When do babies drop to one nap? This post walks you through all of the signs your little one is ready to transition to one nap each day. Everything you need to know for dropping the morning nap. Find out when to drop it and how to transition to one nap. Know the signs your toddler is ready for one nap.
I put it off as long as I possibly could. I NEEDED that extra break each day. Since I was pregnant, moving usually meant puking, and my little pretoddler boy was a mover. But it couldn’t wait anymore. The day finally came when I had to face the music so to speak.
I had to drop my child’s morning nap. It was time to drop to one nap a day.
And what a glorious thing it was! Not only did it make it easier to fit in everything we wanted to in a day, but it made it so he took a longer afternoon nap. That meant a longer period of rest for me as a pregnant mamma, which was just what I needed.
I have come to find that I always love moving to one nap a day. It seems scary, but it opens up life in a whole new way. You get the ENTIRE MORNING open to do things without your child needing to sleep. It often seems like an eternity since that was last possible. So while it may scare you a bit, trust me that there are fantastic things that come with the one nap schedule.
But how do you go about dropping the nap? And how do you know baby is ready to drop to one nap? This post gives you a full guide on how to drop that morning nap and transition to one nap.
- Age Range for Dropping the Morning Nap
- Transition to One Nap Time
- Signs Your Child is Ready to Drop the Morning Nap
- Times for Afternoon Nap to Start
- Dropping the Nap Methods
- Trying It Out
- What to Expect When Dropping the Morning Nap
- Your Toddler Will Be Tired
- Adjustment Takes a Couple of Weeks
- Bedtime Might Need to Change
- Related Posts
- Frequently Asked Questions for Dropping Morning Nap
Age Range for Dropping the Morning Nap
The age range for dropping the morning nap is pretty wide. Your child will be ready between 14-22 months.
There are always outliers. There will be some 13 month olds ready and there will be some 23 month olds you are trying to convince to move to one nap.
At least once each week, I get asked essentially, “I think my 10 month old is ready to drop his morning nap. Should I do it?”
It really is almost always a 10 month old, though sometimes it is an 11 or 12 month old. I strongly recommend against dropping the morning nap before your child is one year old. Very strongly. Usually, when people drop that nap too young, they create a sleep problem that spirals for months.
If your child is 10 months old and seems like he needs to drop a nap, he is either experiencing a sleep regression, he needs a little more waketime before naps, he is teething, or he needs playtime to be more stimulating physically and/or mentally. There is a 10 month sleep regression around 10 months old. Always be careful you do not mistake a sleep regression for a need to change up your sleep schedule.
If your child is 11-13 months old and seems like he needs to drop a nap, you are entering transition time. Baby sleep needs are still that you will need two naps a day. See my post Dropping the Morning Nap (from 2 to 1 naps): Transition Time.
Transition to One Nap Time
Let’s discuss this nap transition time. Most, if not all, children go through this transition time before they are ready to fully drop the morning nap. This is true whether your child is 14 months old and starting to seem ready or 18 months old and starting to seem ready.
Younger children will likely dwell in transition time longer than older ones. Be familiar with what the transition time is and how to work with it.
Signs Your Child is Ready to Drop the Morning Nap
Your child might be ready to drop the morning nap if:
- The morning nap goes well but the afternoon nap does not. He will not sleep well during that second nap, if he sleeps at all. His afternoon nap might be turning into a cat nap instead of a regular nap.
- Conversely, your toddler might not sleep well for the morning nap but does sleep for the afternoon nap.
- Your child is in the correct age range for dropping the nap.
- Your little one can stay awake long enough to make it to the afternoon nap. If your little one just cannot make it past 10:30 AM happily, you might not be able to transition to one nap.
- You have addressed the tricks for transition time and they are not working.
Times for Afternoon Nap to Start
Initially, your child might need the afternoon nap to start as early as 12 or 12:30 when you go to one nap a day. If your child can’t make it past that time, you are still living in transition time. Be sure to consult that post for ideas on how to handle the transition time.
As your toddler gets used to having one nap a day, she will be able to move that one nap a little bit later in the day.
