Toddlers transition from 2 naps to 1 nap around 15-18 months old, on average, and then will sleep 11-12 hours at night plus 2-3 hours during the day. This article will tell you how to transition from 2 naps to 1 nap based on my 15 years as an infant and toddler sleep consultant.
When Do Toddlers Transition From 2 Naps to 1 Nap?
As I mentioned above, most toddlers will transition from 2 naps to 1 nap around 15-18 months old, on average. However, in my many years as a sleep consultant, I find many 13-14-month-olds are ready to transition. There are a few important details to which to pay attention before you do the transition.
How Do You Know It’s Time to Transition to 1 Nap?
Although we have a detailed article with the signs to transition from 2 naps to 1 nap, here’s a brief summary:
- It feels like you are “running out of daytime” for two naps. If nighttime sleep has dropped below 10 hours and you feel squeezed for time, it’s probably time to transition.
- Your toddler has a split night meaning they are awake and alert for 1-3 hours in the middle of the night.
- If your toddler is skipping one of their naps four or more times a week, it might be time to transition to a 1-nap schedule.
- Finally, if your toddler’s bedtime rivals your own or they can’t fall asleep until very late at night, it might be that their last wake window of the day has gotten too long for a 2-nap schedule.
How to Transition From 2 Naps to 1 Nap: 3 Methods
There are multiple ways to transition naps and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach that’s right for every child. Even children within the same household might do it in different ways. Here are 3 ways you can do this important transition so you can get it right for your child:
Method 1: Squeeze the First Nap
If your toddler tolerates being woken up from a nap, you can try squeezing the first nap out so the second nap becomes their midday and only nap. To squeeze the first nap out, you start by gradually reducing the morning nap until it’s a catnap and then encourage a 1-2-hour midday or afternoon nap. Here’s an example:
Example of Shortening the Morning Nap
Day 1: Morning Nap = 50 minutes, Afternoon Nap = 1 hour 30-50 minutes, Total = 2 hours 10-40 minutes
Day 2: Morning Nap = 45 minutes, Afternoon Nap = 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours, Total = 2 hours 30-45 minutes
Day 3: Morning Nap = 30 minutes, Afternoon Nap = 2+ hours, Total = 2 1/2 to 3 hours
Eventually, you’ll stop offering the morning nap when you think your toddler is ready.
- Toddlers who tolerate being woken up
- Toddlers who still have a shorter (3 to 3.5-hour morning wake window)
- Toddlers who are skipping their afternoon nap but not ready for a 1-nap schedule
- Your toddler may still skip their afternoon nap even with a short morning nap in which case you’d follow Method 3 below.
- Your toddler might be overtired after a short morning nap and then take a short afternoon nap. Give it a few days before you reevaluate. They may simply need to adjust.
Method 2: Squeeze the Second Nap
With this method, your goal is to gradually move the morning nap to later until it becomes the one-and-only nap. To implement this method, you start moving the first wake window later in the morning by 15-30 minutes every day or every other day and then allow the nap to be as long as your toddler wants it. Then, offer a second nap after a 4-hour wake window. If it’s getting too late in the day, shorten this nap until it’s a 30-45-minute catnap (if that’s an issue.) Here’s an example:
Example of Moving the Morning Nap Later
Day 1: Morning Wake Window = 3.5 hours, Afternoon Wake Window = 4 hours, Bedtime Wake Window = 4 hours (Note: Bedtime might temporarily get late)
Day 2: Morning Wake Window = 3.75 hours, Afternoon Wake Window = 4 hours, Bedtime Wake Window = 4 hours
Day 3: Morning Wake Window = 4 hours, Afternoon Wake Window = 4 hours (consider shortening this nap), Bedtime Wake Window = 4 hours
Day 4: Morning Wake Window = 4.25 hours, Afternoon Wake Window = 4 hours (consider shortening this nap), Bedtime Wake Window = 4 hours (if afternoon nap occurred)
Day 5: Morning Wake Window = 4.5 hours, Afternoon Wake Window = 4 hours (consider shortening this nap), Bedtime Wake Window = 4 hours (if afternoon nap occurred)
Day 6: Morning Wake Window = 4.75 hours, Bedtime Wake Window = 4.5 hours (no second nap)
Eventually, the first nap will get late enough and long enough that the afternoon nap won’t be taken or it will be too late in the day to offer it. If your toddler is sometimes taking an afternoon nap and not on other days, offer bedtime earlier on those days (~6:30 or 7:00 PM).
- Toddlers who do NOT tolerate being woken up from naps (cranky and fussy)
- Toddlers skipping the afternoon nap several days a week no matter how short or long the morning nap is
- Toddlers with long morning wake windows, already
- Toddlers who might take a short morning nap as the wake window increases
- Your toddler might drop the afternoon nap very quickly
- Your toddler could take a short morning nap, however, the afternoon nap allows them to catch up before bedtime that night, one of the benefits of this method
- Your toddler might take two short naps, instead, but this is temporary and part of the transition in some cases.
Method 3: Abrupt Change of the Schedule
The final method is simply to move your toddler to a 1-nap schedule abruptly. Usually, if we do this it’s because the morning wake window is already 4 hours (or longer) and the toddler is already skipping their afternoon nap most days OR awake for a long period of time in the middle of the night (insomnia). With this method, you simply stop offering the second nap, move the first wake window to 4 1/2 to 5 hours, and encourage at least a 2+ hour nap.
How Long Does it Take to Transition From 2 Naps to 1 Nap?
Generally speaking, it takes approximately 2-3 weeks to transition from 2 naps to 1 nap. In addition, your toddler might need two naps once or twice a week while they transition. This will curb some of the overtiredness.
Some days may be better than others but it’s common, and expected, for overtiredness to occur. We can’t always avoid that but after a few weeks, your toddler should adjust. That is, they will adjust provided they have the right 1-nap schedule for a toddler. Be sure you adjust it to fit your child!
I hope this article has helped you with your toddler’s schedule! If you need any help, you know where to turn.