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Toddler Sleep: From Two Naps To One

Nov21

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Hi Amy,

I have two 15 month olds who are awesome. They have been on a pretty predictable napping schedule of 9:30-11:30 in the mornings and then 3:30-5:00ish in the afternoons.  People keep asking me  if they have switched to one nap a day yet, when we are switching to one nap a day, suggested that we hold them off until lunch and put them down after that, etc. Basically, I am just starting to feel the pressure (intended or not) that we should be down to one nap.

The past few days, our babysitter has started trying to hold them off until 11:00 (per our request) and then puts them down and they have slept until 1:00 or 2:00 but then by 4:30 or 5:00 they are losing it. I get home from work at 5:00 and at that point, it seems too late for an afternoon nap and it makes the rest of the evening hard and unpleasant.

Personally, I feel like there is no need to force them into one nap if they are taking two and are happy with that. Won’t they just gradually shift their schedule or start sleeping longer in the mornings and not in the afternoons? Or do we just need to suck it up and deal with the unpleasantness for a while until they get used to the one nap schedule?   Is there something magical about the one-nap vs. two-naps a day? Is that like, a one year old rite of passage or something? 

XOXO,
jL

Babies TYPICALLY switch from one nap to two sometime between their first and second birthday. Yes, you read that right. It can happen as early as 12 months and as late as 24 months, and that’s only if we’re counting the “typical and average” kids. I’m sure there are babies who make the switch earlier and later, BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT BABIES DO. THEY LAUGH AT OUR MILESTONE CHECKLISTS.

So there is absolutely no reason you should be feeling pressured to pressure your twins to make the switch if you don’t think they’re ready! Tell all those people to suck it, your kids are wonderful sleepers and you’re not gonna mess with a good thing. The fact that they are obviously losing their collective minds after a couple days of mucking around with the morning nap is a pretty clear sign that they aren’t ready and that you should revert back to the old schedule immediately. And there is nothing wrong with that. They aren’t behind schedule or napping “wrong” or doing anything atypical for 15 months old. They are getting the sleep that their little bodies need, so let them.

The nice “magical” thing about the one-nap schedule is that it frees up your morning significantly — you can stay out and about much longer, plan more ambitious outings, run that extra errand without worrying that you’ll hit the Nap Wall and be stuck in the grocery store with howling, overtired toddlers. In short, the one nap thing is more magical for us, the adults who want our mornings to stop revolving around getting our kids to their cribs on time.

In my experience, both of my older boys let me KNOW when they were ready to make the switch. I was in no particular hurry, because for me, the morning nap was a valuable block of time for me to work and write, so I actively resisted it both times. Oh, did I resist, well past the point that I should have. Usually you know because they start fighting that morning nap, or pushing it back later and later on their own. I finally caved and said goodbye to the morning nap when I was barely getting my boys down by 11 am, instead of the previous 9:30 am.

At that point I moved lunch up to 11:30 and put them down immediately afterwards, and found that behold! Instead of a short little catnap in the afternoon, the boys would basically sleep for HOURS (like four or five, at least), then naturally wake up about four hours before our projected bedtime. (And after we all adjusted to the one-nap schedule, I moved lunchtime back to the original noon.)

And…that was that. Two naps down to one, no unpleasantness or sleep-training needed. There might have been a day or two in there where we saw a little regression back to the old schedule — usually if they’d had a bad night’s sleep due to teething or illness, or if we were having a REALLY active crazy morning they might conk out on the car ride home while I did everything in my power to keep them awake because those 15 minutes would take the edge off and make them think they didn’t need the afternoon nap, either. OH BUT YOU DO. WE BOTH DO.

But seriously: Table this concern for now and let them go back to two naps. Unless the two naps are like, wildly inconvenient for you (which it does sound like they are), there is no reason in the world to push or do anything other than continuing to follow their sleep cues. They’ll let you know when they’re ready, most likely.

(And for the record, if you ever met me and told me that your 15-month-olds still take two naps, I would never ask when you planned to make the switch. Instead, I’d be all, “GAH YOU’RE SO LUCKY I MISS THE MORNING NAP SO HARD WAH.”)

Photo credit: Thinkstock

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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20 Responses to “Toddler Sleep: From Two Naps To One”

  1. Martha Nov 21 at 12:40 pm Reply Reply

    My son wasn’t even a toddler yet when he went down to one nap a day–he was 11 months. It wasn’t too bad though. He does do one long nap but never the FOUR TO FIVE hours Amy says her boys do! That sounds like magic, I’d love that :) We try to put him down around one.

