Nap transitioning is a process all babies and toddlers have to go through. Babies change from having multiple naps a day as newborns to one nap a day as toddlers (and everything in between). But when is your toddler really ready to transition to one nap a day? I work with many families and this question is commonly asked at around the 12 months of age mark. It is most likely that your toddler is not ready to transition to one nap until around 15-18 months of age. I will cover the reasons why.
At around 12 months of age there is a typical sleep regression and it is a common age for babies to start protesting one or both of their naps. As a result of these behaviours families often believe that their baby is showing signs that they are ready to drop to one nap. This typical regression phase is a phase and the best thing to do is to work through the phase, continue to encourage two naps a day and not proceed to a nap transition unless your child is really ready for this. The best time to implement a nap transition is when your child is developmentally ready for this change, it is about the biological need for two naps a day compared to only one nap a day. Remember each time your child sleeps their body is being restored. Naps at different times of the day also have different benefits, in support of growth and brain development it is beneficial to continue to encourage two naps a day for children who developmentally still need this rest time.
For children who are younger than 15-18 months of age, the amount of time they are capable of being awake for (awake lengths) is less. For example a 12 month old has an age appropriate awake length of approximately 3-4 hours. If your 12 month old is only sleeping one nap a day they are likely being kept awake either before or after their nap for longer than they are capable of being awake for. Excessive awake lengths can cause additional challenges, for example night awakening, early rising, behavioural difficulties, difficulty going to sleep and staying asleep.
While I say the approximate age for children to nap once a day is around 15-18 months of age, it is also important to remember that all children are unique and have differing sleep needs. Some might be ready for this change at a younger age and some might not be ready for this change even at 18 months old. Mood, behaviour and performance is a good indicator on whether your child is having the adequate amount of sleep. For example if your toddler is only having one nap a day and they are cranky from the moment they wake until bedtime then this might be an indication that they really still need to be having two naps a day.
What are some of the signs that your toddler still needs TWO naps a day?
1. Younger than 15 months of age
2. Protests nap initially but ends up falling asleep
3. Falls asleep in the car during the day
4. Fussy and cranky behaviour during the day when a nap is missed until next nap time or bedtime
What are some of the signs that your toddler is ready for ONE nap a day?
1. Has started taking short naps or doesn’t nap at all
2. Can stay awake in between naps or until bedtime and doesn’t fall asleep when travelling in the car
3. Is happy when a nap is missed up until next nap or bedtime
If your toddler is ready to transition from TWO naps to ONE nap how do you do it?
1. Consider the age appropriateness of the transition and follow your baby’s signs of readiness to transition.
2. Take things slow, nap transitions don’t occur overnight. Your toddler may need to alternate between their nap schedules during the transition phase. They may take one nap but need a second nap the following day or every third day.
3. Get out in the afternoon for a walk to offer your toddler some additional quiet time. This will help get through to bedtime, especially if it’s been a long awake window in the afternoon.
4. Your toddler may need to have an earlier bedtime at night while nap transitioning. A 6:00/6:30pm bedtime is quite reasonable to support your toddler through this process.
If you need greater support in this area then please contact me to discuss how my services can support you.
The Hush Co.