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Nap Battles: The Premature Two-Naps-to-One Kid

Nap Battles: The Premature Two-Naps-to-One Kid

By Amalah

Hello!

First things first, I have a minor fan girl crush on your column, pregnancy calendar and blog. EEEeee!! 🙂

I really hate bothering you while moving (we’re military and moving suuuuuuuucks), but I’m sitting outside crying into my coffee so I don’t have to hear my baby cry for naptime.

She’ll be one in October. She’s never been a great napper, but following Ferber and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child we managed to get two solid naps a day and she sleeps wonderfully at night. STILL sleeps wonderfully at night (although I now expect that the change since I’m telling the world).

Naptime on the other hand is a nightmare. I can’t think of anything I haven’t tried. Since she turned 8 months, she will.not.nap. Our sleepy routine is a diaper change (low light), snuggle into sleep sack, short rock and a song and then off to bed! We had no problems or issues until she learned to roll, sit up, crawl and move around.

Now I put her down for a nap and all she does is move. Like a demon has taken over her motor functions and will not let her lay down to sleep. I’ve tried leaving her to cry (two hours was my limit), laying her back down every time she got up (two hours was my limit), bouncing/rocking/singing to her until she was asleep (two hours was my limit), wrapping her (two hours was my limit — seeing a trend?), getting her up and keeping her up until her next nap (she didn’t take that next nap either), moving her naps back by an hour (still didn’t sleep), moving her naps up (nope!) and on and one.

Like I said, I’m at the point of going outside with coffee and a video monitor and crying. We’re not having any fun during the day because she is so stinking tired.

She will not sleep in the car either. I’ve been following the 2,3,4 schedule but as of now, her bedtime is 6PM (and inching closer to 5:30) and I don’t relish the idea of her getting up at 6AM or earlier with no naps through the day. As of now, she does sleep from about 6PM until about 6:30AM with two night wakings to eat. She does go right back to sleep.

I’m sorry this is all over the place, but she is wearing me out. Please. I need more ideas or something!

Thanks!

Okay. Let’s start off with some MATH.

Your daughter is sleeping for 12.5 hours at night, and “inching closer” to 13 straight hours. That’s fantastic! That’s also your problem.

I mean, not really, but also, kind of. ON AVERAGE, babies your daughter’s age will sleep around 11 or 11.5 hours at night. Naps bring total sleep up to around 14 hours. But this isn’t some solid set-in-stone thing — some babies sleep more, some (okay, many) sleep less.

So with 12.5 to 13 hours of her sleep coming in one long unbroken chunk at night, I actually am not surprised AT ALL that she’s not napping consistently or significantly. With that much sleep at night, it’s probably unrealistic to expect her to take two really long naps during the day. She might not be the best candidate for 2-3-4 because after 13 hours of sleep, unless you’re keeping her CRAZY busy in the first two hours of her day, she’s probably not the least bit tired! And trying to force a nap anyway (and letting it routinely turn into a two-hour power struggle), is just an exercise in futility. Kid won’t sleep. You can’t make her sleep. She’s furious that you’re trying to make her sleep when SHE DOESN’T WANT TO SLEEP. But the struggle itself is stressful and the fighting and constant UP and DOWN and BACK UP is probably wearing her out, so then she ends up overtired and cranky.

Am I suggesting you let her become some kind of all-day napless wonder? Hell no. She does need a nap. A. Nap. Singular.

I know! I KNOW! She’s too young! The books and the Googles and the old lady at the grocery store all say two naps at this age! But the reality is that MOST babies who are taking two naps are not sleeping as long at night as your daughter. Maybe 10/11 hours.

Basically, your daughter has absorbed one of her naps into her overnight sleep. So you should probably only expect one nap during the day. This isn’t that unusual, although she’s just on the young side for the two-naps-to-one transition. She’s probably been trying to make the transition ever since 8 months but you wouldn’t let her because DUH, why would you? She’s only 8 months old! Take a nap, child. And then take another one!

