The transition down to 1 nap a day can feel like a big change and getting it right can feel tricky. All of a sudden our toddlers are expected to have large awake windows so we need to make sure developmentally they are ready.
The first key to this transition is, don’t be fooled and drop to 1 nap too soon! Truthfully it’s rare for our little ones to drop to 1 nap prior to 15 months of age. If you do start to see signs, shorten the morning nap first to see if this helps resolve their sleep issues before dropping it altogether.
The ideal age for this nap transition to happen is between 15-18 months of age. However, it can be helpful to understand that around 12 months of age there is a big ‘progression’ happening which often ends up being a regression around sleep. Many babies begin to fight their morning nap which leads us to believe that ships sailed and it’s time to transition to 1 nap a day! Please hold fire here - keep offering them the morning nap (even if they flat-out refuse it!). If we drop it completely it often leads to more overtiredness and sleep becomes worse as they aren’t quite ready for this change.
What are the signs to look for?
Below is a list of the common signs. Please note; we want to see strong signs for over a week before dropping down to 1 nap! Not just a one-off occurrence if they aren’t having such a great day.
They are between 15-18 months of age
They are taking a long time to settle for their morning nap so the nap starts to creep later and later
They are consistently fighting and refusing their morning nap
The lunch nap has become shorter
They were previously sleeping well overnight and now they are waking overnight
They are frequently waking earlier in the morning. Sudden early morning wake-ups can be caused by too much day sleep and can sometimes be an indication the morning nap needs to go. This is tricky as naturally we see our little ones tired and want to keep the morning nap in there as we can’t fathom them stretching out till lunchtime nap! If you’ve been struggling with early wakes for a while, check out this blog post and ensure you can rule out other factors before dropping the nap too quickly.
How can I make this transition easier for my little one?
If you’ve been following our Just Love Sleep routines you’ll know about our preference for a short morning nap and a longer lunchtime nap. This means this nap transition will be much smoother as it’s already pretty short! Here are our tips to make this transition easier;
We recommend treading slowly. If the morning nap has been 30-45 minutes, trim this right back to 10-15 minutes before dropping it altogether.
Ensure you have a good pre-nap wind-down routine prior to going down. Just like our bedtime routines are nice and predictable for our little ones, so too are our pre-nap routines. It can be hard for our toddlers to naturally be playing and be invested in an activity and for us to then whisk them away and expect them to settle easily! They need some time to decompress before sleep! Put them into comfy sleep attire (even their PJs), use their sleep sack, and white noise, and make the room super dark. Have a nice story and cuddle together before popping them down for sleep.
It’s likely during the early days of this transition you may have had to move their lunchtime nap earlier. We recommend the lunch nap starts no earlier than 11.45 am or they’ll end up having a very long awake time at the end of the day!
Bring their bedtime earlier (even to 6 pm) over the next few weeks as you transition. This will help restore lost daytime sleep until this nap becomes longer.
Remember our goal is for their one nap to be 2-2.5 hours long and for them to cope with 4-5 hours of awake time before bedtime. Keep consistent and give yourself some grace during this period of change. It can take a good couple of weeks for them to adjust to their new extended awake windows. Some little ones really do struggle when we make big changes like this, but keep at it. They can do it!
If you are unsure of ideal routines for your little one, our ultimate guide of routines is available to purchase here.
If you want more guidance around this nap transition and have any concerns or questions, then please get in contact with me as I’d love to coach you through this.