Transitioning from Two Naps to One - 14 month old

Parents discuss how they jumped from 2 naps to 1 with your ever wakeful toddler.

baby-room

 

As a PSP member writes...

" My 14 month old daughter has started to skip some of her morning naps. She seems to be on a 48 hr schedule. On days that she takes 1 nap, they last only about 1hr 15 min, so she is tired the next day and can't stay awake for long in the morning, so it becomes a two nap day. On two nap days, each nap is approx. 1hr - 1hr 30mins for a total of about 2hrs 30 min.
The first time this happened, she babbled in her crib for 1hr before I took her out. But the next day, she passed out within 5 mins. of putting her down. Some days she falls asleep after 30 mins. of playing. But other days, I've taken her out after 30 mins. of no sleeping.
I know that she will eventually consolidate her naps to one long nap, but I don't know what to do during the transition. Should I keep her up in the morning and enforce 1 nap? Or should I keep trying to put her down for a morning nap to give her an opportunity to sleep if she needs it?"

 

Member replies:

 

What is your schedule like?

"In my opinion, it depends on YOUR schedule more. If you are a SAHM and you can be flexible, I would work with what schedule your daughter sets. My daughter did the same thing for about a month when she was transitioning. Some days it would be 2 naps, some days 1 nap.
Eventually she got herself on a schedule of 1 nap (at around 17 months I think). If you have a more structured day, then choose a time for the one nap and stick to it and she "should" work with it (I think thats how daycares work). Good luck either way!

 

Be flexible about nap times:

"I don't have much advice about this, other than to say that it can be a rocky adjustment, but one that miraculously resolves itself. My second daughter caught me totally by surprise in this regard. I remember (perhaps wrongly, but still...) just switching her older sister from two to one with very little drama. My younger daughter, however, started screaming through her afternoon nap right around age 14 months. I can't actually even remember what strategies we used, but I just remember two or three weeks of her being very tired and grumpy as she adjusted. Best I can recall, it was as you described--some days she was so tired she clearly needed a morning nap (or would simply fall asleep in the stroller or once on the living room rug), other days I tried to push her through to one mid-day nap.

The only practical advice I have is that if you have a flexible schedule, you can make that one nap sort of early at first--more like 11 a.m.--and then let it gradually move later and later. That may have been why my older daughter had an easier transition--my schedule revolved around her, and it still does, which is why my younger daughter had to catch naps where she could. Although it was not the greatest transition, though, it all worked out in the end, so I guess I would say to try whatever works best for you, and know that it will pass."

and:

""In the begginning, I would suggest that you "go with the flow" as I did with my son. He started the switch from 2 to 1 nap at around the same age, and I would just try to see if he was tired enough in the morning to put him down. If not, just wait until after lunch to put her down. In about one month or so, you could try to push the morning nap until after lunch, even if she seems tired. Give her an early lunch (11:30-12) and then put her in her crib around 12:30...if you keep doing that, she should start sleeping longer. Eventually, she will transition naturally because thay don't need to sleep as much anyway."

 

Be both restful, relaxed, and busy:

"My daughter also took some time in transitioning so, I promise, it does happen. What we continued to do was to put her in the crib with her morning bottle and let her rest. For my daughter who wakes up about 7a, this is about 9.30/10a. If she feel asleep, we let her sleep for about half an hour. If she did not fall asleep, then she had a little alone time to hang out with her stuffed toys etc. Today, I even will put a book or two in the crib if she seems in the mood to read. I have been trying to transition the afternoon nap from 2pish to around 1.30p so she has some of an afternoon to go the park and play. She naps a full 2 hr in the afternoon but this is not a change from when she took two naps. My daughter is now 17mo and continues on this basic schedule. We are now at the point where she may take her morning bottle in her stroller, but we still try to make it a relaxed atmosphere. I have found she likes the alone time best but this is not always practical so... All in all, I think she really stopped expecting the morning nap(aka sleep) about 5 weeks ago but we still occaisonally get one. Hope this is helpful.