  2. IrishCream Nov 21 at 12:59 pm Reply Reply

    Right at 12 months, my daughter switched from two naps to the single less-than-magical FOURtyFIVE minutes. Enjoy those two naps while you can!

  3. Cassi Nov 21 at 1:10 pm Reply Reply

    4 to 5 HOURS? The average 1 midday naptime for us is 1 1/2 hours, but it’s been as little as 45 minutes and as much as 2 1/2 (when he’s feeling unwell or growth spurts, etc.) 4 hours would be NICE.

    But back to the OP… our little guy changed over at about 12 months, but I wouldn’t sweat keeping the two naps at 15. As long as they are well rested and happy, who cares WHEN the naps happen? (Well, nosi-bodies, but they don’t count. :P)

  4. VandyJ Nov 21 at 1:16 pm Reply Reply

    My oldest transitioned to one nap around 18 months.  HE just stopped sleeping in the morning.  My youngest transitioned at 15 months. 
    Amy is right–they will let you know when they are done with the nap.  The transition time should be pretty obvious.
    Go back to the two nap schedule and just go with it until they let you know that it doesn’t work for them any more.

  5. Michal Nov 21 at 1:22 pm Reply Reply

    Two naps?? Neither of my children have ever taken two naps. I’m jealous!! My oldest (who is 10 now) stopped napping at all at around 9 or 10 months. My youngest is 3 and started out with one from 1 to around 4 or 5. Now we are lucky if she naps at all. When she does, it is usually only for an hour or so. On the bright side both my girls slept from 9 to 9… :-)

  6. Alissa Nov 21 at 1:38 pm Reply Reply

    Oh, definitely hold on to that two nap thing.  It’s the BEST!
    My little man started cutting short his afternoon nap, or not napping AT ALL in the afternoons, around 15 or 16 months (but he was always a crappy napper).  We transitioned gradually – I’d keep his AM nap short (wake him after 30 minutes, unless he was already awake) for a few weeks, and then I dropped it altogether, moved his one nap WAAAAY up, and then did ridiculously early bed time (like 6PM).  It took a few weeks to settle in to that schedule, and then gradually push the one nap back to a normal time.
    But man, if you don’t have to, leave them at two naps.  Like Amy said – SO LUCKY!

  7. Erin Nov 21 at 1:44 pm Reply Reply

    Oh my gosh… to jL, I just want to slap those people for you! DON’T MESS WITH THE NAP. Sleep issues are hard enough without trying to fix something that ain’t broken. In my experience, nap transitions are just one of those things that happen on their own whether you like it or not. I’m sure you didn’t have to train your kids to take 2 naps instead of 3… just tell those people you’ve got it under control. Or slap them.

  8. Aubrey Nov 21 at 1:45 pm Reply Reply

    Unfortunately, we were at the mercy of our daycare when it came to nap schedules. Once the kids moved from infant room to 1yr old room, naptime was only scheduled 1x per day. Otherwise, you betcha I’d still have my 15month old taking 2 naps per day! It was rough in the beginning but he’s adjusted well. And Amy is right, it does allow you to do morning errands/activities on the weekends. AND the best part is after napping from 11-1 or 12-2, he is SOO ready for bedtime at 7pm which leaves me an hour or two in the evenings to hang with my hubby. I say enjoy it while you can if its an option….

  9. VG Nov 21 at 1:49 pm Reply Reply

    When my daughter moved into the Young Toddler rm @ Daycare, that’s when she went from 2 naps to 1. (14 months). She did fine with it. She’ll sleep 1 1/2 to 2 hrs on those days. Now my MIL has her 2 days a wk and still insists on the 2 naps (she’s in her 70s so I think the morning nap is more for her than for my kid). I have no problem with her having the 1 nap. I get things done, enjoy my lunch in peace, my hubby can do small odd jobs around the house, catch up on our DVRd shows, etc.
    I say don’t fix what isn’t broken. When they’re ready for 1 nap, they’ll let you know :) Hang in there!

  10. Jeannie Nov 21 at 1:50 pm Reply Reply

    Both my kids have let me know when they need to change nap schedules — so I say if you’re kids don’t seem ready, don’t force it because adults say so! If they are happy and you like their schedule, don’t mess with it!

