Toddler Sleep: Is My Toddler Ready to Drop to One Nap?

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  • April 19, 2011
toddler ready to drop nap

 

toddler ready to drop nap

Weekly Toddler Sleep Question for The Sleep Lady:

“How do I know when my toddler is ready to drop down to one nap a day?  My 14 month old is fighting his second nap, often resulting in him missing it entirely.  I have tried shortening his first nap so he would be tired for his second nap, but that didn’t work.  I also tried pushing his first nap later and then hoping that he will nap for 3 hours and then just have one nap.  This doesn’t always happen that he will sleep that long.  Sometimes he is up for 6 hours before bedtime.  Is that too long for a 14 month to go without sleep? I have bumped his bedtime up to 6 pm to account for this, but I don’t want his bedtime to be any earlier.  Please help answer my toddler sleep question.  Thank you.” April

Dear April,

The average age to transition to one nap is between 15-18 months old. As you can see your son is a little younger than the average but it sounds like he does have a few of the signs of needing to transition to one nap.

Here is some universal advice I give on this topic:

Toddlers usually are ready to drop the morning nap by fifteen to eighteen months. A little earlier or a little later is normal, but be sure to watch your child, not the calendar. Especially watch for changes in your child’s morning nap patterns. It may take her longer to fall asleep, or she may wake up from the nap earlier. She may also sleep so long in the morning that she won’t nap in the afternoon, meaning you’ll have a very overtired toddler by bedtime. Don’t mistake one abbreviated morning nap for the sign that your child’s ready for change. When the pattern becomes consistent, the time is right to begin the transition.

Signs Your Child is Ready to Transition from 2 Naps to 1

1. Your child is getting 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night

2. Your child is taking longer and longer to fall asleep for the morning nap.

3. Your child takes an increasingly shorter morning nap or too long of a morning nap and refuses an afternoon nap. In the end, you feel stuck in the “one nap is not enough and two is too many” phase

When you are ready to begin the transition, push your child’s morning nap a little later. Try delaying it until around 11:00am for two or three days. Then push it until 11:30am for a few days, then to noon, and so on. Your ultimate goal should be to have her asleep by 12:30pm or 1:00pm within 7-10 days.

Things to Remember

Slowly push the morning nap later in 20 to 30 minute increments, until you reach 12:30 pm or 1:00 pm. Do this gradually (i.e. in small increments over 2-3 days)   to avoid overtiredness or difficulty getting to sleep. This will be her only nap for the day, so try to resettle her back to sleep if the nap is too short.

Bedtime will often need to be earlier during this transition – around 7:00 – 7:30 pm.

It is best NOT to transition to one nap until your child is sleeping through the night fairly consistently or for at least 3 weeks.

Be open to an occasional two-nap day.

Remember, there is an art to sleeping! We must teach our children how to put themselves to sleep in order for them to recognize their own need for it later in life. It’s tempting to cut out a nap in a baby’s schedule for convenience, but remember, you both will pay the price later at bedtime! Take time to enjoy this small window of opportunity when you are offered two breaks in your busy day. It can be a great time to concentrate on yourself or have some special time with an older child! Sleep well!

So April, I recommend you move his nap to 12:30-1pm within a week. If he wakes cranky after an hour I would go to him, reassure him but tell him its not time to wake up. Try to resettle him for at least 30 minutes by doing checks from his door if need be. You are right that a wakeful window of 6 hours from nap to bedtime is too long for his age. You are ideally shooting for 4-5 hours (4 is better). He may need a 6:30pm bedtime for a short period as you work on this. I would be open to an occasional snooze in the car or stroller in the late afternoon during this transition.

Sweet dreams!

Kim, The Sleep Lady

If you have any questions about your toddler’s naps, be sure to check out my Sleep Lady Facebook Page, where we have Gentle Sleep Coaches available to answer your questions every day!

 

Kim West
Kim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 24 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. She is the author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night Sleep Tight, its companion Workbook and 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies. Click here to read more about her.

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18 Comments

  • MarianneE says:

    Kim,  Your answer to April’s question was VERY helpful for me and I want to thank you.  I have become increasingly stressed out with my 13 month old who for the past 3 weeks has consistently refused his second nap.  I have tried everything April stated including standing on my head and pulling my hair out.  None of these tactics worked. 😉  My question regards his night sleep.  Over these past few weeks he sleeps great for morning nap.  When I put him down in the afternoon I do the same routine, and he appears tired, but I put him in bed and he starts to babble.  He babbles for the whole hour (and on occasion 1.5 hours) I leave him in bed.  With his lack of the second nap, I began trying to put him to bed at night earlier.  His regular bedtime was 7:30, but I tried moving it to 7:00 and even 6:30.  This never helped.  He seemed to sleep 11 hours at night regardless of what time I put him down.  I really don’t love getting up at 5:30 if I don’t have to :).  Now the problem is that he is getting up earlier and earlier.  He almost always sleeps 11 hours, but last few nights he has slept less ~10 to 10.5 hours.  I think I am going to start pushing his morning nap back to get to one nap a day based on the advice you gave April, but given his lack of 11 hours would you advise otherwise?  I truly appreciate your help as there is no other person I feel I can go to.  Thank you! -Marianne

  • ChayahLichtig says:

    Hmmm, thanks for all of this info.  My daughter is about to turn 10 months, and recently seems to be exhibiting some signs: some days she is taking two short (45 min – one sleep cycle naps), some days she will stay awake for a long time before falling asleep for nap (mornign or afternoon, but more frequently afternoon). It seems way too young to go down to one nap, but she’s generally a bit precocious, so nothing surprises me.  She sleeps 7:30/8 to 6:00/7 at night and generally sleeps through the night (though she seems to be going through a bit of a sleep regression and has been waking up once a night most night for about two weeks. 
     
