Your Guide to Navigating the 2-1 Nap Transition

A recent client of mine – a 16-month-old – was ready for the 2-1 nap transition. She was going down for her morning nap flawlessly, but all of the sudden, her second nap was becoming more and more of a struggle, regardless of the amount of wake time prior to the nap. Consequently, her bedtime was getting pushed later and later and she started waking up super early in the morning.

Her mom reached out and wanted to make sure her daughter was getting the right amount of sleep during the day while simultaneously prioritizing nighttime sleep. For her age and for this child’s specific sleep needs,, we were looking at about a total of 12 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period.

We started to shift the morning nap every 15 minutes every few days until she was taking her nap around lunchtime. As we pushed her to this later time, we brought her bedtime a bit earlier to make up for not taking the second nap. As she continued with the transition, we were able to puch bedtime back to a more appropriate time, at 7/7:30ish. She was then able to get back to a solid 10.5 hours of sleep at night and one solid 1.5 hour nap during the day.

Have you found yourself in a similar situation? Wondering if it’s possibly time for your child to make the transition from two naps to one? Keep reading!

How will I know it’s time for the nap transition?

Because the 2-1 nap transition is a big one – some say the most difficult of the nap transitions – my best piece of advice is to make sure you know your baby is ready for it. I don’t want you to automatically assume that it’s time just because your child’s sleep has been “off” for a few days. Things to watch for that may indicate it’s time:

  • Early mornings
  • Bedtime is getting pushed later
  • It’s taking your baby longer to fall asleep for naps and/or at bedtime
  • Nap refusals or fighting naps

It’s common that this nap transition may occur (typically between 14-15 months, but within the range of 12-18 months) around the same time as the 12-month sleep regression, so we want to rule that out as being the cause of any sleep interruptions first. Things to consider:

  • Has your baby recently started – or is on the verge of – walking?
  • Any other recent milestone development?
  • Have they had some recent language development?
  • Are they teething?
  • Are they or have they recently been ill?
  • Have you regressed with your response after traveling or a major life transition such as starting daycare or moving homes?

If you think it’s due to a possible regression, give it a solid 2 weeks of consistency before deciding it’s time or not, as a regression would likely pass during this time. 

Or, if you can rule out all of the above, AND if any of the first list’s indicators have been occurring for 10 out of 14 days, then it’s probably time to complete the 2-1 nap transition!

Don’t worry, I’ve got tips for you.

Follow your baby’s lead

For this transition, we are now focusing on a set by-the-clock schedule for your baby. No more following wake windows! Your baby will now be having one long, consolidated nap right in the middle of their day.

If your baby is on a 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. schedule, you’ll want them to nap around 12:00 p.m. each day.

Most naps will last 90 minutes – 2 hours, and upwards of 3 hours for some children.

Some babies will be able to make the push to this later nap time, and others will need a more gradual approach, so it’s important to follow your baby’s lead.

Start by stretching their wake window and pushing back their nap time. If they’re seemingly good, push a little more. You might be able to do it on day one and then be consistent with the new nap time from here on out.

However, I want to caution you – this isn’t the case with most babies.

To do a more gradual transition, you can push back the first nap time by 30 minutes every few days. Offer a quick second nap, that you may need to cap at 45 minutes to preserve a decent bedtime. As you reach 11:00 for the naptime, you’ll now want to offer an earlier bedtime instead of a second nap. You can even put your child to bed as early as 5:30 p.m. depending on how their nap went. As you approach that 12:00 p.m. nap time, you can push bedtime later again, following your child’s lead.

Think of it like offering food – if they’re hungry, we wouldn’t withhold food. If they’re tired, don’t withhold sleep!

This transition may take 4-6 weeks to fully solidify, so be patient and give yourself and your child some extra grace.

Troubleshooting during the transition

Stretching your child’s awake time can be tricky. My best advice is to provide some distractions or super engaging activities for your child around the time you’re trying to push them through. Here are a few ideas for you:

  • Switch up activities often to keep your child engaged
  • Go outside
  • Offer a bath – babies love water play!
  • Blow bubbles
  • Chase the dog around
  • Have a dance party
  • Sensory play

The range of the naptime will vary from child to child. I’d start by prioritizing your child’s nighttime sleep first, as it’s more restorative, and then play with the naptime from there. Ideally, we want your child to be getting 10-12 hours of sleep at night. If your child is taking a 2-hour nap and is still getting 10-12 hours at night, great! If not, you might want to consider capping the nap at 60-90 minutes to preserve that sweet nighttime sleep.

Some children will also make this transition if they’re in daycare automatically at 12 months. This may or may not be in the best interest of your child. If it’s not, you can always continue to offer 2 naps when your baby is at home, and offer an earlier bedtime on the days they’re at daycare.

I know this transition can be tough. If you’re struggling with it or needing help, you can always set up a free 15-minute discovery call with me! I’d be happy to help you work through the transition.

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