When Do Babies Drop to One Nap And How to Tackle the Transition With Ease
The first year of your little one’s life is inevitably going to involve plenty of big transitions especially when it comes to sleep routines. One of the most significant sleep transitions is dropping your baby down from multiple naps to one nap a day. There are plenty of ways to set yourself up for success when tackling these ever-shifting schedules. One of the most important keys to success is beginning your transition at the right time. So, when do babies drop to one nap? How will you know when your child is ready? And, how can you make the transition as seamless as possible? Great questions. We’ve collected all the answers for you! Let’s dive into everything you need to know about dropping to one nap.
Table of Contents
- When do babies drop to one nap?
- How to know when to drop a nap?
- Tips and tricks for transitioning your baby to one nap
When do babies drop to one nap?
Most parents begin to transition their babies to one nap a day somewhere around the one-year mark. Some babies might be ready to drop a nap as early as 10 months, although this is quite rare. Other babies might be better off waiting until 12 - 16 months. By around 18 months, most parents who have yet to drop a nap will often start noticing insomnia or early waking problems. So, within this 10 - 18 month range, how do you know when it’s the right time for your child to drop a nap? We’ll share some tell tale signs that your baby is ready.
How to know when to drop a nap
So you think your little one is ready to drop a nap, but you’re not quite sure if the timing is right. The good news is that there are plenty of signs you can look out for. In other words, your baby will tell you when they’re ready. All you have to do is tune into the signals. Here’s what to look for.
Signs to drop a nap
- Nighttime sleep is decreasing. If you’re noticing that your baby is sleeping less than 10 hours/night, this is a good indication that it’s time to decrease daytime sleep hours to encourage a longer stretch of sleep at night.
- Nighttime insomnia is increasing. If your baby is experiencing 1.5 - 2+ hours of insomnia several times a week this is another great indication that your little one is ready to drop a nap.
- Bedtime is later than 9 PM. Ideally, you want your one-year-old’s bedtime to be around 7 - 7:30 PM unless you’ve intentionally set it later for a specific reason. If you can’t get your child down at this time it might be because they are getting too much sleep during the day.
- Naps are being skipped more than 4 times/week. If your little one is skipping naps and you’re not noticing an increase in fussiness, tiredness, or irritability, try dropping a nap.
If you are seeing several of the above signs consistently for more than two weeks, it’s a great indication that your child is ready to drop a nap. Knowing when to tackle this transition is half the battle! But, don’t worry we’ve included a few tips and tricks on how to tackle the transition too. Read on!
Tips and tricks for transitioning your baby to one nap
Now that you’ve determined that your baby is ready to drop a nap and you’re ready to begin the process, here are a few tips and tricks that can help make the transition as easy as possible:
- Baby steps. They don’t call them baby steps for nothing so don’t expect to tackle this transition in one day. Your baby may go back and forth between one nap and two naps for a few weeks and that’s totally fine! It might even help make the transition easier so take your time and be patient.
- Set your baby up for success. Build a bedtime ritual that is soothing and relaxing for your baby. Try a warm bath with baby-friendly lavender or chamomile wash. Finish off by wrapping them in a cozy towel. Make sure you have some cozy, and comfortable pajamas on hand post-bath and a sleep bag if your child is used to sleeping with one. Cuddle up in a cozy blanket for some storytime and dim the lights.
- Move naptime and bedtime. Once you drop a nap, you may need to rejig your little one’s sleep schedule. With fewer daytime sleep hours, you may need to move bedtime earlier. Some parents also find that slowly pushing the morning nap back by 15 or 30 minute increments until it becomes a post-lunch nap can also be helpful.
- Incorporate quiet time. With a second nap gone you may notice that your child is a little fussier, especially during and shortly after the transitional period. Replacing the second nap with some quiet time can help ensure that your child doesn’t become overstimulated or overtired. Quiet time might involve a white noise machine, a baby massage, or quiet reading time.
