Around the time you find a consistent routine with your little one, everything changes. He grows. Her personality emerges. He’s saying a few words. She’s starting to walk. All sorts of changes are on the horizon. One of the biggest challenges: transitioning to ONE nap!
Meet our expert
Baby sleep expert, neonatal nurse, mom of 4, founder of Taking Cara Babies
These 5 steps can set you up for success:
1. Recognize the signs that your little one is ready
Your baby is between 13-18 months AND:
- has trouble falling asleep at naptime and/or bedtime
- starts to regularly protest or refuse the second nap
- struggles with short naps
- requires a late bedtime in order to fit both naps into the day
- experiences early morning wakings frequently
For babies younger than 12 months, it’s rarely time to drop to one nap. Instead, if you see the signs, try shortening your baby’s morning nap to see if this helps resolve some of your issues.
If your little one is in daycare, we understand that naps may be out of your control. That’s okay! Trust your daycare workers and know you can control bedtime. (See Number 4 below.)
Still having trouble knowing whether it’s time? Here's the signs it's time to drop a nap.
2. Gradually shift the nap
The goal with one nap is for the nap to happen about half way through the day. Typically, this nap begins around 11:30am to 12:00pm, falling for most babies 5-6 hours after waking in the morning.
Asking your baby to stay awake for 5 - 6 hours may feel like a HUGE change if she has been napping within 3 hours of wake-up (as is common with a two-nap schedule). Instead of making that change all at once, we want to gradually shift the first nap later and later. We can do that by adding 15-30 minutes of extra awake time before the nap every few days. Here's some techniques parents use to help baby make it to that later naptime.
3. Provide a wind-down routine
Just like a bedtime routine helps prepare a baby for a good night’s sleep, a predictable naptime routine sets your little one up for a restorative nap. A naptime routine doesn’t have to be complicated! We just want to allow 7-10 minutes to decompress before a nap.
Here’s one example: remove uncomfortable clothing, change diaper, slip into a Zen Sack™, read a book, dim the lights, and put him into the crib awake. All of this sends cues to your little one’s brain that sleep is coming!
If your little one isn’t able to fall asleep independently, Taking Cara Babies has a class that can help.
4. Adjust bedtime as needed
Our goal is for that one nap to be 2-3 hours long. After the nap ends, we want to aim for bedtime about 4-5 hours later.
If the nap is short (less than 90 minutes), you may find that it is difficult to keep your baby awake until her normal bedtime. A bedtime as early as 6-6:30pm is common during nap transitions and will help restore lost daytime sleep until that nap gets a bit longer.
If you need realistic examples of what this might look like, check out these sample schedules.
5. Stay consistent
Consistency is so important as you help shift your baby’s sleep routine. This transition can often take 2-4 weeks, so be patient and stay the course.
Know that moving to a one-nap schedule can be a bit challenging at first. Even with the right tools, it’s a big change! Give your little one lots of grace… and while you’re at it- give yourself lots of grace too. You got this!