Dropping to One Nap
The phrase ‘sleep transition’ can make us moms shudder with fear and often for good reason. But, one of the best transitions has got to be moving to one nap. Consolidating my toddler’s two short daytime naps into one great big nap in the middle of the day has been pretty awesome!
I can’t deny it, I love the time ‘off’ in the middle of the day. She went from sleeping an hour and a half in the morning, and a little less than that in the afternoon, to sleeping a solid two and a half to THREE hours a day. Right smack dab in the middle of the afternoon.
This is great for a couple of reasons.
First of all, it makes planning our day a whole lot easier. I don’t have to be hovering around the neighborhood all the time, in order to ensure that she was getting back into her crib at the appropriate nap time. Suddenly, we have the whole morning to go out and do whatever we want! (AKA all those funtasks that NEED to be done.)
Second, and I am going to be honest here, that two to three hour break in the middle of the day is absolutely glorious. I can get a whole lot done in that time, in fact, I’m writing this as my daughter naps. Or on days when I just really need a break or sometimes even a little nap of my own (I said I was going to be honest…), I can do that too!
I’m not one to recommend less shut-eye, typically. But there’s no getting around the fact that, as babies become toddlers, they don’t need as much sleep as they do when they’re infants. But how are you supposed to know when that time has come, and how do you make the transition?
Well, first things first. How do you know that baby’s ready to drop a nap?
A very strong indication is if you notice that baby’s doing great in the morning nap. But then fussing or playing for an hour or so before going down for their afternoon nap.
“He does that for a few days in a row, but then on day three, he’ll absolutely pass out for his afternoon nap.” This is something I hear a lot of parents saying. The good news is that this scenario is really common.
The rule I like to adhere to is this: If baby is fighting the afternoon nap four or five times a week, for at least 2 weeks, it’s probably a good time to make the switch. Developmental milestones can cause some disruptions which might make you think that baby’s ready when they’re actually not. So make sure this is the pattern for a minimum of two weeks before pulling the plug on the morning nap.
The reason I err on the side of caution here is because once you start this process, it’s important not to back-step. If you pull the nap, but then baby manages to fight off the change, it’s going to cause some confusion. And that will just complicate the situation.
So, now that you’re sure the time is right, it’s time to implement the new nap schedule.
So, what does the new nap schedule look like?
Well, we ideally can’t just change the schedule overnight. I’m sure every mother of a toddler can appreciate how smoothly that would go over. (Sometimes daycares ‘force’ this transition, but don’t worry, Momma, you WILL make it out alive!)
My approach is to nudge the morning nap time a half hour later every three days. Do this until nap time it right around 12:30. You’ll want to take your time with this because it’s a tough transition for your little one’s brain. Expect that this change can take 4-6 weeks to get fully implemented. Don’t worry, this is normal. Keep in mind the end goal of two to three STRAIGHT hours of naptime in the middle of the day to help motivate you towards the finish line!
As I’m sure you’re expecting, your toddler is going to get a little sleepy at their usual nap time. Avoid going for a car ride, or taking her out in the stroller around that time. This could totally sabotage their nap.
Instead, keep a stash of your child’s favorite fruit in the fridge. Maybe their two favorites in case one day, the thought of eating blueberries is horrifying to them, even though they have eaten, and loved, blueberries every day for the past 5 weeks. But, I digress. Give baby a piece of fruit, (or fruit juice) to provide just enough of a natural sugar rush to get them over the hump to the new nap time.
You’re probably going to have to bridge the gap between naptime and bedtime slightly in the afternoon. A little ride in the stroller or a quick snooze in the car seat is a good way to get a quick catnap in without putting baby down for a full-blown nap. Temporarily moving bedtime up a little earlier might be necessary as well, until they get the hang of the new schedule.
Once baby is down to one nap
Once baby does start accepting the one nap, you may notice a little inconsistency in the length. This is completely normal and to be expected. Their bodies are learning to consolidate the amount of daytime sleep they require into one delightful afternoon nap.
And then, just like that, before you even know what hit you, your little one will have cleared this early hurdle. Your toddler will be enjoying one daily siesta. Once your heart gets over the fact that your little one is growing up in the blink of an eye, you’ll be able to enjoy a little time off and a more flexible daily schedule.