So…try it. You said she skipped both naps if you gave up on the first, but only AFTER an extended struggle in her crib. So what would happen if you didn’t even try for a morning nap, and then moved the “second” nap to right after lunchtime?  (If you’re skittish, maybe aim 20 minutes of “quiet time” in her crib mid-morning…with lots of books and toys and no interference from you or insisting that she lie down or be still.)

In my three-time experience with the two-naps-to-one transition, the one-nap schedule was blissfully freeing (once I finally stopped fighting for two naps!). All morning to go do stuff! Fun stuff! Errands stuff! Then home for lunch and down for a nap…that actually lasted pretty darn long, because they were finally far enough away from that refreshing nighttime sleep to really NEED a nap.

I can’t promise that even if she takes one nap a day that it will be a significant one — again, that 12.5/13 hours at night means she might only “need” an hour during the day. (Again, that 14 total hours of sleep time is just as average.) But I think you both need a break and a reset from this twice-a-day nap battle no matter what. You’re both miserable and crying and the end result is the same: SHE’S NOT TAKING A FREAKING NAP. So…try skipping the 2-hours-after-waking nap and move the afternoon nap to right after lunch. Maybe lunch will need to move up to prevent overtiredness, so play around with it for a few days before giving up.

(Unless it starts messing with her nights. You definitely don’t want to mess up the nights in pursuit of an hour nap.)

(Also, if you don’t have them already: Blackout curtains.)

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

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 Ama...

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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Comments

  • Claire

    We transitioned our daughter from 2 to 1 at about this age because she did the same. Screaming, yelling, freaking out and generally being a nightmare. one nap straight after lunch till about 2 (we’re actually having to wake her then now, she’s just 2) and she goes to bed no problems at 6.30 ish. Sleeps through to anywhere between 6 – 7.30 and still takes that nap.

    Now, if anyone knows how to make an overtired 3.5 yo who could really still do with the occasional nap sleep that’s be fab…

  • Oh, yes, this sounds like the one nap transition. Look, I know it’s scary (oh yes, I KNOW) but like Amy says… a one nap day is actually pretty great- that one nap can get pretty long.

    I found with my son that the transition went best if I kept him busy with something that engaged him during what used to be first nap. Could be the park, could just be a trip to the grocery store. Then we’d have some lunch, and if he seemed at all sleepy, it was off to nap.

    But yes, definitely do give the one nap thing a try for a few days- think of it this way- it’s one less occasion to fight with her if nothing else. And if she gets a little tired and cranky while skipping first nap, it’s STILL easier than two power struggles a day. 

  • Ashley

    Yep, it is one nap time for sure. My daughter also went to one before a year (and she was only sleeping 10 or so hours at night–some kids just don’t need all the sleep). It was freeing, for sure. It was actually what helped her start sleeping past 5AM. 

    It was a little rocky because she wanted to keep the morning one and drop the afternoon–and that was just making for a really angry afternoon baby. It took some time, but we eventually pushed it to right after lunch. We were all much happier. Just stick with it for awhile and try to keep her busy in the mornings. 

  • S

    Yeah, switch her. I switched my kids to one nap at 13 months — one was ready, like your kid, and the other just for my convenience. It’s a transition, but not even a terrible time compared to the crying mom kid screaming fight. One kid slept 12 hours at night plus 3.5 in the afternoon, the other did about 11 at night and 2.5 in the afternoon. The same fight will come up again in a year or two, but good sleep can still be had. At age 3.5, I dropped all naps and we’re down to 12 hours for one kid and 11 hours for the other kid at night.

  • I definitely agree with the one-nap solution. My son has been a great sleeper and napper since 5 months, and even he dropped his 2nd nap early–around 10 months. I resisted at first, but the single toddler nap is much easier and more reliable. We started with the nap being at 11:30 am– kind of a hybrid of the two naps–then gradually moved it to 1pm.

    My son also requires a great deal of physical activity in the morning to achieve that one nap, so you may have a super active kid as well. Try to postpone errands and long car trips to the afternoon and spend the morning letting her climb, walk, and play–preferably outdoors so she wears herself out physically and mentally. Also, Halo sleep-sacks (or similar) can help with the pre-sleep restlessness, and prevent crib escapes!

