When it’s Time to Drop To 1 Nap
❌ MYTH: Babies should drop down to one nap at 12 months old.
✅ FACT: Most babies are not ready for one nap until 15-18 months, and some babies need two naps until they’re two years old!
The funny thing about babies is that their nap schedules are always changing. This means that every time you get your baby’s schedule down pat, it changes. Without fail.
When you think about it, your baby is undergoing a multi-year transition from napping every hour (newborns) to going through the entire day with no nap, sometime around 2-4 years old. That’s a lot of change in a short time! Five naps to four naps, to three naps, to two to one… something is always changing.
Knowledge is key when it comes to navigating these changes successfully, so here’s what you need to know about the transition from two naps to one.
Your Baby Still Needs 2 Naps If
- She is under 12 months old
- She still ends up sleeping around 1 hour for both naps, even if there is fussing or playing in the crib before or after the nap
- She falls asleep in the car when you’re out during nap time
- She gets fussy and irritable when you skip a nap
Your Baby is Probably Ready for 1 Nap If
- He is between 13-18 months old
- He never falls asleep for the first nap, or only sleeps for 10-15 minutes
- When you skip the first nap, he is still happy and full of energy until the afternoon nap
- He takes a good, solid afternoon nap but totally fights the morning nap
How to Transition to One Nap
When making the schedule change, you have two choices.
- Go cold turkey, and stop putting your baby down for her morning nap. Just wait till midday to put her down for her first nap, and let that nap go as long as she needs.
- Slow delay: push the morning nap 15 minutes later each day until it becomes an afternoon nap, around 1 pm
Tips to keep in mind
- Night and day sleep combine to create one big puzzle: if you shift things, other pieces will also change elsewhere in the schedule. When you drop the morning nap, your child might need an earlier bedtime, or might start sleeping later in the mornings. The total need for sleep (14 hours out of 24) does not change, so the hours will merely shift.
- You will have some days where your baby does beautifully with one nap and other days where he just needs two naps. This can be because of travel, illness, teething, an early waking in the morning, or just a tired day! On those days, it’s fine to shift bedtime 30 minutes later. And in reverse, it’s a good idea to shift bedtime 30 minutes earlier when he only takes one nap. You can play around a bit for a few weeks until the new schedule gels.
- If you try a one nap schedule for a few weeks and see drastic changes in your child’s behavior and moods, he probably isn’t truly ready for one nap. Go back to two naps for a month or two and try again when you think he’s ready.
Here’s some food for thought…. A lot of the dramatic tantrums and mood swings that we attribute to the “terrible twos” can be traced back to dropping a nap too soon. Cutting out a nap before your baby or toddler is biologically ready can have devastating consequences on his emotional equilibrium.
Now, napping isn’t a cure-all. Your toddler will still be, well, a toddler. She’s learning to assert herself as her own person, which comes along with some trademark experimental defiance. With that in mind, it’s my belief that a lot of the drama and misery attributed to the “terrible twos” could be alleviated by a proper daytime schedule, including sufficient daytime sleep. Don’t drop the nap too soon: you’ve been warned.