BONUS MATERIAL: Download my FREE nap guide containing my top 5 tips to consistently lengthen your little one’s naps so that you have structure and predictability to your day, you’re no longer stressing about your little one’s daytime schedule, and you can get a much needed break! When babies are ready to drop their morning nap and transition to a 1 nap schedule, ensuring their one nap is LONG is very important!
Nap transitions are NO fun, especially the 2-1 nap transition. You feel like you FINALLY have your little one’s sleep under control and on a solid daily routine. And then BOOM- your baby gets older and his sleep needs change. This often makes exhausted parents wonder when babies usually drop their morning nap and if their little one is ready.
See, dropping the morning nap can be a big step for both babies and parents. It’s VERY important to recognize the signs that indicate your little one is ready for this transition. Fortunately, I’ve helped thousands of families navigate the 2-1 nap transition and I can help!
In this blog post, I will explore the signs that indicate when babies are ready to drop the morning nap, along with my top tips on navigating this transition.
When are babies USUALLY ready to drop their morning nap?
Most babies are ready to transition to a 1 nap schedule sometime between 15-18 months of age. However, there are always babies on the younger end who drop this nap by the time they’re 13-14 months. And there are always 18-19 month old babies still happily napping twice.
Now, I want to emphasize that this nap transition, just like any other nap transition, should be a baby-led process. Meaning, I don’t recommend transitioning a baby to a 1 nap schedule by 15 months if he’s taking solid naps twice a day simply because a 1 nap schedule is more convenient for you. This age range is simply meant to give you an idea of when most babies are legitimately READY for the 2-1 nap transition.
Transitioning a baby to a 1 nap schedule before they’re ready has the potential to cause INSANE amounts of overtiredness, which can wreck havoc on nighttime sleep. This is because overtiredness can cause every sleep problem out there ranging from difficulty falling asleep, night wakings, early morning wakings, and short naps. Do not try this at home 🙂
Wait- so is 12 months too young for babies to drop their morning nap?
In short- yes. Unless your little one is the rare unicorn, the vast majority of 1 year-olds are not old enough to pull off the longer wake windows required for a 1 nap schedule to work. Most babies who drop their morning nap by their first birthday will be overtired on this schedule.
BONUS MATERIAL: If you need further guidance on figuring out your little one’s wake windows, download my FREE sleep chart HERE that has ALL my suggested wake windows, sleep totals, and nap totals for babies ages 0 until age 5!
What are the main signs my baby is ready to drop their morning nap?
If your little one has reached the 15-18 month-mark AND is experiencing any of the following common signs, they might be ready to transition to a 1 nap schedule:
Lack of tiredness for the morning nap
A common trigger for transitioning to a one-nap schedule is when your baby isn’t tired enough for their morning nap. Your baby might be spending their morning naptime tossing and turning in their crib instead of sleeping. Or perhaps they finally DO fall asleep after a long period of restlessness, but the rest of their daytime schedule is thrown off because the start time of the second nap is pushed much later, leading to a much later bedtime.
Your little one might also be able to stay awake during a morning car ride when they’re typically falling asleep at this time. This also tells me your little one might be ready for the 2-1 nap transition very soon.
Two short catnaps instead of two full naps
Another scenario that indicates the need for a baby to drop their morning nap is when your baby’s two daytime naps shorten to two catnaps. This change often happens as babies need more awake time and require increased sleep pressure, making it harder for them to sleep longer than one sleep cycle on a 2 nap schedule. If your baby is suddenly takinf two short naps, he might be ready to transition to one nap.
Fitting in 2 naps leads to a VERY late bedtime
When a baby is fighting their naps, it might mean they need longer wake windows. That being said, if keeping your baby on a 2 nap schedule means their day is much longer than 13 hours long, leading to a VERY late bedtime, he’s probably ready to drop that 1st nap. If the day is too long and the night is too short, this 2 nap schedule simply doesn’t work anymore.
Baby is fighting his scheduled naps AND takes a while to fall asleep
If you have extended your baby’s wake windows and he’s STILL fighting naptime and taking longer than 10-15 minutes to fall asleep, this might mean the 2-1 nap transition needs to happen very soon!
Sudden night wakings or early morning wakings
This is especially applicable with fully sleep-trained babies who were previously sleeping through the night like a champ. If your little one is suddenly experiencing sleep issues at night such as night wakings and early morning wakings, as well as any of the above signs, it might be ready for him to drop his morning nap.
Which nap gets dropped?
Technically speak, when babies go through the 2-1 nap transition, it means they’re ready to drop their morning nap. However, think of it as though your little one’s 2 naps are actually consolidating into one long nap. This nap should take place in the middle of the day after the morning nap but before the afternoon nap.
Here’s an example of a 2 nap schedule of an older baby who’s almost ready to drop their morning nap:
10:15am- 11:15am- nap 1
3:00pm-4:30pm- nap 2
On a 2 nap schedule, your little one’s wake windows are typically in the 3-4 hour range.
