When To Drop To One Nap?

Congratulations your baby has officially become a toddler!!

I find toddlerhood to be an exciting and fun stage in a child’s journey! There is so much happening developmentally and emotionally. Your toddler might be taking their first steps, learning to share, learning to listen, and becoming independent. What was more memorable for me was when my kiddies dropped to one nap a day. This made it easier for me to get out of the house and plan playdates with friends without having to rush home for their first nap.

I can’t deny it, I loved the time off in the middle of the day. My eldest went from sleeping an hour and a half in the morning, and a little less than that in the afternoon, to sleeping a solid three hours a day, ​right smack dab in the middle of the afternoon​.

This was great for a couple of reasons:

First, it made planning our day a whole lot easier, since I didn’t have to rush my morning errands or make a quick dash to the shops to make it in time for his first nap to ensure that he was getting back into bed at the appropriate time. Suddenly, we had the whole morning to go out and enjoy our catch up with friends.

Second, and I must be honest here, that three-hour break in the middle of the day was glorious. I could get a whole lot done in that time, or I could take a break, if that was what I needed. I also remember looking forward to having lunch whilst watching my favourite television shows.

Now, I’m 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 shuteye as they do when they’re infants. But how are you supposed to know when that time has come, and how do you make the transition?

Well, first things first. How do you know that baby’s ready to drop a nap?

If you notice that your toddler is doing great in the morning nap, but then fussing or playing for an hour or so before going down, that’s a very strong indication.

“He does that for a few days in a row, but then on day three, he’ll absolutely knock out for his afternoon nap,” I hear you saying, and that’s common.

The rule I like to adhere to is: If your little one is fighting the afternoon nap four or five times a week, it’s probably a good time to make the switch. Commonly we see young toddlers drop to one nap between 14-18 months old. Developmental milestones can cause some disruptions which might make you think that he or she is ready when they’re not, so make sure this is the pattern for a minimum of two weeks.

The reason I error on the side of caution here is because once you start with this process, it’s important not to back-step. If you pull the nap, but then your child manages to fight off the change, it’s going to cause some confusion, and that will just complicate the situation.

So, now that you’re sure the time is right, it’s time to implement the new system. So, what does that look like?

Well, we obviously can’t just change the schedule overnight. I’m sure every mother of a toddler can appreciate how smoothly that would go over.

My approach is 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. This is on average how long your toddler can take to adjust to his new schedule.

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 can provide just enough of a sugar rush to get your little one over the hump in this situation, so keep a stash of your child’s favourite in the fridge.

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 will be enjoying a 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.

If you need one on one coaching or have questions head over to my website and book your free 15min sleep evaluation with me.