  11. Olivia Nov 21 at 2:17 pm Reply Reply

    The decision to go to one nap was out of my hands as that is just what the daycare schedule is. So, my daughter was 20 months when she made the switch when she started daycare. I still tried to give her two naps on the weekends for a while, but eventually figured out I should just follow daycare’s schedule of lunch at 11:30 and nap after that. She averages about 2 hrs of sleep, usually less than that at home for some reason. Recently she has started resisting naps at home on the weekends. I don’t think she’s ready to drop naps entirely yet as she’s not even 3 yrs old now.

  12. Zoë Nov 21 at 2:22 pm Reply Reply

    My youngest is just now transitioning to one nap at 14 months old. She was up at 7:15 this morning, had lunch at 11:30, went to bed at 12:30 and will hopefully sleep until 2:30-3:30. This schedule actually works better for us because if she sleeps too late in the afternoon, ie past 4:30, then she won’t go to bed at night. I guess that was our cue that we needed to switch. My son probably transitioned at 18 months, and my older daughter at around 15 months. Like others have said, I wouldn’t mess with a good thing. Hooray for good sleepers!

  13. Nerwal Nov 21 at 2:54 pm Reply Reply

    We had the exact same thing happen to us; people were asking about “when are we going to one nap?” for our twins (I pressured myself, too, by going online and comparing) and got a huge lesson when I tried forcing them to one nap a day; they weren’t ready (and neither was I). They were horrible around lunch time and in the evenings. SO cranky. So, I waited. And when they stopped sleeping during the morning nap, I moved to one nap. And they did fine, so our new schedule was set.

    They’re 20 months and nap for three hours after lunch. If they don’t sleep the whole time, they get individual play and that’s fine.

  14. JenVegas Nov 21 at 3:06 pm Reply Reply

    Oh jeez, my 11 month (er…pretty much 12 month old at this point in the month I guess) really JUST got a good napping schedule going about a month ago and even still he barely naps an hour at a time. Dear lord, don’t make me change that NOW.

  15. Kim Nov 21 at 4:13 pm Reply Reply

    Both of my kiddos stopped taking two naps at 18 months, and both let me know when they were ready to go to one nap.  One quit cold turkey one day, the other it took a week of me not realizing that he was done, and after that, no problem.  I’d leave it up to their bodies to decide, and go with that.  Less struggle, which is always a good thing!

  16. Corie Nov 22 at 9:37 am Reply Reply

    Our day care transitioned him from however many maps he wanted per day in the infant room to 1 nap in the toddler room. My son is always up early – usually 5:45 or 6, even on the weekends, and he gets to day care by 7 – so the morning is reeeeeaaaaaaly long for him (they don’t nap until after lunch, so 12ish) but he seems to be doing ok with it during the week. On the weekends, though, he still frequently takes 2 naps. I don’t know if it’s because he’s bored at home with just my husband and me or he just needs 2 naps, but as long as he still wants 2, he’ll keep getting 2.

  17. Lilly Nov 22 at 2:29 pm Reply Reply

    I have the same exact situation as Corie. I see him around 11 am, and my baby’s dying for his nap. Takes two during the weekend.

  18. Ladotyk Nov 22 at 2:50 pm Reply Reply

    With my little girl, one day she just didn’t fall asleep when we laid her down for her morning nap and she spent the time babbling to herself. We continued to lay her down for “quiet time” for a week or two, then continued on with a single nap after that.

  19. Emily Nov 26 at 5:35 pm Reply Reply

    My 14month old takes 2 naps, but not like those described above. She takes a 30-45minute power nap (on mom) at about 11:15, waking up for lunch. Then she goes down at about 1:30 for a 2.5-3 hour nap. I think.. if I laid her down for her 11:15ish nap, that she’s probably sleep later and then nap later and we’d have an entirely different routine, but I honestly enjoy the downtime. I grab my iphone and become a momma pillow and sit down to read from the Kindle App – I have caught up on so much recreational reading, because you know, otherwise I’d have things I HAD to do… like clean. Anyways.. I decided to duck out today (Saturday) and go grocery shopping leaving her with dad. He attempted the morning power nap, but she had no interest, no need. Played right through that time. Until I walked in the door, at which point, she told me all about how difficult life was. And I expect that given the opportunity for a mommy pillow tomorrow, she’ll nap as normal. It’s hard when you have to work around 2 naps, but there are benefits.

  20. Emily Nov 28 at 5:19 pm Reply Reply

    hey guess what? Since I wrote the above? My 14month old now takes 1 nap. Atleast for the last 3 days. I know better than to hold my breath, though, so we’ll see.

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