One nap- are we there already!?
Well I guess the time is here; my newly turned one year old is ready to transition down to just one nap. It’s bittersweet for me as I enjoy the time to play with my toddler but the fact that she is taking a long time to fall asleep at night now and on occasion she wakes up in the middle of the night (and happily plays and then falls back to sleep, thankfully) tells me that she is getting too much daytime sleep and it is affecting her nights.
One nap can be very enjoyable as you get a solid break in the middle of your day and it can make running errands and having playdates a lot easier. I know a lot of families that I have worked with give me a painful look when I show them an average schedule of a baby and ask them to respect their naptimes. I get it, two or three naps a day can make it tough to have a life or get out of the house. Just know that it doesn’t last forever!
So, how do you know if your baby is ready to drop to one nap?
If she is like my daughter she might be taking a long time to fall asleep at night or you might notice that you baby is doing great in the morning nap, but then fussing or playing for an hour or so before going down again, this is also a very strong indication. “He does that for a few days in a row, but then on day three, he’ll absolutely sack out for his afternoon nap,” I hear you saying, and that’s really common too.
The rule I like to adhere to is this: If baby’s 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 which might make you think that baby’s ready when they’re actually not, so it’s good to be sure this is the pattern for a minimum of two weeks before making any big changes.
Generally I am not one to recommend less sleep, but there’s no getting around the fact that, as babies get older, they don’t need as much shut-eye as they do when they’re infants. The process to get down to one nap can be a bit of work (everything to do with kids can be a ‘bit’ of a work, can’t it!?) but just like many things- if there’s no pain there no gain!
Ok so now that you know she is ready, what do you do?
Well, we obviously can’t just change the schedule overnight. I’m sure every parent of a toddler can appreciate how smoothly that would go over given how much toddlers “love” change (I hope you can sense my sarcasm…)!
This transition can be a slow process, so here are some tips:
- Try to nudge the morning nap time a half hour later every three days, up until nap time hits around 12:30. 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’re 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. A piece of fruit, (or fruit juice) can provide just enough of a sugar rush to get baby over the hump in this situation, so keep a stash of your child’s favourite snack handy.
- You’re probably going to have to bridge the gap slightly in the afternoon, so 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.
And just like that, before you even know what hit you, your little one will have cleared this early hurdle, and you will all be enjoying that 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.
As always, please let me know if you need any assistance as I would love to help!