Toddler naps are one of the most important fundamentals of healthy sleep and sleeping through the night in infants and toddlers. Sleep equals sleep and the better rested a child is throughout the day the better they will sleep at night.
The phrase ‘sleep transition’ can make us parents shudder with fear and often for good reason. But, one of the best transitions has got to be moving to one nap. Consolidating your baby’s two short daytime naps into one great big nap in the middle of the day can be a big milestone!
SIGNS THAT YOUR CHILD IS READY TO TRANSITION
- Resist to take naps for two consecutive weeks (especially the second nap)
- The length of naps have become irregular and significantly shorter
- Bedtime keeps getting pushed later because your baby is still energetic from the last nap
- Waking up in the middle of the night or waking up too early in the morning for no apparent reason
HOW CAN YOU TRANSITION THEM?
- Aim for one mid-day nap.
- Nap time start goals should be anywhere from 4-6 hours from morning wake time. This nap can vary depending on your baby.
- Gradually, move their morning naps.
- Depending on your baby and their temperament, you can decide how big of increments you want to move this: 15 – 45 mins.
- Example: If baby’s morning nap is at 10 a.m., move it back to 10:30 for 3-5 days, then 11 a.m. for 3-5 days, then 11:30 for 3-5 days, etc.
- Moving it cold turkey (all the way to 1 p.m. as an example) can lead to an overtired baby, which can make going down for naps and bedtime tougher.
- One of the toughest parts can be keeping them awake a little bit longer as you transition them.
HOW CAN YOU STRETCH THEM TO HELP THEM REACH THIS LATER NAP TIME?
- Get outside if weather allows. Sunlight when your child is awake can help at all ages, especially when you are trying to stretch them during this transition.
- Go shopping with your child for quiet time toys. Fill a box with books, puzzles, new toys. It doesn’t have to be expensive, children love the dollar store and so do we! When it’s time for quiet time have your child choose one of the “quiet time” toys.
- If you are pushing them in these increments, watch for the classic sleepy cues: rubbing of the eyes, yawning, blank stares, etc. Redirect them to other play activities or go outside to stretch them to these increased wake windows.
- Look at 4-5 hour wake windows in the afternoon. If during the nap transition your baby wakes up at 1:30 p.m. when normal bedtime is 7:30 p.m., consider putting them to sleep a little early (6:30 p.m.). An overtired baby can lead to more fussiness during sleep. And while transitioning naps, it’s okay to adjust bedtime if need be.
- Continue a bedtime routine and incorporate a short nap time routine if you weren’t already. Dim lighting with a little belle nightlightand a book to prime them and remind them it’s time for sleep.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN THEY ARE ON ONE NAP?
Initially, their nap may be 1 – 1.5 hours. This is why the transition can be rocky as they are getting into this new rhythm. Eventually, they should stretch to be anywhere from 2-3 hours. I do suggest waking your toddler up if their nap extends more than 3 hours on a one nap schedule because it can effect their nighttime sleep.