 

Switch nap times around:

"I remember the transition a little bit, and I think we did the best when I tried to enforce the 1 nap. However, I believe that there were days that my daughter needed 2 naps during the first few weeks/months. I would try to keep her up and see what happens. If it's not working, maybe you need to switch off the amount of naps each day until she's fully ready for 1 nap. My daughter was 16 months before the transition."

 

"My daughter used to play in her crib for an hour sometimes too! let her do it, at least you have some time to yourself, and she's happy and fine. good luck, you'll be happy about it once she is used to the 1 nap...there are still days when my daughter would probably take an early nap, but i still don't let her, as her naptime is my naptime, and i need the solid 1 1/2 - 2 hours she gives me!"

 

Sometimes a transition will happen naturally:

"On her first birthday, literally, my daughter decided to drop her second nap. It started with her refusing to sleep at her usual morning nap time (around 10) and not going down until about 11 or so and then refusing to take an afternoon nap. For a couple of weeks, she would sometimes take 2 naps and sometimes take 1. On the days she took 2, one of them would be very short - less than 45 min. Her one nap was longer than usual - about 2 hours.
There was an adjustment time of a couple of weeks where she was often cranky in the late afternoon/evenings because she was sleepy but refused to take a nap.
Now that the new schedule is established (she is now 15 months old) She takes one nap that starts sometime between 11:30 and 12:30 and that usually lasts about 2 hours, although she has, on occasion slept for 3+ hours!
Her morning wake-up time did not change.
We did nothing to encourage the transition. I guess she just decided she was ready for it.
Hope this helps."

 and:

 

Similarly, let the baby tell you what they want:

"My daughter is 1 year old (and 3 weeks!) and is transitioning to one nap now. She started being very resilient to take her 1st. nap, so one day she just didn't take it (this was around a month ago). She took one nap a day for a week, and then she got back to two (this is to tell you that for her is a come and go). Now she's napping again just once a day, I just don't know if it'll be definite. I'm trying to go with the flow, though some days is not that easy :). Sometimes it makes it difficult to plan you day, but I guess it'll settle down soon.
She used to nap for 1hr and 15 minutes each time, and now when she naps once it's around 2, 2 and 1/2 hours (she's sleeping now, it has been a little more than 2 hrs. already).
The good thing about the 1 nap is that she's waking up later! In some good days, she's sleeping 11 hrs. at night and then a 2, 2 1/2 hrs. nap. If this is how it'll be from now on, I'll be absolutely happy... She used to have lunch around 12:30, and now I moved it a little earlier, especially if I see she's tired (so she can start napping at around 12:30; though today she went down at 1:15). I think it's easier if she has lunch and then she takes a nap, her day gets structured. But she has dinner pretty late (7:30), so you can organize it otherwise. It's been a confusing couple of weeks, though; some days she took a nap really late in the morning, some days she was quite tired. I guess you just have to accompany the transition. Or you can try to "train" her for it, but I don't have any knowledge about how to do it.

and:

"We started seeing signs just before her first birthday. When she was solidly on two naps, they were around 9:30 and 2:30, and one would be 60-90 min, the other 45ish.   Her first nap started getting pushed to 10/10:30 because she wasn't tired at 9:30. Then at 2:30 or even 3, she'd refuse to nap.
On days when I could get her down for two naps, both would be super short, maybe 40-50 minutes.  One day, she was full of energy and in a great mood until 11:30, so I gave her lunch and put her down at noon... and she slept for two hours, which was really good for her back then. And she handled being awake from 2 until bedtime like a champ.  
So, we now do one nap at 12. After lunch, I close the curtains in her room and get it in nap mode. As soon as she poops, I bring her in there for a change and she starts almost dozing off on the changing table. I bring her over to the crib and tip toe out. After her nap, I give her a bottle. And she has a little snack around 3:30 or 4.  
The one thing I have to be careful of is having her in the stroller for too long in the morning, that will lull her to sleep, and then she'll wake as soon as we get home, and that short nap will be it... until she's exhausted at 4:30... which is too close to bedtime for a nap. So, we do a short walk to the playground and/or supermarket, then directly home, and I talk to her to keep her awake. We save longer walks for after her nap when I know she won't doze off."

