(This is Part 2 of our three-part series on nap transitions.)
The range of transitioning to one nap is 12 to 24 months, though the norm is about 14-16 months. When your child resists the second nap consistently (more than half of the time), and/or the second nap is beginning to interfere with her ability to settle at night, it’s time to transition to one nap. Welcome to yet another “Yuck Zone,” where your child will resist the second nap but won’t seem rested enough – or won’t sleep long enough – with only one. On some days, your child may need a second “blip” nap, and other days one nap will suffice.
When shifting from 2 naps to 1, your child will sleep about the same amount that she did before in two naps, now consolidated into one chunk (usually 90 minutes to 3 hours total). You’ll now need to help him stretch his daytime wake window far enough into the morning that you have approximately equal amounts of time between wakeup for the day and the start of the first nap, and end of the nap and bedtime. For example, if your child usually goes to bed at 7:30 and wakes at 6:30, you can try for a 12:00 putdown (5.5 hours from wakeup); if he slept till 1:30, you’d have 5.5 hours till bedtime. Many kids need to start out at an earlier naptime, such as 11:30; if your child has been napping earlier, say at 10:30, stretch him slowly, in 15-minute increments over a period of several days.
What to do about lunch once your child is napping once a day? It’s a bit of a catch-22 when the nap is on the earlier side, but you basically have two choices: do an early lunch beforehand, and a hefty snack after the nap to tide him over till dinner; or, do a hefty snack before the nap and lunch after, particularly if your family eats dinner on the later side.
Some tips for transitioning to one nap:
- Your child may initially have trouble sleeping more than one hour, or longer than the length of her previous first nap. Try to keep her in the crib for at least 90 minutes total, extending her cribtime past when she wakes so she has the opportunity to go back to sleep and learn how to stretch. Check in if you need to – and if she’s not crying, you may want to leave her even longer.
- Be patient; this transition takes time, and it may be a couple of weeks until your child can nap at least 1.5 hours consistently.
- Adjust bedtime earlier temporarily – 15 to 45 minutes, depending on how shy of typical nap totals your child is – to avoid overtiredness and the dreaded cortisol effects!
- Your child may need a very short blip second nap in the late afternoon every 4-5 days while on the way with this transition. It’s fine to allow him to sleep in the stroller (if he will) or the car if you’re running errands. Make sure the blip nap ends within 2.5 hours of bedtime.
For sample schedules for a child transitioning to one nap, click here.