When 2 Naps Isn’t Better Than 1
I’m sure we’re all familiar with the expression “Less is more”. This sure is true when it comes to your schedule and your stuff. You could also apply it if your kiddo is between 12 - 18 months, and showing some serious nap trouble. But before you make a big change like dropping a nap, it’s important to know all the facts, and look at it from all the angles.
I know the 2 nap schedule can feel really stifling sometimes. It’s nice at first, but being home in the morning and afternoon day after day, can make you feel like a caged bird. Where’s the time for fun, socializing, or just getting errands done? If you’re in that stage right now, remember the 80/20 Rule. This gives you some freedom (and sanity!), but still respects your child’s needs for proper, structured sleep.
The 2-1 nap transition can be a bit of a doozy, but if your little bundle seems to be phasing out of the 2 nap life, there’s plenty you can do to help things go smoothly.
How do you know it’s time?
This particular nap transition can happen anytime between 12-18 months. It’s a wide range, I know, so if it helps, it most often occurs when your child is 14-16 months. There’s a lot going on cognitively and developmentally at this age, so sometimes the issue is naps, but sometimes it’s not. And you really don’t want to be cutting naps when there’s a lot going in their little brains. They need all the rest they can get! When in doubt, here’s what you should look for:
The biggest indicator is refusing their second nap. They can’t take a nap if they’re not tired enough, of course! This part can be confusing because they’re nice and tired for their first nap of the day, but their afternoon nap is a disaster! Or, sometimes they’ll take both naps, but each one is quite short, and you’re often left with an early morning wake up call. Ooph!
Okay, but here comes the tricky part. Those signs are also signs of developmental milestones. And just to add insult to injury here, you have decent odds of mixing up the two because of the age that this often hits. That 12+ month stage is chalk full of major developments such as walking, talking, and understanding basic commands. Toss in changes in sleep, and it can throw parents for a real trip. The best way to be sure your toddler really is ready to drop the nap is to ride it out. I tell my clients to give it a full 2 weeks before making any changes. If it resolves, it was a development interrupting their set sleep schedule. If it’s still disrupted by then, it’s probably time to make the transition.
Up here in the Great White North, babies hitting the 1 year mark often coincides with starting daycare. Maybe it’s different where your kids are cared for, but many daycares have a set 1 nap schedule for all the kids. If your kiddo is in childcare and is on a 1 nap schedule, stick with it on the weekends too. Juggling between 1 and 2 naps can create wonky night time wakings, which aren’t fun for anyone. Consistency is your friend.
What do you do?
Now that you’ve established that your child is indeed ready for 1 nap, it’s time to make the shift. This particular nap transition can be tricky, but there’s nothing like a plan and expert support to get you through it.
The quick answer is to bump their first nap later while they’re making the switch. Push it 30-60 minutes (depending on how well they can navigate stretching Awake Windows) every 3ish days until you reach your desired afternoon nap time. As you transition, still put them down for a second “nap”, but they’ll likely refuse and enjoy some quiet time instead. If they nap, then great.
Either way, have them up by 4 PM so that bedtime doesn’t get derailed. The last thing you want is different daytime sleep patterns coupled with a late bedtime. No thanks! If you can help your child to reach a 12:30 or 1:00 PM nap time, that’s ideal if they’re getting up around 7:00 AM. This helps split their 12 hour awake time in half.
While you’re making this change (for some kids, it really is a big change!), moving bedtime earlier by a solid 30 minutes for the first few weeks is a wise move. Adjusting daytime sleep too hastily is a direct path to an overtired munchkin. Do everyone a favour and call for an early bedtime. You can always go back to their normal time in a few weeks once the dust settles.
The 2-1 nap transition can feel like a lot, but TBH you might really enjoy that extra bit of freedom that comes with having a totally free morning. Go out and enjoy the day, then come home and everyone can have some quiet time. Sounds like time well spent to me!
Through the ups and downs of infant sleep, always remember that practice makes progress and you and kiddo are both learning this whole thing. It’s okay to have setbacks, and it’s great to get back on track! If you’ve worked with me and need a refresher, I have an exclusive service offer for you! (Here for Lauren!) If you’ve never worked with me, but need sleep support, I’m here for you. Booking your free call to discuss your sleep hurdles, goals, and way out is the first step.
I’m here to help you enjoy parenthood more, and have fun again. You can’t do either of those if you’re not sleeping!