and:

"Saw your post to the list about moving your child to one nap. When my son did this he did it himself (believe me!) and it was immediate. Starting one day he just wouldn't take the afternoon nap. Period.
I now find that he will nap once a day and it is pretty much up to me when to put him down. If we've got stuff to do in the afternoon, I'll put him down in the morning (about 11), he'll sleep for 2 hours, then stay up until 8. If we're busy all morning, he'll just stay up and start to
crash at around 3, waking up in time for dinner at 5 and still go to bed at 8. So in a weird way, even though I really miss the second nap, I also feel like our time is much more flexible now. (For instance, we have Mommies group tomorrow so I will stay home and put him for a nap tomorrow
morning, ensuring that he'll be happy and awake through the afternoon. Today, we were out and about with lots of stuff to do starting at 9 am and running to 3 so I put him down when we got home after 3.)
Every once in a while he'll still take two naps but it's pretty rare. At this point it's an indication to me that maybe he doesn't feel well!
Hope this is helpful. I don't know about the whole "nap-training" business -I think my son will just determine on his own when he's ready for less sleep and more play time. With my son it definitely coincided with walking/running - I don't know if that helps."

 

Make gradual changes to the sleep schedule:

When our twins were 12 to 15 months old, we deliberately tried to get them to switch to one nap, because we knew they were going to start daycare at 15 months, which had only one nap. It can be done, although it's not always easy!
If I remember correctly, we gradually moved the first nap later and later (9:15, 9:30, 9;45, etc.), and gradually shortened the afternoon nap. After a few weeks, we tried to feed them a really early lunch (11:00 a.m.), and keep them awake until 12:00, and allow one big nap. That was the hard part, because they were so sleepy, they would be falling asleep in their high chairs during lunch, and we would just put them down at 11:30 or whatever! Nevertheless, they eventually got used to to falling asleep later, and after several weeks, we were able to nudge the lunch time to 11:15 or 11:30 and the nap time to 12:00 or 12:30. The good news is that, by the time they got to daycare, they were definitely napping only once per day. Also, they started sleeping a little later in the morning (unless they were sick). The only problem was that the day care lunch started at 12:00, and the nap didn't start unitl 1:00, so their little bodies had to make further adjustments at that point....
Some parents probably don't feel comfortable with deliberately keeping tired kids awake, to manipulate their sleep schedules. But we felt like we had no choice, and I preferred to have us do it gradually, than for the daycare center to do it all at once. So, the bottom line is you can do it, it depends partly on how comfortable you feel with "controlling" their sleep in that way."

and:

"We are dealing with the same thing right now. Basically our MD and my friends with older children suggested slowly moving back her nap time in the morning. So she used to go down at 9 and for the past week she has gone down at 10 and sleeps about 1.5 hours. In terms of pm naps, her nap is variable. She has been fighting it for a while, but generally will either take a "cat" nap in the stroller around 3 or go down in her crib for about 45 minutes around 3:30/4--I know this sounds pretty late. Since we've pushed back the am nap the afternoon nap is more difficult (she refuses) and she is more cranky in the evening. Everyone has told me to bear with a little crankiness until she adjusts. Actually yesterday she went down at 11 (this was because of a weird schedule issue) and slept until 2 and she was great in the pm. But ---- said she was cranky from 10 am on. So we're going to stick with 10 am for now and in 2 weeks of so do 10:30 etc. I don't know if this helps at all....."

