When to Drop to One Nap: Everything You Need to Know

Wondering when to drop to one nap? Here’s the short and sweet answer: between 12-16 months. Simple, right? Well before you go ahead and close this window, you may want to hang on a little longer, as unfortunately, it’s not actually this easy. 

 

Of all the nap transitions, dropping to one nap can be the trickiest. This is because of how lengthy wake windows become when you are on one nap, and a lot of babies struggle with this adjustment. It’s best not to jump the gun too early because if your little one isn’t ready for longer wake windows, then being on a one nap schedule will lead to overtiredness, which will lead to more night wakings. Which no one wants. 

 

So grab yourself a drink and maybe a nice little snack and let’s discuss: 

How to know when it’s time to drop to one nap?

 

If we go back to our short answer, babies drop to one nap sometime between 12 and 16 months. However, this is a 4 month window, and every baby is different, so how do you know when it’s time for YOUR baby to drop to one nap? 

 

12 month old baby napping |The Peaceful Sleeper

 

Here are signs your little one is ready to drop to one nap: 

  • One of your two naps is really solid, and the other is becoming more and more of a fight (and it can vary day to day which nap is nice and long and which is a crap nap). 

OR

  • Naps are still solid, but bedtime is a fight and you have issues with early morning wakings and/or you suddenly have night wakings again. 

OR

  • ALL sleep has just fallen apart, and you know it’s not from teething or illness. 

(speaking of teething, if you are not totally sure if teething is the culprit or not, check out this reel!)

 

Teething baby reel on Instagram |The Peaceful Sleeper

 

If you have one of these three delightful situations going on and your little one is between 12-16 months, it is very likely time to start the transition to one nap.

 

 

Is 10 months too early to drop to one nap?

 

I get this question a lot, and here’s the thing. The 10-month sleep regression is a time when your baby will straight up trick you into thinking it’s time to drop to one nap. But I am here to warn you: don’t do it! Allow me to explain. 

 

10 month old baby not sleeping |The Peaceful Sleeper

 

10 months is when your baby is doing a lot of developing. They are learning so much, and have a lot going on in their little brains: growing, crawling, and getting ready to walk!

As with most developmental leaps, it causes a sleep regression. However, this is a sleep regression you want to ride out and sleep WILL bounce back. Continue providing time and space for both naps, and try to attempt each nap for an hour. If your little one chooses not to fall asleep during the hour, that’s ok! Just get them up and continue on with the day, knowing they will likely be a little tired and grumpy. 

If it’s the first nap of the day that they refused, you can bump up the second nap of the day. If it’s the second nap that they refused, you can bump up bedtime. If you continue to stay the course and ride it out, this regression should only last around 2-3 weeks, and then sleep will bounce back to normal. 

 

That was the long answer. The short answer is yes. Yes, 10 months is too early to drop to one nap. 

 

How to transition to one nap

 

Once you know it’s time to start the transition to one nap, you will need the following: 

  • The understanding and acceptance that it can take about a month to make the transition
  • The understanding and acceptance that it will likely be a bumpy process 
  • A fully stocked wine fridge 

 

Start by extending the first wake window of the day and offering a nap sometime between 11-1pm. Every baby is different, so read all about the optimal schedule for a one nap day below. 

 

As your baby is getting used to these longer wake windows and learning to take one 2-3 hour nap in the middle of the day, they can get overtired and fussy. To combat this, it’s totally fine to offer a second nap some days and/or bump bedtime earlier if the one nap is short. 

 

Just pay attention to sleepy cues and make a game-day decision on whether you are going for one or two naps. You do want to be aiming for one nap a day, more often than two. The real goal here is to stay patient and ride it out. (Remember that fully stocked wine fridge I recommended?)

 

On days that you are offering two naps, it’s also normal for that second nap to be a fight, so it’s totally fine to pull out all the stops to get that second nap to happen. If your baby is sleep trained, this won’t cause them to unlearn all those glorious skills. I promise. 

 

Toddler playing instead of sleeping |The Peaceful Sleeper

 

During the transition to one nap, it can also be normal for night wakings to pop (back) up. Yes, I know. Every parent’s worst nightmare. But I just want to be honest so you are prepared. This happens because your little one can get overtired from the longer wake windows and from likely taking some time to lengthen that one nap to the ideal 2-3 hours. 

 

If you find that night wakings are happening again, you can try bumping bedtime earlier to help with the overtiredness. When the night wakings happen, you can do 20-60 min of CIO or go in and feed/soothe back to sleep. Totally your call- you know your baby best! 

 

Optimal schedule for a one nap day

 

Choosing the time for your baby’s one nap of the day can be a little tricky. My general recommendation is sometime between 11-1pm however, every baby is different. It’s about figuring out what the optimal time is for YOUR baby. 

 

If your baby is protesting one nap more than the other, that can help you determine the optimal time for the one nap. For example, if your baby goes down easily for their first nap but protests the second nap, then they would probably do better with their one nap being on the earlier side. 

 

It’s important to know that it can take a while to find the optimal time for that one nap. You may have to play around with their schedule and experiment with different nap times until you find the sweet spot. 

 

It can also be helpful to start with the nap on the earlier side and if it is not the desirable length of 2-3 hours, then move bedtime earlier. Every few days you can move naptime later by 15 min until it falls into the 11am-1pm window and you are getting a 2-3 hour nap. As you do this, bedtime will slowly be pushed later until it’s somewhere between 6:30-7:30pm. 

 

Remember to watch for those sleepy cues and prevent overtiredness. I know it can seem like a bad idea to put your baby down for their only nap “too early” but the reality is, if you put them down when they are overtired, it will result in a crap nap anyway. 

 

Toddler Napping |The Peaceful Sleeper

 

This is where experimenting and knowing your baby is so important. Some babies do fantastic with an early morning nap and can rally all afternoon until bedtime, and others don’t need to go down for a nap until early afternoon. 

 

Again, prepare for about a month of experimenting, and give time to allow for things to shake out. 

 

 

Recap on when to drop to one nap 

Recap, generally the best time to drop baby to one nap is when they are about 12-16 months. But…

If there is one thing I have harped on throughout this post, it is that every. baby. is. different. It’s always about being armed with education, confidence, and knowledge about baby sleep, and learning to tune into and read the cues of your baby.

If you have the knowledge and know how to effectively tune into your baby and read their cues, then you will have the confidence to know when the best time to drop to one nap is for YOUR baby. 

If we can help at all in making this transition to one nap easier, then please reach out! We have amazing sleep consultants who can give you the skills you need to do this confidently, efficiently and effectively. Check out all of our individual consultation options here!

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