    Could this be it?

  • bawb2007 says:

    My 12 month old still needs a morning nap and like clockwork, is ready for that nap within 3 hours of waking. She wakes at 7am so by 10am she is ready for a nap. But I have found over the last several weeks that she is fighting her afternoon nap. I have started waking her up at 11 or 11:15am from her morning nap to ensure that she is ready for her afternoon nap, but she’s been fighting it. I put her down about 2:30pm and she will play in her bed until 3:30 or even closer to 4pm. I usually have to wake her by 4:30pm if I want her in bed by 7:30-8pm. So. . . is her fighting the PM nap, but then sleeping for an hour (and me having to wake her) a sign that  she still needs two naps???
    Also, the past week she has been waking up during the night for several hours (3:30-6am, 4-6am, 3-5am etc). Is this night waking a sign of she’s getting closer to the one nap a day? 
    Thoughts??? Thanks!

  • breefawn says:

    MarianneE Hi, Marianne! You may want to review the article all about early rising: http://www.sleeplady.com/baby-sleep/rise-shine-the-early-waking-toddler/, as well as the article about moving to one nap: http://www.sleeplady.com/toddler-sleep-problems/how-long-should-baby-nap. I hope that helps you!

  • breefawn says:

    ChayahLichtig It sounds like your daughter may be experiencing the pre-toddler sleep regression (more on that here: http://www.sleeplady.com/baby-sleep-problems/pre-toddler-sleep-regression/). Sleep regressions can affect naps, too, so hang in there!

  • ChayahLichtig says:

    Thank you so much for your response! Interestingly, this just started to come up again four months later. Here is a question I posted to a sleep board just yesterday: 
    My daughter is 14 months old and sleeps a solid ~11 hours at night from about 7:30-6:30 (sometimes closer to 8-7). For months, she took naps at 10 and 2 (each one between 1:15 and 1:30 in length). Then around 10 months old began to resist her afternoon nap occasionally. It came to a point around a month ago (approx 13 mos. old) where she was missing her afternoon nap around 50% of the time, and half the time that she took it, it was a 45 minute nap. So basically, she was often getting a little over 2 hrs daytime sleep, often with ~7 hrs of waketime before bed.
    So, I started an experiment to see if she was ready for one nap a day. I gave a snack before to fill her tummy, and put her down around noon. After five days of one midday nap, she was such a mess that she was clearly not ready (she also never napped for more than an hour and a half on any day)! 
    Yesterday we went back to the old schedule, she took 1:30 at 10 AM, and 1:10 at 2:45, and went to bed easily from 8-7:15. The next day, she didn’t fall asleep until 10:50, even though she was in her crib at 10:15, napped until 11:30, and then went down easily at 3, napped until 5, and then went to bed 8:15 until 7ish. Today, she napped 11-12:15 (my husband was with her and had a hard time getting her down), and no amount of soothing could get her down later on. So, on average she’s getting plenty of sleep, but there is practically no schedule. I know she does best with a tight schedule, but if she doesn’t nap until almost 11, is it best to actually keep her up until noon and then hope she might take a long midday nap, or keep this morning nap with this  hope of a later afternoon nap (it doesn’t affect bedtime)? Either way, I run the risk of this long awake business again. Is it more important that she get two naps on as many days as possible, even if the schedule is less disciplined to get them?

    Thank you!

    • ChayahLichtig says:

      Also wondering if perhaps she needs a dramatically earlier bedtime to transition to one nap, but I’m concerned that would lead to nighttime wakeups or dramatically earlier morning wakeup

      • breefawn says:

        ChayahLichtig I think that this article about naps may help answer your question: http://www.sleeplady.com/naps-2/the-sleep-ladys-nap-coaching-tips/

    • breefawn says:

      ChayahLichtig You’re very welcome! It sounds like she’s sleeping well at night, and at 14 months, she may be experiencing yet another sleep regression. Some toddlers experience a sleep regression between 12-14 months, or around 18 months. This article may help: http://www.sleeplady.com/toddler-sleep-problems/18-month-sleep-regression/. If it’s not a sleep regression, perhaps this article about early rising and number of naps will help: http://www.sleeplady.com/toddler-sleep-problems/toddler-sleep-2-naps-or-1-530am-rising-help. It sounds like she’s sleeping well, and not rising too early (7 am is biologically appropriate).

  • TazzR says:

    My son is 14 months old. he was sleeping a 12 hour sleep at night – 7 to 7.  recently he was sick with flu causing him to wake through the night and to wake very early.  he is now well again but keeps waking between 4 and 5.  he wakes crying and if i try to calm him down he cries even more. magically if i pick him up he falls back to sleep almost immediately (but this is obviously something i do not want to do!) but if i put him back to his crib he will sleep maybe another 10 minutes and is back to crying again. i tried giving him a bottle when he woke but this just made him cry even more when he is done with it! he naps twice a day – 10 to 12 and about 3 – 4.

  • breefawn says:

    ChayahLichtig Hi again! It sounds like you may want to take a look at this nap article: http://www.sleeplady.com/naps-2/everything-you-need-to-know-about-baby-and-toddler-naps. I would also post your question on The Sleep Lady Facebook Page (http://www.facebook.com/thesleeplady). Good luck!

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