When To Transition To One Nap: A Guide For Parents

when to transition to one nap

Just when you find a consistent sleep routine for your baby, it changes. After establishing everything you needed to provide a healthy nap schedule, you realize now you need to figure out when to transition your baby to one nap.

Consider this article your personal guide to handling when and how to switch your baby from two naps to one.

Table Of Contents

When To Transition To One Nap

Baby standing in crib after a nap

Most children are ready to fully transition from two naps to one nap around 14-18 months old. Once a nap is dropped, they will need to be able to comfortably stay awake for at least five hours before and after their one remaining nap.

For babies younger than 12 months, it is rarely time to drop to one nap. But if you do see signs that they are ready at this age, start by shortening their morning nap to see if this helps resolve any issues.

Tweaking your child's schedule can solve most problems. For example, if they take a long morning nap and then melt down in the afternoon, try ending their morning siesta to make them more cooperative for the second one.

You can also try waking them up early from their morning nap. However, don't cut any nap to under 45 minutes. Your child needs that much time to complete a full sleep cycle.

Making the transition before your child is ready can lead to miserable days and cause night-time awakenings. It can take them longer to adjust. And as you may have experienced, overtired kids and babies tend to sleep worse than well-rested ones.

Ultimately, a successful transition depends on the readiness of the child.

Which Nap Should I Drop?

Some babies can successfully make the transition from their morning nap, while others will sleep better when the second nap is eliminated.

As your baby’s wake windows lengthen, they will need more awake time before each sleep period. This means that the first nap is shifted later into the day, and the second nap is eliminated. The one remaining nap should be in the middle of the day.

As mentioned above, there should be about five hours on either side of the nap. It’s common for the nap to be short at first and then eventually lengthen to two to three hours long.

For more clarity, below is an example of a 14-month-old nap schedule. Remember that every child is different, and this is only an example:

  • Morning rise: 7:00 a.m.
  • Nap: 11:45 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
  • Get ready for bed: 6:45 p.m.
  • Asleep: 7:15 p.m.

Notice that the nap is 2.25 hours long, and there were 4.75 hours of awake time before it. In addition, there were 5.25 hours of awake time before bedtime.

Signs Your Baby Is Ready To Drop A Nap

Luckily, some telltale signs will guide you in deciding when to transition to one nap. Look out for these common signs that your baby is ready to conquer one nap a day:

  • They are resistant to both naps
  • Your little one requires a late bedtime in order to fit both naps into the day
  • They play, fuss, or take a short nap when you put them down
  • Your child sleeps well for the first nap and resists the second
  • You notice your child is happy or energetic when they miss one nap
  • They don’t fall asleep during early car rides
  • They wake up early or frequently in the middle of the night

Tips For A Smooth Transition To One Nap

Just like anything else with your growing baby, there is no one-size-fits-all. There is always trial and error until you find a successful solution. You may experience some hiccups for a little bit, but this is temporary and normal.

In the meantime, here are some tips to ease the transition.

1) Consider Going Cold Turkey In Some Situations

two toddlers playing on the floor

In considering when to transition to one nap, dropping one cold turkey may sound severe. But some children can handle an immediate adjustment to a one-nap schedule when the morning nap moves to the middle of the day and bedtime is earlier.

This strategy is better for children who are already awake four or more hours between their morning awake time and their first nap and are showing consistent signs that the two-nap schedule is no longer working well for them.

2) Try A Gradual Transition

Alternatively, you can make nap changes gradually. This gradual transition can work better for toddlers on the younger side who are showing signs they are ready to drop a nap. A gradual transition also works for children who get easily overtired.

Every few days, start by moving the first nap later by 15 minutes. While your baby’s first nap is still before the afternoon, you may need to offer a second shorter nap in order to get them to bedtime without becoming overtired.

As naps move later into the day, your baby's bedtime may temporarily shorten. But after your little one fully transitions into a one-nap schedule, bedtime sleep should lengthen again.

Once your baby’s first nap takes place in the afternoon, you can officially move it to five hours after they wake up in the morning and phase out the second nap.

If this shorter nap process doesn’t work, try putting your baby down for an early bedtime, but no earlier than 6:00 p.m.

3) Provide A Wind-Down Routine

Mom reading to toddler as she learns when to transition to one nap

You may already be a pro at bedtime routines to prepare your baby for a good night’s sleep, so why not start a naptime routine that will set your little one up for a restorative nap?

A naptime routine doesn’t have to be complicated. Just set aside seven to 10 minutes for your little one to decompress before a nap.

Here is an example of a short and sweet naptime routine:

  • Change baby’s diaper
  • Put them in comfortable clothing, like the Newton Baby Sleep Sack For Babies
  • Read them a book
  • Shut off or dim the lights
  • Place them into their crib awake

All of these cues let your little one know that sleep is on its way!

4) Alternate Between 1- And 2-Nap Schedules

During the nap transition, a toddler can comfortably handle a few consecutive days with just one nap. But at first, they may become overtired, which can lead to sleep difficulties.

To combat overtiredness, you can flip-flop between one-nap days and two-nap days as your child gets used to staying awake for longer periods of time.

Offering two naps every few days can help “reset” the sleep pressure that will build up as they adjust. On days with no second nap, continue to offer an earlier bedtime.

Alternating nap schedules is a good option if your baby is being transitioned to a one-nap schedule at daycare before they’re ready or they seem to be getting overtired from the nap transition.

You might find that on some days your child will need one nap, and on other days, they will need two. It’s perfectly normal. Every child transitions on their own readiness.

5) Consider When To Transition To One Nap At Daycare

Mom with toddler learning to transition to one nap

If your little one is in daycare, naptime may be out of your control. That’s OK. Trust your daycare workers and know you still have control over bedtime.

However, it’s important to communicate with the daycare staff and come up with a plan. You may even be able to move your child to a different room during nap time.

If not, don’t worry too much. A lot of children go to daycare and do perfectly fine, even with one sleeping pattern during the week and a contrasting one on weekends. Eventually, their nap schedules will sync, and you won't need to worry about their napping routine anymore.

6) Stay Consistent

As a parent, you’ve probably learned that consistency is key, especially with sleep time. Consistency is important as you help shift your baby’s sleep and nap routine.

Transitioning to one nap can often take two to four weeks, so be patient and stay the course!

One Nap Success

Mom who is having one nap success

Knowing when to transition to one nap can be a bit challenging at first. Even with the right tools, it’s a big change to introduce to your little one!

Give yourself and your baby lots of grace, and know that we’re always here for you. If you need support, try our Newton Sleep Consultation Powered by Tot Squad.

Before you know it, your baby will be three or four years old with no more naps and a different milestone to tackle. Until then, you’ve got this!