Expert Opinion

Transitioning your toddler to one nap

It has to be said that transitioning your toddler to one nap is one of the bigger transitions they will make, and can take a little while to fall into place consistently. Remember, many toddlers go back and forth between one and two naps for a period of time before settling on one nap per day.

I do see that this transition is more successful between the ages of 16 and 18 months, but it is not unheard of in babies and toddlers who have lower sleep needs to make this transition earlier. Make sure your toddler is really ready for the change to one nap – if they’re not ready, this can mean unsettled nights, overtiredness and early rising – all of which no parent has time for!

I always suggest having your toddler on a short/long nap routine regularly before transitioning to one nap.This means a short catnap in the morning for 20-30 minutes, with their afternoon nap lasting longer. This afternoon nap is the one that will move forward into the middle of the day for their one nap scenario. That morning catnap is also one that can be done on the go (i.e., in the car or pram), usually with motion so they can rock to sleep, but also so they wake up when they stop moving. 

Once you have them in that routine, look out for the following signs to see if they are ready to drop their morning nap: 

  • If you take them in the car and they stay awake the whole time
  • If they are fighting the catnap or if they do nap, they are fighting the second nap 
  • If they do miss the nap, they are awake happily until midday, with no obvious signs of tiredness or irritability
  • If on two naps (short/long) bedtime is getting later and later even when the second nap is capped short
  • When they hit 15-18 months
  • If they wake up earlier than usual on a two nap routine 

Then, I recommend slowly transitioning to one nap by:

  • Firstly, try cutting their catnap short, little by little. If they’re not liking this, try keeping your toddler active and busy throughout the morning, offering lunch a tad earlier in the day. Shorten their ‘wake window’ from the nap to bedtime as they adjust to the one nap scenario – I usually suggest 4/4.5 hours before bed. This may also mean an earlier bedtime!
  • As they adjust to the one nap scenario and are able to cope with a longer wake window from waking up in the morning to their nap, slowly push their nap back so that it sits somewhere between 12pm – 12.30pm. This one nap routine will stay in place for a good period of time – toddlers usually drop their nap ideally around the age of three.

Remember – some days, your toddler may fall asleep and do a two nap day. This is totally OK and common! Give your child a good 4 – 6 weeks for this transition to be completely settled. 

About the author

Lisa is the founder of Cherish Your Sleep, Co-Regional Director (Australia/Pacific) of The Association of Professional Sleep Consultants, an experienced certified baby/child sleep consultant and a mother to 3 young children.
She has always loved children and has worked in the industry for over 20 years as a qualified child care worker, working primarily with children aged 0 – 3yrs.
A successful outcome is not only good for the parents and children, but also giver Lisa a sense of satisfaction and happiness – there’s nothing better than hearing from a parent who finally got their first full night sleep since having a child.
Becoming a mum and meeting and seeing other mums struggle with their babies and children’s sleep made Lisa really want to reach out and help. She doesn’t see that there is a one size fits all to helping families – sleep is almost like a Puzzle – you need all the pieces in place to achieve the full picture and those pieces are what she shares with families.
Lisa uses a holistic approach to sleep, focusing on emotional wellbeing of families and ensuring the parent child connection in not only maintained, but enhanced. She knows how easy it is to become overwhelmed and frustrated, so it’s her passion to help find solutions that will work for you, your baby and the rest of your family.
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