  • June

    We did this too! Our daughter was a fantastic night sleeper and a terrible napper. I was nervous about it being too early but her two naps were getting shorter and shorter so we started putting her down at 11:30 or noonish. At first this was also a terrible half hour cat nap but within a couple of weeks it was up to two solid hours. After she turned one we pushed it back past noon and it became a great three hour nap. Now she’s great at night and at naptime (besides the occasional illness related stuff).

  • Nicole

    I am not a scheduler. I’ve tended to follow my kids’ leads on their needs. The oldest went to one nap at nine months. We’d have some fun activity in the morning, then she’d crash late morning for about 2 1/2 hours and be good until bedtime. The younger just switched to one nap at 18 months. Trust yourself. Guidelines are just that. Good luck with a smooth transition!

  • Emily

    We transitioned to one nap around this time too and my advice is try for your one nap around 11-11:30. I know generally kids do their one nap at 1 but that was just too long of an awake time for my guy at first. We are slowly inching in that direction (he’s 16 months now) but if I tried to push for 1pm he would end up over tired and take a really short nap. Also, be prepared for it not to be a quick change. For about a month he would throw in a second nap at least once a week. The key for us was staying out of the car in the morning (otherwise he would fall asleep) and getting out and doing things. Don’t worry if they don’t eat lunch before bed. We would do a yogurt pouch or applesauce and some crackers on the stroll home before nap and he slept great. 2-3 hours on average so not eating never seemed to affect his nap. 

  • Mar

    Happened with my middle child, at 9 months we finally got him onto a schedule of 12 hours of sleep at night and one 2 hour nap a day. He fought sleep for months prior to this schedule and was a terrible napper until he settled on one nap a day. So it’s not common but it definitely happens!

  • Lindsay

    Thank you so much for this. My 11.5 mo yr old has been trying to transition down to one nap for a couple months now and I fought it for a while. She still occasionally needs her nap earlier and in that case I’ll try for a cat nap in the afternoon in the stroller or something. But so many people were making me feel crappy about letting her transition so young, so this is good timing for me to read this.

  • Jessie

    OP, I have found the following chart invaluable when trying to determine my child’s sleep needs given her current age. The max wake times are very helpful and in my experience extremely accurate. I found this chart on babycenter’s teach your baby to sleep board, also a great resource.

    https://docs.google.com/document/d/11GHo4keUb2TVJUlSL1kD6HQcEgaNFBmzoQoOzcpcyas/mobilebasic?authkey=CPXE1bsO&pli=1&hl=en

  • Pingback: Nightmare of a Naptime()

  • At a certain point I think you have to ignore the books and just do what works best for your child. My first dropped from 2 naps to 1 pretty early AND I think he did it backwards (he’s 4.5 years old now so it’s hard to remember, but whichever they’re SUPPOSED to drop first, he did the opposite. I tried to move it but he was tired at a certain point and that was that!). He also stopped napping altogether shortly before he turned 2, and I fought that for a long time until I realized that we were fighting over the nap longer than I would have expected him to nap. So my new rule became if it was going to be a 2 hour struggle (that he’d win) over a 2 hour nap . . . . then it wasn’t worth it. Instead I just assumed in the afternoon he’d play quietly or watch a TV show and relax or something else chill to recuperate from the morning, but I stopped trying to force him to sleep. That worked great for him and I was happy to stop fighting with him all the time (especially since I had a newborn at that time, too!). So I think if your kiddo has his own schedule, then try following that and see what happens. Maybe he’s on to something 😉

  • Kim

    Some kids just don’t nap. Mine was pretty much done by 15 months, except for extreme circumstances. She did sleep through the night, though. And she is not the only kid I’ve known that did that. She is still crazy smart, and well adjusted, and emotionally healthy, and all those things that HCHS said she wouldn’t be if I didn’t make sure she slept enough. Humans. We are complex individuals, go figure.