Navigating the 2-1 Nap Transition
Is your child suddenly fighting naps? Or napping great but struggling at bedtime? Your child may be ready for the 2-1 nap transition. I strongly recommend keeping a two nap schedule as long as possible, but it is inevitable that all children will need to move to a one nap schedule at some point.
When does the 2-1 nap transition occur?
Most children make the 2-1 nap transition between 15-18 months of age, though some children are ready a bit younger. In many childcare centers, children are transitioned to a one nap schedule around one year of age; however many of these children continue a two nap schedule on the weekends at home until they are a bit older. Key point: watch your child’s cues. He or she will tell you when they are ready to make this move.
How do I know my child is ready?
When he or she has been napping well and sleeping well at night but has started consistently doing one of the following for at least 1-2 weeks:
- Taking a good morning nap but fighting the afternoon nap
- Fighting the morning nap and the afternoon nap.
- Taking two good naps but having a hard time falling asleep at night
- Taking two good naps and going to bed easily but waking early in the morning
How do I prepare for the 2-1 nap transition?
Before you drop one nap completely, try tweaking your child’s schedule and keep two naps for as long as it keeps working. As your child’s wake time increases with age, they will often have a hard time falling asleep for their afternoon nap because they simply aren’t sleepy yet. Same deal if your child is taking two good naps but having a hard time falling asleep at bedtime.
Be sure that there is enough time between morning wake up and morning nap, morning nap and afternoon nap, and afternoon nap and bedtime. At 12 months of age, most children need 3-4 hours of wake time; this increases to 4-6 hours by 18 months. Wake time is usually shorter in the morning and longer in the afternoon.
If your child is taking a morning nap that is longer than 1 hour and struggling with their afternoon nap, you can try shortening the morning nap in 15-minute increments and see if that brings back the afternoon nap. Be careful not to shorten the nap less than an hour.
If the afternoon nap has remained solid but bedtime has become a challenge, start to shorten the afternoon nap in 15-minute increments down to 1.5 hours. Typically bedtime has become a challenge because your child is ready for a longer wake time.
Transition Time Has Arrived
When you reach the point that no matter what you do two naps no longer works, you will be in a full-fledged transition mode. Typically, the afternoon nap is the one that children want to drop. During this process, do not be afraid of a very early bedtime. It is your friend! Many parents worry that an early bedtime will result in super early morning wake-ups, but typically this is not the case. On the contrary, it will help keep your child from becoming overtired. This is important because overtired children tend to have early morning wakings.
Your plan to is to merge the morning nap and afternoon nap, resulting in a single nap starting around 12:30-1:00 pm. Push the morning nap later in 15-minute increments every 3-4 days. The afternoon nap will simultaneously move later and you will need to cap it so that your child has enough wake time between nap and bed.
Once the morning nap has moved late enough that an afternoon nap is no longer practical, you may need a bedtime as early as 5:30 or 6:00 pm some days. Don’t worry! This is temporary and you’ll be back to your usual bedtime before you know it.
If you need help with your child’s transition, I would love to help! Take a look at your options for a one-on-one consultation. Nap transitions can be tough, but you can do it.