Around the time you find a consistent routine with your little one, everything changes.
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 from two naps!
If you're struggling to transition to one nap from two naps, we have some expert tips to help you through the process, so that you and your baby can both fall asleep easier at nap time and at bedtime.
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 may be ready to transition to one nap from two naps if they are between 13-18 months AND for the last few weeks:
- have had trouble falling asleep at nap time and/or bedtime
- started to regularly protest or refuse the second nap
- struggled to fall asleep for short naps
- required a late bedtime in order to fit both a morning nap and an afternoon nap into the day
- experienced early morning wake-ups frequently
For babies younger than 12 months, it’s rarely time to transition to one nap from two naps.
Instead, if you see the signs, try making your baby’s morning nap only a short nap to see if this helps resolve some of your baby sleep issues.
If your little one is in daycare, we understand that the nap schedule may be out of your control. That’s okay!
4 Naps down to 3
3 Naps down to 2
2 Naps down to 1
1 Nap down to 0
Trust your daycare workers with baby's daytime sleep and know that you can control night sleep. (See Number 4 below.)
Still having trouble knowing whether it’s time? Here are the signs it's time to drop a nap.
2. Gradually shift the nap schedule
The goal with a one nap transition is for the morning nap to happen about half way through the day. Typically, this morning nap begins around 11:30am to 12:00pm, falling for most babies 5-6 hours after waking in the morning.
Asking your baby to have 5 - 6 hours of awake time may feel like a HUGE change to her sleep cycle if she has been having a morning nap within 3 hours of wake-up (as is common with a two nap schedule).
Instead of making that one nap transition all at once, we want to gradually shift the morning nap later and later.
We can do that by adding 15-30 minutes of extra awake time before the morning nap every few days, so that the nap transition can happen over a few weeks.
Here are some techniques parents use to help baby make it to that later nap time in the one nap schedule.
3. Provide a wind-down routine to help baby fall asleep
Just like a bedtime routine helps prepare a baby for a good night’s sleep, a predictable nap time routine sets your little one up for a restorative nap.
A nap time routine doesn’t have to be complicated! We just want to allow 7-10 minutes to decompress before a nap, especially if you're changing to a one nap schedule.
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, whether it's a morning or afternoon nap!
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 an afternoon nap ends, we want to aim for bedtime about 4-5 hours later.
If the afternoon nap is short (less than 90 minutes), you may find that your baby falls asleep before their normal bedtime, and that making bedtime earlier is a good solution.
A bedtime as early as 6-6:30pm is common during a nap transition 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 nap 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. The occasional two nap day isn't a big deal - you got this!
Commonly asked questions - how to transition to one nap
When do babies transition to one nap?
Deciding when to transition to one nap is personal to you and your family, and there's no one age where it has to happen. Most babies start transitioning to one nap when they're between 13 and 18 months, but making a nap transition should be more dependent on the amount of sleep they're getting and whether they're showing signs of wanting to change from two naps to one. These signs can include fighting sleep, having night wakings, resisting naps, and needing a late bedtime to fall asleep.
How to transition to one nap?
Transitioning to one nap is a gradual process that should take you a few weeks, and there are plenty of techniques you can use to ease the process. You can make bedtime earlier if your little one falls asleep in the evening, gradually shift the morning nap to the afternoon, and follow a soothing sleep routine before each nap to create positive sleep associations. Our range of Zen Sleepwear is perfect for any baby going through a nap transition. Gently weighted to mimic your soothing touch, these clothes are designed to help baby fall asleep and stay asleep, even when they're dropping a second nap!
How do you know when baby is ready for one nap?
There are a number of signs you can look out for that might mean your baby is ready to transition to one nap from two naps If your child misses naps because they're resisting or fighting sleep, is frequently waking during daytime sleep, requires a later bedtime for night sleep, is experiencing night wakings, and is waking early in the morning, it may be time for a nap transition!
Can a 10 month old take one nap?
Generally speaking, a 10 month old baby is too young to transition to one nap. This is because their sleep cycle isn't ready for such a long wake window, and it will likely lead to them falling asleep more during the day, and have an increased amount of night wakings - the opposite of a smooth transition to one nap! Instead, you can try making their morning nap a short nap to see if this solves some of your existing baby sleep problems.
How long should a one year old nap in the day?
A one year old will usually have two naps a day, the first nap in the morning and the second nap in the afternoon. The amount a baby sleeps isn't strictly tied to age - after all, every baby is unique - but generally speaking, a one year old needs between 11 and 14 hours of sleep per day. This could mean sleeping for 10 hours through the night, and having two naps that are 90 minutes long each during the day. However, this can be changed to suit your own needs, especially if your baby's daytime sleep is managed by daycare workers with other nap schedules.