Transition from 2 naps to 1

How to Help Your Child Switch From 2 Naps to 1 – Part 2 Comprehensive Guide

How can you make the transition from 2 naps to 1 easier for your child? I will address this question in the current article.

I advise you to read "Part 1: A Comprehensive Guide for Parents About How to Transition Their Child From 2 Naps to 1" before moving on to Part 2.

Moving your child from two naps to one should be a gentle, patient process. Rushing it can result in your child becoming overtired, which could make them:

  • wake up very early in the morning,
  • take shorter daytime naps, or
  • wake up more often at night.

That's why it's crucial to make this transition gradual. 

1. Make this transition gradual

When your toddler is ready to move to one nap, aim to schedule that nap in the middle of the day, starting around 12:30 to 1:00 pm. By this time, your child will have been awake for about 5-6 hours since they woke up in the morning.

Try to ensure this nap lasts between 2 and 2.5 hours. After the nap, your child should stay awake for another 4-5 hours before settling down for the night.

Here is an example:

  • Wake up in the morning: 7:00 am
  • Nap 12:30 до 3:00 pm (nap duration 2:30h)
  • Bedtime: 8:00 pm

But if the nap is shorter than 90 minutes, your toddler might struggle to stay awake until their usual bedtime. In this case, it could be helpful to move bedtime earlier to make up for the lost daytime sleep until the nap lengthens. An early bedtime around 6-6:30 pm is common during this transition period.

If your child is used to staying awake for only 3-4 hours before taking a nap, being awake for 5-6 hours might seem like a big change. This is especially true for children used to two naps.

So, instead of dropping the morning nap all at once, try pushing it back a little bit every day.

For example, every two days, extend your child's awake time by 15-20 minutes. For example, instead of napping at 11:00 am, they'll nap at 11:20 am.

2. Creating a Naptime Routine

Establishing a predictable naptime routine can be key in preparing your child for a restful nap. The routine doesn't need to be complicated! Just 7-10 minutes of relaxing activities should be enough to get your child ready for their nap. If you need more information on this topic, you can read the article "Tips for a Good Sleep Routine for Babies from 3 to 18 Months Old."

3. Make a plan and stick to it

It is very likely that when you extend your child awake window, they will be sleepy at the usual nap time.

Do you want your child to transition more quickly from 2 to 1 naps? It's important that the child does not take short naps during the time they used to sleep.

How can you achieve this?

During the period when the child used to sleep, now avoid taking them out in the stroller or for a car ride. The motion in a stroller or car can easily make them fall asleep, leading to a short nap. And afterward, the child will refuse to sleep at the time defined in the new sleep and wakefulness rhythm. This significantly prolongs the transition period.

Many mothers share that they sometimes find it hard to extend their children's periods of wakefulness. Here are a few ideas to more easily extend the awake window:

  • Take the child out into the fresh air and sunlight. If the weather doesn't allow for going outside, ventilate the room where they play.
  • Play a new game together - choose a noisy and dynamic game:
    • Arranging objects in boxes and cups
    • Playing with water (pouring from one container to another)
    • Puppet theater
    • Playing with toys that make sounds
    • Banging / clattering with spoons, spatulas, and metal containers
    • There are many other ideas on the internet...
  • Offer a healthy snack, if it won't disrupt the child's feeding schedule.

What to do during the transition period if the child takes a short nap?

The transition to one nap generally takes about two weeks for most children to adjust to. But remember, this doesn't mean your child will instantly start sleeping for a full 2-hour nap. There will be days when things don't go as planned and your toddler might take a shorter nap, for instance, only an hour. Yes, this is considered a short nap in a one-nap schedule and your child will likely struggle to make it to nighttime sleep without becoming overtired. So what should you do in such a situation?

Firstly, try to extend the nap. Don't be in a hurry to pick up your toddler the moment they wake up. If they're calm, wait a few minutes to see if they might drift back to sleep on their own. If they don't return to sleep, it's okay to end the nap. Now, you have a couple of options:

Option 1

Put your child to bed for the night earlier. After the nap, allow them to stay awake for about 4-5 hours and then take them to bed for the night. Keep in mind that for most children, bedtime should be about 12 hours after they wake up in the morning.

Option 2

Offer a short 'cat nap' in the afternoon to prevent overtiredness. Just be careful to keep this nap brief, otherwise, bedtime might be pushed too late in the evening, which could create other sleep problems.

During this transition from two naps to one, don't be surprised if some days your toddler has two naps and on others, just one. Most children need at least 4 to 6 weeks to adjust fully and start taking 2 to 2.5-hour naps.

How long does the transition to one nap take in total?

For most children, it can take anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks before parents feel that their child's daytime sleep pattern is really smooth. During this period, you can expect some inconsistency in your toddler’s nap length. This is normal, as your child's brain needs time to consolidate daytime sleep into one solid afternoon nap.

Finding the Right Sleep Solution

Transitioning from two naps to one is a big step in your child's life and it can be just as significant for you. As a child sleep consultant, I can provid guidance and support. It's a delicate dance that requires patience and understanding to avoid the pitfalls of overtiredness. If this transition feels overwhelming, don't hesitate to reach out to me. Together, we'll create a plan that respects your child's individual needs.