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Hi! I’m Kim West, The Sleep Lady, and in this video I’m going to answer Bonnie’s questions about routine for 18-month-old toddlers. Here’s what she wrote:
Hi! My 18 month-old sleeps great at night, but naps are a totally different story. I’ve been trying to push her to one nap a day from 2, but she only lasts till about 11 am. When I put her to sleep, she seems very tired but only sleeps for 30 minutes.
I also tried to put her down for a second nap at around 3:30. She also fights that now and sleeps only 30 minutes.
I must confess that out of desperation I’ve rocked her back to sleep some days. Is the rocking causing her to catnap? Should I try to get her to sleep longer?

Rocking Can Be A Sleep Crutch

Bonnie, yes, it’s possible that rocking her on occasion is causing inconsistency and she’s looking for that additional help. But, I’m glad she’s sleeping well at night.

Bedtime Routine for 18-Month-Old

A couple of things you did not share that are important. If she’s put down awake at night are you perhaps doing a little bit too much rocking at bedtime? Maybe in the dark after stories?
Its essential that she is awake when you put her down, so follow this general order: the light is on, then the bedtime routine is over. Give kisses, put her into the bed, and light off. She should be fully awake and aware that she’s being put into the crib.
If she is not going to bed awake or awake enough, then this is your time to readdress that and start to put her down more awake at bedtime. You can stay with her as she’s learning the skill. This will help with the nap coaching also.

Move the Naptime

If you say, “No, Kim, she’s absolutely awake at bedtime—she’s aware. She even says ‘night night’ and waves to me,” then okay. You didn’t mention what time bedtime is, but if she’s getting 11 hours of sleep and you are convinced she is ready to move to one nap, then push the naptime. What I would do is push that 11 o’clock nap to 11:30 for a couple of days. Then move it to 12 after a couple of more days. When she wakes up after 30 minutes I would coach her back to sleep, not rock her back to sleep.

Coaching Her Back to Sleep

Go in and sit by the crib. Follow the rules that are outlined in my book, The Sleep Lady’s Good Night, Sleep Tight, and try for a whole hour. If she doesn’t go back to sleep for the whole hour, then leave the room, count to 10, go back in, get her out, and have a little break and a snack.

Formulate A Back-Up Plan

Make a backup nap plan like a stroller ride, or a ride in the car, just to get some additional sleep under her belt. Be sure she has an earlier bedtime that night while you’re in this transition mode.

Be Patient

It can take a solid 3 weeks to fully transition our toddlers from two naps to one, as well as back to a good sleep schedule and a well-rested toddler.