As a mom of two, one of the nicest transitions I experienced with both kids was when my toddlers finally consolidated their two shorter daytime naps into one big nap, right in the middle of the day.
My son is currently in the stage of 1 nap a day, and I can’t deny it; I love having the time off in the middle of the day! My son went from sleeping an hour and a half in the morning, and a little less than that in the afternoon, to sleeping a solid two and a half to three hours a day, right smack dab in the middle of the afternoon. Talk about BLISS!
While some parents dread this transition, I actually think it’s great for a couple of reasons. First of all, it makes planning our day a whole lot easier, since I no longer need to stay close to home twice a day to get him to bed at the appropriate time. Suddenly, we have the whole morning to go out and do whatever needs doing.
Second, and I must be honest here, that two to three-hour break in the middle of the day is absolutely glorious. I can get a whole lot done in that time, or I can spend some one on one time with my older daughter. To be honest, I even take a nap myself from time to time!
Typically, I’m not one to recommend less sleep, but there is no getting around the fact that as babies get older, they don’t need as much shut-eye as they do when they are infants. But how are you supposed to know when that time has come, and how do you make the transition?
Well, first things first. How do you know that your baby is ready to drop a nap? Babies usually start displaying signs of being ready to transition to one nap around 14 – 15 months of age, but anywhere between 12 – 18 months is considered normal for this nap transition. If you notice that your baby is doing great for the morning nap, but then fussing or playing for an hour or so before going down for his afternoon nap, that’s a very strong indication.
One common response I get to this red flag is “But he does that for a few days in a row, but then on day three, he’ll absolutely sack out for his afternoon nap.” This is very common!
The rule I like to adhere to is this: If baby is fighting the afternoon nap four or five times a week, it’s probably a good time to make the switch. Developmental milestones can cause some disruptions to naps which might make you think your baby is ready when they’re not, so make sure this is the pattern for a minimum of two weeks.
The reason I err on the side of caution here is because once you start with this process, it’s important not to back-step. If you start the transition, but then baby manages to fight off the change, it’s going to cause some confusion, and that will just complicate the situation.
So, now that you are sure the time is right, it’s time to implement the new routine. What does that look like?
Well, we obviously can’t just change the schedule overnight. I’m sure every mother of a toddler can appreciate the fact that toddlers don’t do well with change in general. My approach is to nudge the morning nap time a half hour later every three days until nap time hits around 12:30 p.m. You’ll want to take your time with this, because it’s a tough transition for your little one. Don’t worry if the process takes 4 – 6 weeks to get fully implemented. That’s a good amount of time to shoot for.
As I’m sure you are expecting, your toddler is going to get a little sleepy at their usual nap time, so avoid going for a car ride, or taking her out in the stroller around that time. Some outdoor playtime or a piece of fruit can give your baby the energy boost they need to get over the hump in this situation.
In the first few days, you will probably have to bridge the gap between nap and bedtime slightly by offering a brief catnap in the late afternoon. A ride in the stroller or a quick snooze in the car seat is a good way to get a quick catnap in without putting baby down for a full-blown nap. Temporarily moving bedtime up a little earlier might be necessary as well, until they get the hang of the new schedule.
Once baby does start accepting the one nap, you may notice a little inconsistency in the length. This is completely normal and to be expected while their bodies learn to consolidate the amount of daytime sleep they require into one afternoon nap.
With time and consistency, before you know it, your little one will have cleared this early hurdle, and baby will be enjoying a daily siesta. Once your heart gets over the fact that your baby is growing up in the blink of an eye, you’ll be able to enjoy a little time off and a more flexible daily schedule.