At some point around your baby’s first birthday (usually between the ages of ten and eighteen months, all babies are different), they’ll start showing signs that they are ready to drop down to one single nap. Whether you’re on a schedule with them or not, losing a nap can be a bit of an adjustment. Many moms wonder, when is my child ready to lose a nap, and what can I do to make the situation easier?
First – how will you know that your baby is ready to go from two naps down to one? One sign can be that your baby might start resisting one of their naps, not acting tired when the time comes for them typically to go to sleep (or as my son would do – bounce in circles around his crib babbling gibberish for up to an hour after I put him in his room to take a nap). They might take their earlier nap fine and reject the second, or they might still be raring to go at the time of their first nap. Another indication might be that their two naps are getting ever shorter and they’re waking up after a short while. They might also start not sleeping as well at night (not counting any teething issues). If your little one is suddenly having a very early wake-up call or waking up at night when they hadn’t been before, those are all additional signs that they might be getting too much sleep during the day and be ready to drop a nap.
So here’s the daunting part – when you decide that yes, your baby is at the point of being ready to drop that second nap – you have to just go for it. Pick a day where your little one sleeps well the night before and wakes up cheery, also preferably a day where you can have something stimulating and exciting in the morning (like the park or a play date), and keep them awake past their normal first naptime. Now of course, if they are absolutely falling apart before the time you were planning on making their nap, don’t force it, let them sleep when they need it (this might happen every once in awhile during the nap transition, and it’s no big deal). The goal is to keep them awake, but happy-and-stimulated-awake.
Aim to put their nap in the middle of their day, with equal amounts of awake hours on either end of their nap. For example – my son wakes up around 7am, his nap is at noon, he sleeps until 2:00 or later, and then goes to sleep for the night around 7:30. That way he gets about five hours of awake time before and after his nap.
Make sure you are home a good amount of time (I allow at least an hour) before their nap to avoid them falling asleep in the car. Especially in the early stages of transitioning, if your little one falls asleep in the car for even a few minutes it might refresh them enough to think that was their nap and they will refuse to go down for a longer one at home.
Fill their bellies up with lunch or a snack and milk right before nap time to avoid them waking up due to hunger (being asleep for two or more hours is a much longer time that you need to keep them full compared to short thirty minute cat naps that they might been having on a two nap schedule), and change their diaper right before they go to sleep to keep wetness from waking them up. Baby might wake up from their nap acting hungry or thirsty, so offer something to drink and a little snack right after they wake up.
You will be on a little tighter schedule with one nap. That single nap becomes very important. When babies are smaller and take many naps throughout the day, shortening or even skipping one here and there doesn’t make much of a difference, but on one nap, missing their one chance to recharge could wreck havoc on the rest of the day (but – good news! You always get to reset and start over the next day if something winds up going terribly wrong on the nap front).
Odds are, your little one will be so tired by the time their nap comes around that they’ll pass out and have a really good sleep. There may be a transition time where their bodies need to retrain themselves to stay asleep longer, and in the beginning might still wake up after not being asleep very long, but keep persevering because it will work eventually! It took my son about a month to really start taking a good, solid nap (which did make evenings more difficult as he became tired and cranky earlier than normal), but as soon as I moved him down to one, he immediately started sleeping better and longer at night, and I personally preferred having several hours in a row of downtime to myself in the middle of the day rather than sporadic small chunks of time that were barely long enough to eat something.
So look for the signs, go with your gut instinct, tap into your baby’s cues, and just go for it when the time comes!
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