How and when to transition to a 1 nap schedule

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We often work with little ones who are in the process of transitioning to one nap a day, or who are close to making this change. It usually happens somewhere between 12-14 months and signs that your little one is ready to do this will include: Struggling to settle for, or refusing completely, nap 2, struggling to settle at bedtime or even starting to wake during the night. All of these could be a sign that your little one is having too much daytime sleep and is ready to make the transition to 1 daytime nap.

We often hear that parents will cut short the first nap of the day with the aim being that the second nap of the day (the lunchtime nap) will become the main one once they drop to one. However, we recommend doing things differently:

An ideal nap time for a baby on a 1 nap schedule would be around midday (A 1pm naptime is more common around 2 years of age). So, to get to this point, you will need to push their first nap of the day back by 15 minutes a day every 2-3 days until they are at this point. Whilst you are making these changes, the second nap will become more of a ‘cat nap’ on the go (20-30 minutes in the pram or the car perhaps) until there isn’t time to fit this in anymore (usually by the time your little one is going down around 11am). Once at this point, don’t be afraid to bring bedtime forward to ensure they aren’t overtired by the evening (6pm is the earliest we would suggest).

The reason we make the transition in this way, is that the first nap of the day is often the easiest to achieve. Your little one will still have some residual sleep pressure left over from the previous night and won’t have had as much stimulation as they will have had later in the day – meaning it is usually easier for them to fall asleep. If you cut this nap short, you can’t guarantee the second nap will be long and then you may find yourself in a situation where your baby has had two short naps and is very grumpy by bedtime.

By prioritising the first nap of the day, and gradually moving it back towards lunchtime, you should end up with a good quality nap without having to wake a sleeping baby (which feels so wrong doesn’t it)?!

Here are our top tips for dealing with this transition and any little challenges it may pose:

  • It can take up to a month to fully adjust to one nap and your little one may appear tired at their normal nap time initially  
  • To help with morning grumpiness try taking them outside or giving them a little snack (the natural sugar in fruit can help for this transition period)
  • If you try to push the naptime too late you run the risk of your little one getting their second wind and being more difficult to put down later on
  • If you miss the window of time that your child is starting to get tired you will be in the overtired state which means it will be more difficult for them to fall asleep which is why it is important to make this transition gradually
  • As we mentioned before, bedtime needs to be earlier to accommodate the lack of the second nap during the day. Although the recommended time is around 7pm you may need to move it earlier by up to 30 minutes, even an hour, if your child is really struggling.

As always, if you’re experiencing any problems with your little ones sleep, please do get in touch for a free 15 minute chat – We would love to help!

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