Toddler Sleep: From Two Naps To One
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?
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: ThinkstockPublished November 21, 2011. Last updated July 15, 2017.