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Sleep Expert Shares How and When To Transition From 2 Naps to 1

Photograph by Twenty20

When I became a mom, losing sleep was one of my biggest worries. How was I supposed to function with little and/or broken sleep? Even more than fretting about my losing sleep, I wanted my kids to find a love for sleep. Because being well-rested makes everyone happier.

Things went well for awhile. And then we hit a bump a road. A bump so grueling that I found myself chatting with a sleep consultant. A bump called the dreaded two naps to one transition. Although I had decent mom instinct about what to do, sometimes it’s still nice to check in with an expert and get their tips too.

Nicole Elizondo from Belly to Bean Sleep Consulting offered priceless advice in the sleep department so when it time came to address nap transitions, I knew exactly where to go. Nicole believes in good sleep and even more good restorative naps.

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Most of this, I knew. Sleep is good. Naps are great. We all want them. We all need them. But often, it’s the logistics of timing life around naps and transitioning in and out of them that's tricky. Thankfully, Nicole offered me great insight into the two to one nap transition:

At what age do most babies transition to one nap?

Usually between 13 to 18 months, with the average being 15 months. It’s funny because a lot of parents think that once their child is 12 months, that's when they need to make the change. Do not rush this change—it can severely backfire on you.

And, don’t force this change too fast—it can take a few weeks to settle into a new sleep pattern.

What are the signs that a child is ready for the transition?

Refusing to nap is a big one, this can happen with the morning or afternoon nap. If it’s taking longer than normal for them to fall asleep or it’s just not happening at all, it may be time. Occasional nap refusals are normal but if it’s happening more than 50% of the time, it’s probably time to make the transition. 

Also, if the second afternoon nap start time is getting later and later and you're nearing 4 p.m. without a second nap, that's another indicator because bedtime shouldn't be getting later. In fact, it should stay relatively the same. Or, in better words if you're struggling to get that second nap in before 4 p.m. on a daily basis, then it’s time to make the change. Unexplained night wakings and/or early rising can be other indicators that the change is nearing.

How can parents best ease this transition?

Patience. This is not an easy time for anyone. Your child will be cranky and overtired at times. This will be a time where you need patience and consistency. Getting something in their sleep tank is important so be okay with the occasional emergency back-up nap. If you're going past 1p.m. without a nap, go ahead and have your child nap on you, in the car, in the stroller, whatever will work, go for it! Of course, don't let them sleep too late. And, don’t force this change too fast—it can take a few weeks to settle into a new sleep pattern.

Do babies ever go from two naps to none?

No, this would not be a normal transition. It would be very rare to hear of an older toddler still doing two naps and then sleeping solid through the night with a reasonable bedtime. If naps usually consisting of 2 to 3 hours total are completely removed, the child would be a disaster

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What if the new nap routine messes with the bedtime schedule?

The bedtime routine should have no significant change. Ideally, the bedtime remains the same or very close after you’re down to one nap. An ideal day for a one napper would resemble this: 

7 a.m. - Wake up

12:30-2:30 p.m. - Nap

7-7:30 p.m. - Bedtime (this means asleep time not lay down time) 

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