The one question I get asked the most in regards to getting your toddler sleeping is how and when do I transition naps. Naps are one of the most important fundamentals of healthy sleep and sleeping through the night in infants and toddlers. Sleep equals sleep and the better rested a child is throughout the day the better they will sleep at night. A toddler taking two naps still should be sleeping at least 1-1.5 hours per nap but we have to understand that whenever we are removing sleep we aren’t taking away the amount of sleep our toddler gets but redistributing it througout the day. For instance their afternoon nap may increase to a 1-3 hour nap and bedtime may be a bit earlier until your toddler is adjusted to the one nap per day. I also recommend keeping some quiet time throughout the day for your 3-4 year olds even if they aren’t napping anymore.
One of the biggest mistakes I see parents make is that they remove naps too soon.
Signs that your child is ready to transition to one nap:
- Consistently skipping the afternoon nap.
- The morning nap get’s too pushed out and it disrupts the afternoon nap.
Once you see these signs, and especially if you child is younger then 15 months wait at least a week or two to see if it remains consistent before making the transition. Children go through regressions and that can affect sleep as well. Once this phase passes the child begins to sleep again. I typically tell parents to hold off with the 2 to 1 nap transition until your child is at least 15 months of age. Depending on how sleep sensitive your child is you may have to hold on to that nap until your toddler is 18 months old. The nap transition is a biggie and even though developmentally a child doesn’t need as much sleep as he gets older, sleep issues can creep up during this nap transition especially if parents try and do it before the child is ready. Try and keep both naps as long as possible, provided you can still keep an early bedtime. For 2+ years of age an early bedtime could be between 6-8pm.
Here are two ways to transition to one nap:
- If you feel like your child can make the switch and just drop the morning nap and go straight to a 12:00 pm afternoon nap then go for it. Easy peasy. Whenever we are removing sleep like weaning a nap we aren’t taking away the amount of sleep in a 24 hour period but just redistributing it throughout the day. At first this nap will remain the 1-1.5 hours that it’s been and we want to work towards lengthening it to 2-3 hours.
- If you feel like he can’t make that big a jump then push the morning nap 15 minutes later every day until you are at an 12 or 12:30 naptime. During the process add some quiet/sleep time in the afternoon to balance out the lack of sleep and movement of schedule. Once you get to a 11-11:30am start time you will need to eliminate that second nap and make sure you bump up that bedtime.
Naps can end all together by 3 to 4 years of age. The beginning of the transition to no naps can be difficult and I always recommend keeping at least an hour of quiet time as long as possible. Preferably until your child enters full day, every day school. It’s a great way to for them recharge and its some good down time for you too mom! My suggestion is go shopping with your child for “quiet time” toys. Fill a box with books, puzzles, new toys. It doesn’t have to be expensive, children love the dollar store and so do we! When it’s time for quiet time have your child choose one of the “quiet time” toys and he’ll happily play with it in his room. He may even end up falling asleep for a bit.
Alanna McGinn is a Certified Sleep Consultant and Founder of Good Night Sleep Site – a Global Pediatric and Family Sleep Team. She provides free child and family sleep support through her Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. She invites you to join her sleep community as she works towards Good Night Sleep Site’s mission of a healthier rested family unit. For more sleep tips please visit Good Night Sleep Site. Join our movement and #BringBackBedtime.