 

Disrupt the sleep cycle entirely:

"Usually the nap duration is military-precision predictable: you know exactly when your child is going to wake up. Which is helpful, because you’re going to set a timer for ~5-10 minutes prior to the time your child will be waking up. Wake them just slightly by jostling them while they’re still in the crib (not enough so that they’re standing there waiting for you to pick them up but enough so that you see a bit of eye fluttering). Often this will disrupt their sleep/wake pattern just enough so that they navigate back into deep sleep, thus extending the duration of the nap. Continue this pattern for 5-7 days, after which your child should have RE-habituated to the new longer nap sleep pattern and voila no more short naps for you.
People are often resistant to this strategy because they fear simply waking their child up resulting in even shorter naps. But it’s often extremely effective and, worst-case, if you do inadvertently wake them up fully, you’ve only shaved a few minutes off an already short nap so really, it’s not a big deal.
It worked and she took a two hour+ nap and did so for the next two days (for the 1st morning nap) and then it was back to half hour naps and it’s never worked again since. I’ve also SOMETIMES been able to leave her to fall back asleep after a short nap and she’s had another 1-1 1/2 hours sleep after that, but again it’s only ever worked for the first nap of the day and I’ve only left her if she’s calm, if she starts freaking out I give up and pick her up."

 

Stick to the scheduled nap time - whether baby is sleepy or not:

"I've been terrible at figuring out the best times for naps - finding that softspot and getting a nice long nap was really hard for us. Several months ago, we talked to a sleep consultant and the best piece of advice she gave us was to set the nap time and just leave Patrick in there until nap time was over. It didn't matter if he was awake or not. Because of that we haven't had much of a transition. Instead, after he had a week or so of taking a while to fall asleep and short naps we moved to a 1 nap schedule and just kept it. In the beginning, he slept about 1.5 hours but now is sleeping for 2 or 2.5 hours. One time it was 3 hours!"

 

Avoid too much stroller time in the morning:

"[My daughter] transitioned to 1 nap at around 11 months! She had refused to take her morning nap. We just followed her lead and the transition went really smooth. Now she's 14 months and takes her 1 nap around 1:30 and sleeps 2-3 hours. If there is too much stroller or car time in the morning and she falls asleep (even for 5 minutes) her nap is really thrown off!!  I try to keep her on a pretty tight schedule which drives some of my friends and family crazy but I know this is what she needs!

"I agree that a lot of time in the stroller in the morning can be so relaxing they may fall asleep but we try to head out early in the morning to tire him out.  We also go out in the afternoon usually because it's long and I think that extra stimulation keeps him awake till bedtime at 7 pm."

 

Follow your instinct:

"You need to use your instinct on the napfront. I waited until the morning nap interefered with the afternoon nap (when they--twins--would only sleep for a half an hour in the afternoon, I knew the morning nap was over). That was about 18 months. I would keep them awake and give them lunch earlier (11:30) and get them in their cribs by 12:00. Even now at 22 months they sleep from about 12:00 or 12:30 to 3:00-3:30. I LOVE the afternoon nap because it is LONGER than just two naps and I can do a lot during that time or else just take a nap myself."

 

Let it happen naturally, and weather permitting, spend more time outside doing activities:

"I feel nap transition happened quite naturally with our daughter (19 months tomorrow) and although it wasn't easy, you'll get through it.
If my memory serves, she would start to skip her afternoon nap. At first this would happen every once in a while and then it happened with more frequency. This would make for a very very cranky baby towards the end of the day. Those were the tough days. Eventually she started her morning napping a wee bit later - like 10am and those naps would get a little longer. She would still conk out in the afternoon sometimes but I wouldnt let her fall asleep past 4pm.
Now that the weather is nicer...if your child has started the process of nap skipping and you want to extend the morning...you can spend more time at the playground where they'll usually be distracted enough to hang on until you can get them home.
In the past two months we've pushed my daughter's nap start time slowly from 10:30am to 11:45-12:00noon. I'm trying to prepare her for pre-pre-school that she'll begin in Sept where she'll have to be at school until 12:30pm X3 days per week so she won't be able to nap until 1pm.
She usually naps for 2 hours - sometimes more (today over 3 hours - they do exist!) and sometimes less (boo hoo) but they are fairly consistent.
I want to point out that she is a much better napper now as a toddler than she was as an infant/baby.
BTW, she wakes up most days between 6 & 7 am and goes to sleep most nights at 8pm."