- Encourage a longer nap. If you had been waking your child up from naptime before you can probably stop doing that once your baby drops to one nap a day. Ideally, if you can get your little one to sleep for 2 - 3 hours at naptime, you’ll set them up for a great night’s sleep and help them avoid becoming overtired.
It can be quite challenging to master sleep routines in the first year of life, but tuning in to your child’s signals and cues can help you tackle transitions at the right time. So often, this is half the battle. We hope that you now feel well equipped to catch the signs that your baby is ready to drop a nap and take another exciting step towards becoming a big kid!
Frequently Asked Questions
Many babies experience a sleep regression between 10 - 12 months of age. So, if you’re going through this with your child, don’t panic! Remember, sleep regressions are completely normal and only temporary. In fact, sleep regressions occur as a result of all of the developmental changes that are occurring in your little one’s body. Because growth spurts tend to require a great deal of energy they can leave your baby feeling over tired and fussy. While this is challenging, it’s helpful to remember what causes these sometimes trying periods so we can remind ourselves that sleep regression is actually a good thing and a sign that your little one is on a healthy growth trajectory! It’s also helpful to know that most sleep regressions don’t last longer than 3 to 6 weeks.
Here are a few tips on how to manage sleep regressions when they do occur:
Create a relaxing sleep environment and a comforting bedtime ritual so that your little one begins to associate their bedroom with sleep. Try a warm bath, a white noise machine, dim lighting, and a bedtime book.
Maintain a nap and feeding schedule. The more of a routine your child has the more you promote healthy circadian rhythms and healthy sleep habits. During sleep regressions, it’s easy to give up on naps if your child is especially fussy, but this can very quickly become a vicious cycle as your child becomes more and more overtired.
Stimulate your baby during the day. Giving your child the right amount of play time and fresh air during the day can help ensure they are ready for rest come bedtime.
Take care of yourself. Your child can pick up on your energy and mood. During sleep regressions you might be feeling stressed and overwhelmed so be sure to take some time out to do something for yourself and ask for help when you need it. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Developmentally, your child should be able to begin sleeping through the night by 6-months of age. At this age, the Moro Reflex has likely decreased considerably or stopped altogether. Your little one will begin to learn to self-soothe and will probably start to need fewer feedings. But, not all babies will start sleeping for a full 8-hour stretch as soon as they hit the 6-month mark. Every baby is different. By 11 months of age, most babies will already be sleeping through the night or ready to begin to work towards that goal. If you haven’t done any sleep training with your 11-month-old yet, it may be more challenging and take a little bit longer than it might have with a younger baby, however, it’s entirely possible to successfully train your 11-month-old to sleep through the night.
While it’s always important to remember that every child is different, experts recommend that one-year olds get between 10 - 12 hours of sleep a day. Typically, these sleep hours can be spread between the overnight sleep stretch and one or two naps a day.
You’ve probably heard that the most high quality sleep tends to happen before midnight. This is as true for babies as it is for adults. Your little one’s deepest sleep tends to occur between 8 PM and midnight. So, of course, it’s a good idea to get your child to bed in time to make the most of that crucial sleep window. Beginning your baby’s bedtime routine at around 6:30 or 7:00 PM is ideal. You can start by trying out this bedtime window and adjusting slightly to find the best fit for you and your baby.
They say to never wake a sleeping baby, but that’s not always the best advice. There are a few scenarios where experts recommend waking up your child from a nap.
Your child’s naps are interfering with bedtime. If you suspect that you’re having a hard time putting your baby down at night because their afternoon nap is ending too close to bedtime you may want to consider waking your one-year-old up from their afternoon nap instead of waiting for them to wake on their own.
Naps are exceeding 2 - 3 hours. Again, if you suspect that the length of your child’s nap is interfering with bedtime it’s probably best to gently wake them up at the 2 hour mark.
Your little one is getting too much daytime sleep and you’d like to encourage an 11 - 12 hour overnight stretch.
As always, you know your child best. With a some trial and error you will figure out the best sleep schedule for your little one.