedtime routine kicks off
- 7:00 p.m. – Leave your child’s bedroom
- 7:01 p.m. – Watch TiVo! 😉
Your next hurdle is to be patient until your child’s nervous system learns to nap 3 hours. This can take as long as 2 months. He will get there, I promise you! And don’t settle for less than 3 hours, mamas; you need and deserve this break and sleep is when your child’s brain and body grows, so respect it.
Tips to Adhere By …
- Only begin the transition to one nap when you’re ready to stick to this plan. Do not give your child mixed messages, and do not quit. COMMIT!
- Your child has to be awake until his designated naptime; no catnaps or you’ve blown it.
- Adhere to the times closely, like military precision time.
- Be armed with activities around naptime because your child may be disoriented and irritated since he’s napping less hours.
In my home with 3 active boys (10, 6, 2) the older two napped until they were 4 years old, and even now on the weekends they are in their rooms by 1 p.m. for quiet time and will sometimes fall asleep. Mommy gets a break, and after that I love being around them even more.
Eirene Heidelberger is a certified parent coach, and works with moms in their homes to teach them effective and efficient parenting tools so they can be guilt-free and live their best life.