 

Try combining naps times into one:

"All I can say is, if ---- is taking two 1.5 hour naps on a regular basis, you are a very lucky woman. When ---- was doing two naps, it was 45 min. each on good days.
One thing that did happen, is when we switched to one nap he basically combined the two 45 min. nap into one 90 min. nap (again, that's on good days). So you may get a 3 hour nap when you go down to one.
As for the switch, it happened sort of organically. Around the time he turned a year, I noticed it was getting harder and harder to get him to sleep for the morning nap, which had always been his easiest nap. Or I'd put him down, and then 20 minutes later, he'd be up. When I tried making it later, he seemed to go down easier. Also we were in California for 2 weeks and his nap schedule was all messed up there.
Since I was was sick of struggling to get him down for a nap and then having him not sleep, I decided to just go to the one when we got back. It wasn't a big deal. 12:00-1:00 seems to be the optimum time for my son to go down, but he doesn't always get up at exactly the same time in the morning. If he sleeps later sometimes the nap comes later, and if he gets up super early he may be tired by 11-11:30. And sometimes he won't nap at all!
This is the experience of someone who was never able to get her baby into a really solid nap groove for whatever reason. My son may be different.
Ultimately, though, what I would say is just take your cues from your baby. If he still seems to need 2 naps, and be thriving on them, then stick with your current system. When he's ready to lose one of the naps, he'll probably give you some indication (like not going down, waking up). There's no rule that says a baby has to move to one nap at a certain age."

 

Every child is different:

"Every kid is different but it does take a while and you'll start to see the signs. In general they give up the morning nap first (though there are kids who just keep that one and are up all afternoon). I found it took a few months to completely shift. At first (21 months but he was late compared to his peers) my son took a nap at 11 and it would last anywhere from 1-2 hours. Then it gradually shifted to the classic 1pm nap. This took about 3 months and during this time he would often only nap for one hour so the overall naps are shorter sometimes and you need to compensate with an earlier bedtime until he adjusts and the nap lengthens. Sometime after 2 years old it seems like they start taking longer and longer naps - sometimes 3 hours."

 "But all babies are different. I was talking to a nanny of a 14-month-old yesterday, and she said she still takes two naps, one 2-hr and one 1-hr, and sleeps 12 hours at night. She's seeing zero signs of being able to transition. And my friend's kid transitioned to one nap at 18 months, while another friend's did that at 11 months. Just watch for the signs."

 

Deliberately keep your child up:

"Around 14 or 15 months, we deliberately switched our son from one nap to two. At that time his afternoon nap was getting shorter and more difficult, but that's not really why we made the switch -- the real reason is that ---- (now 18 mos) was getting up too early for our tastes (5 - 5:30am-ish) and seemed like he wanted to go down for his morning nap about two hours after he woke up. I know you called it the "dreaded move" to one nap, but it has been a godsend to us. After the switch to one nap, ---- now sleeps almost 12 hours a night (up from 10 to 10.5) and is happier in the morning. When we were making the switch, we deliberately kept him up from whenever he woke (even if it was 5am) until 11:30. His naps became longer -- almost always at least two hours, and often 2.5 hrs. And he started waking up later and later in the morning!! His normal wake up time is now 7:15. There was a period when he really struggled to stay awake in the morning, and if we were out in the stroller in the morning, he sometime took a catnap.