When he has transitioned to a 1 nap schedule, his day might look something like this:
A baby’s wake windows on a 1 nap schedule usually lengthen to 4.5-6 hours, depending on the baby.
Notice how this baby’s daytime sleep totals didn’t decrease. The ultimate goal is for your baby to still get approximately 2.5 hours of sleep spread over 1 big single nap instead of 2 slightly shorter ones.
How to transition your baby from 2 naps to 1
1) Adjust the schedule gradually
Start by gradually shifting the timing of the morning nap later, allowing your baby to adjust to a single longer nap in the afternoon. Begin by gradually pushing the morning nap later each day until it aligns with the desired afternoon nap time. Moving your baby to a 1-nap schedule cold turkey can backfire in the form of overtiredness since it’s a BIG adjustment to suddenly have your baby up for 5-6 hours when they’re used to napping after only 3-3.5 hours of wake time.
2) Bump bedtime earlier
During this nap transition, your baby may experience some overtiredness. To manage this, consider an earlier bedtime to compensate for the reduced sleep during the day. However, be cautious not to establish a habit of a consistently early bedtime as it may disrupt nighttime sleep and lead to an early rising problem.
3) Implement an emergency catnap when needed
If your baby’s one nap is short and your little one is showing signs of exhaustion later in the day, don’t hesitate to offer a short catnap around 3 or 4 o’clock. This can help prevent overtiredness and improve their overall sleep quality.
4) Implement a nap routine
Think of this naptime routine as a condensed version of the bedtime routine that cues your little one to get ready to go to sleep.
This routine doesn’t need to be long or complicated. For example, when my kids were younger and still napping, their wind down routine included a diaper change and quick bedtime song before dimming the lights, turning on the white noise machine, and going off to bed!
5) Get your little one sleeping through the night if he’s still waking up
The good news is that healthy toddlers in this age range REALLY don’t need to wake up at night anymore. And if your little one is still not sleeping through the night, he might not be well-rested enough the next morning to pull off these bigger wake windows. Teaching your little one to sleep through the night until morning will help make this transition go MUCH smoother.
6) Be patient
Some babies adapt to this new schedule fairly easily while others can take 7-10 days to adjust, sometimes longer. Don’t fret if this transition period feels challenging at first. It’s a BIG change!
“But what do I do if daycare forces a 1 nap schedule?”
Arg- I feel you! Good quality daycare naps can be tough to achieve on a good day. In an ideal world, daycare centers would always respect the daytime sleep needs of each infant in their care. Thankfully, there are many daycares that offer flexibility with their nap schedules to cater to babies requiring 2 daytime naps. But unfortunately, there is still a sizable number of daycares who transition all their babies onto a 1 nap schedule by 12 months of age, well before most of them are ready.
And quite frankly, it isn’t right.
So here’s what I want to first emphasize: if you are currently exploring childcare options for your infant, I recommend favoring any options that won’t force your baby onto a 1 nap schedule they aren’t ready for. The last thing you want is for your little one to become insanely overtired on this sleep schedule, which could lead to all sorts of preventable sleep problems. (**Side note- I’m acutely aware that finding proper childcare is INSANELY challenging on a good day without this extra stipulation. I don’t want this recommendation to come off as privileged or ignorant. As a mom of 3 myself where all 3 of my kids went to daycare as infants, I GET it.**)
If your 1-year-old is already in a daycare center with a 1 nap schedule, I recommend the following:
1) Implement a very early bedtime on daycare days.
Implementing a very early bedtime on days your little one attends daycare will help him catch up on sleep and minimize overtiredness as much as we can.
2) Allow your baby to nap twice over the weekends, as well as whenever he’s home.
Don’t worry about keeping your little one on a consistent nap schedule 7 days a week if the sleep schedule at daycare isn’t ideal for your baby. In fact, napping your little one twice a day when at home allows your little one to have an ideal daytime schedule for some of the time. It’s better than nothing! Plus, it’ll allow him to catch up on sleep from his daycare days.
Transitioning from a two-nap schedule to a one-nap schedule can be a mixed experience for both parents and babies. Some parents welcome the change, anticipating more freedom and flexibility. And others worry about losing their peaceful morning routine when that morning nap gets dropped.
I was always in the latter category 🙂
But the reality is that all babies WILL drop their morning nap at some point. And figuring out if your baby is ready can feel like navigating a sleep-deprived labyrinth. The good news is that you’ll be better equipped to go through this transition when you’re armed with the insights and tips you need to make this transition as smooth as possible.
The most important thing to remember is that each child is unique and every baby’s level of readiness for this transition is different. Adjust the schedule gradually, bump bedtime earlier, implement an emergency catnap when needed, establish a wind-down routine, get your little one sleeping through the night, and remain patient. With a proper plan, you’ll be able to help your little one transition like a sleep pro while ensuring they get the restful sleep they need.
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