The Big One (Nap)
The 2-1 Nap Transition
The 2-1 nap transition is one of the most feared of all the transitions (probably right after the 1-0 nap transition ). I’m here to ease those fears.
Most children will make this transition between 12 and 18 months, with 14-15 months being the most common time. Many daycare providers will automatically put a child on a one-nap schedule around 12 months of age if they’re making a room transition at that time, so if this is your situation, you’re just going to have to go with it. At least you've got help right? (Thank you teachers and childcare workers!) You can always still do two naps on the weekends to help baby fill up their "sleep tank" again.
I absolutely recommend taking your time with this transition and paying attention to your child’s cues more than you worry about the clock or the timing of things. Don’t try to push this transition too soon, unless you have to, of course. Quality sleep is THE most important thing.
It took a full 21 months for my triplets to get on the same schedule. It was a long process, but I had them home with me and could take my time. We would try the transition for a few weeks, then they’d be overtired and we’d have to go back to two naps for a few more weeks because they simply weren’t ready. Maybe I just found my next blog subject...how to transition multiples. That is a whole other ballgame. You live and you learn, right??
So, how do you know your child is ready for this transition? There are a few indicators you should watch for:
Has your little one started to refuse naps and takes more than 30 minutes to fall asleep?
Has your little one started skipping naps?
Have they lengthened one nap and consequently refused others?
Are they waking earlier than normal?
Are they starting to have somewhat fragmented nights?
That being said, these can be indicators of many other sleep disturbances as well, so a good rule of thumb is to make certain any of these things have been happening as frequently as 10 out of 14 days. If it is being caused by something else like a developmental milestone or language burst, it will likely work itself out in this time.
Once you’re certain that it is in fact time to make the transition, I want you to be willing to go slow. This transition can take up to 4-6 weeks if you're able to let it. And if you’ve started and it’s not going well, there’s no harm in turning back! Now, I know not every child stays home with mom or a caregiver every day. Usually daycare and/or your parenting style will be to rip off that Band-Aid, take the leap, and never look back. I get and approve that way too ;)
For the sake of our conversation, let’s say your child is normally waking for the day around 7:00 a.m., napping at 9:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., and going to bed around 7:00 p.m. How do we start the transition to one nap?? Ideally it will be slowly, but surely, and always by following your child’s sleepy cues.
For stay at home moms and families who have in home caregivers with the flexibility to take a slow start, you can start to move the first nap back in 15/30 minute increments for a few days until you reach 12:30/1pm for the start of the nap. For example: on day one, nap time will start around 10:30am, followed by 11am the next day and so on until you have fully transitioned to one nap that falls in the middle of the day. You will simultaneously implement an early bedtime to make up for the loss of that second nap. After a few days - and by following your child’s cues - you will have slowly transitioned them to a later start time.
For the parents out there that want to jump right into the new schedule and not take it slowly, then go for it. Your homework and main job is to get your child to bed as early as possible while they are making the transition at daycare, school, or the quick jump. If you do this, you'll find the transition won't be as painful and you'll have less night wakings.
Bedtime may be as early as 5:30/6:00ish during the transition until your child’s body adjusts a bit more to the later nap time. Sounds crazy, but trust me, it works. Your goal will be to get to 1 nap in the middle of the day AND not have an extremely overtired child by the end. Continue to use the earlier bedtime until this one nap consolidates to a set 2-3 hours in length. Once the nap is set, you can push bedtime back to your usual time, around 7:00 p.m.
As I mentioned, this process can take time, so be patient. Your child's schedule will now look like this:
This whole process should be slow and steady when possible, but children are resilient and will be fine no matter when or how the transition has to occur. You can always fall back and give a second nap if your child needs it. Think of it this way - if your child was hungry, you would offer food. If your child is tired, you should offer sleep. You can do so by either doing an earlier bedtime than normal and/or allowing an extra nap on the weekends.
You are the best mama for YOUR baby, and you know what’s best. Go with your instinct when it comes to this transition and look forward to more flexible days ahead without worrying about naps!
If you need or want more personalized help, you can reach out and book a 45 minute call with me here. I'd love to help.