Anyway, in response to your questions:

-Does the morning wake up time change when they move to one nap? FOR US, DEFINITELY YES. THERE HAS BEEN A HUGE IMPROVEMENT
-Did you do anything specific to move the nap from two to one or just let it happen? WE FORCED THE CHANGE (AFTER OUR FRIEND WILL A SIMILAR EARLY WAKER HAD SUCCESS WITH ONE NAP RESULTING IN A LATER WAKING TIME).
-Is there an optimal time for this one nap to occur (say, 11 a.m.?) NOW THAT HE'S USED TO IT, THE ONE NAP STARTS BETWEEN 12:30 AND 1. WE GRADUALLY MOVED IT BACK FROM 11:30AM TO 1.
-What is the typical duration? (two hours? I've heard about three hour naps, but they're just myth, right?!) AT LEAST TWO HOURS, OFTEN MORE.
-How many weeks/days did either process take (either the natural move to one nap or the coaxed move)? PROBABLY TWO WEEKS."

 

Fiddle around with nap times and activities:

"Both my boys did indeed lose the morning nap around 15 months. And we certainly did some training or gentle persuasion to get them napping on a good schedule. As soon as it became clear that things were getting funky and irregular with the 2 nap scenario we dropped to 1. For the first month or so, I bumped lunch up to around 11 or 11:30 and put them down immediately after. This did involve a few song and dance routines to keep them awake at the beginning (and certainly ruled out any late morning leisurely stroller rides as it would be an instant sedative).
And in general, they did consolidate the 2 naps and sleep longer in one stretch. My oldest would regularly sleep 2.5 to 3 hours, and my youngest, who was never a big sleeper, would only sleep around 1.5 hours (several of my friends have regular 3 hour nappers, so cross your fingers). I never messed with their wake up times as they were/are early risers. After a few weeks the new schedule shook out (we also ended up bumping up their bedtimes as they were good and tired a bit earlier in the evening) and I gradually moved lunch and nap back to 12:00/12:30 and 1:00/1:30 respectively. For us, that schedule really works - any later and our 7:30 bedtime is a struggle.
I'm sure you'll end up noodling with the schedule - and there's nothing to fear. It's really lovely to have the freedom of a full morning of activities and then a nice big block of nap. I remember dreading the loss of the morning nap - even when I should have known better with my second - and finding myself so pleasantly surprised by how much easier it is to have only one. You should assume that it may take you a month or so (perhaps longer) before you're fully locked in to your new routine.

 

Try the Weissbluth method:

"If it makes you feel any better our daughter who is 9.5 months old just dropped her morning nap. We follow Weissbluth and I couldn't believe it. It started getting harder and harder to get, and was much shorter than the afternoon one. We definitely kept offering it to her even though sometimes she wouldn't sleep - many times she would just lay there and play. I think it's best to keep up the routine and offer it, they'll let you know when they don't need it anymore. When it goes that direction, maybe offer it every other day for a while. Her wakeup time extended slightly (7:15 instead of 6:45) but we kept the rest of the day the same. It surprised me she could make it to her afternoon nap, but I think that is her natural sleep time so it just worked. In a way it's nice because you can run errands and not feel tied to the home - but it can be a bummer too."

 

Try the Good Sleeper method:

"We're in the middle of transitioning and it seems to be going quite naturally to be honest. I followed The Good Sleeper (the only book I read on baby sleep) and it says to wait until they start skipping the morning or afternoon nap at least three times in one week. Ezra (15 months) started refusing his afternoon nap a few weeks ago (he just played in his crib like Tessa said) and if he did nap, he would take hours to fall asleep at night (seriously, playing around until 9pm after being in bed at 7.30) so we started pushing the morning nap later (by going to the playground basically). He now naps from 10.30/11.00 to approximately 1.30/2.00. He goes to bed at 6.30. We will push both nap time and bed time later eventually but this too seems to happen naturally. He is very tired at the end of the day, but seems to fall asleep easier than before. Both during his nap and at night. (Although he kept me up 3 hours Sunday night when he woke up crying from his head cold and cough at 11pm and, after calming down and some Tylenol, decided it was time to tell stories and sing until 2am?!?) And yes, the extra time to go out during the day is really nice."

 

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