Afternoon nap for one nap a day typically starts in the 1 PM hour somewhere, but the exact time will vary based on morning wakeup time and individual child sleep needs. The child who wakes at 7 AM will likely need the afternoon nap at an earlier time than the child waking up at 8:30 AM.
You will still want to be aware of your toddler’s idea awake time before nap time should start. I had a toddler who slept really well for his afternoon nap if it started between 1:00-1:10 PM, but if it was any later, then nap did not go well.
Dropping the Nap Methods
Once you are ready to try dropping the nap, you might wonder how to go about it. At this point, your child has dropped a couple of naps, so the nap transitions concept isn’t totally new to you. Usually, however, the previously dropped naps happened when feedings were also dropped.
You are entering a new world with dropping the morning nap. This is the world of no nap in between feedings. Here are some methods for dropping the nap:
- Cold Turkey: This is where you stop having a morning nap and you never look back. Again, you might start with a 12:30 nap start time but ultimately land at 1 PM after 2-4 weeks of being at one nap. Cold Turkey usually works best for the older toddlers who are dropping to one nap. If your child is 17 months or older, this is a good method for you to consider for dropping that nap.
- Weaning Process: In a weaning process, your pre-toddler takes two naps one day, and one nap the next. You might start with 5 days a week with two naps and two with one nap. Over time, you increase the number of days that are one nap. This works well for those younger pretoddlers and children who are in transition time. It can be a difficult method because days are unpredictable, but it is effective.
Trying It Out
If you think your child might be ready for one nap, you can always give it a try. Try it for 2-3 days and reevaluate. Usually, the first day will work out fine. If it continues to go fine over the next several days, you are on the right path!
If your child falls apart or can’t stay awake after a few days, you will need to go back to transition time mentality. Sleep deficits build up over time, so that is why it can start out working fine but not be great after a few days or even after a couple of weeks.
I have had children with whom I was not completely confident they were ready to drop the nap and I had to just try it and see what happened. There is no reason to feel bad if you have to “try it” to know if it works. That is often what parenting is all about; try it out and see what happens! You can always go back to two naps if you try it and realize your little one was not ready to go to one nap.
What to Expect When Dropping the Morning Nap
Changing sleep patterns isn’t usually easy even when it is something you are ready for. Just think of how hard it is for you to change by one hour at the time change–now imagine rearranging your sleep altogether.
Your Toddler Will Be Tired
Even a child who is ready will likely be a little tired for the first week or so. It is wise to plan your days so you are doing things your child can’t fall asleep during. Be ready to entertain your child a lot during the first week or two. If you do not, he will be falling asleep during your regular activities and then have a hard time taking the one nap a day.
Adjustment Takes a Couple of Weeks
Initially, the one afternoon nap will most likely not be long. It will be 1.5-2 hours. As your child gets used to this new sleep pattern, your child will likely nap later and extend the nap to 2.5-4 hours long. The length will vary based on individual sleep needs and age.
Expect the nap to lengthen out after 1-2 weeks. Your little one might start with a one hour nap, but it should extend as he adjusts. If it doesn’t then, I recommend re-accessing if your child is really ready for one nap or if the start time of nap is best for your child.
Bedtime Might Need to Change
You might need to move bedtime earlier, at least for a while. This nap dropping is not so much getting less sleep each day as rearranging the times the child is sleeping. If the one nap is short, your little is getting less daytime sleep and might need more night sleep. You might need bedtime moved up by 30-60 minutes to make up for the lost sleep. This bedtime can move back as your child extends the nap length during the day.
Dropping this nap will be a delight to you once it is done. You can have a nice independent playtime in the morning about the same time that first nap used to be in order to take up some of that previous nap time. You can take trips to run errands with HOURS of time available. I promise it is lovely. While I dreaded it with my oldest, I was giddy for it with my youngest. It is a great milestone!
If you need more help with nap time, check out my eBook The Babywise Mom Nap Guide: How to Establish Successful Naps from Birth Through the Preschool Years.
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- Poll Results: When Your Toddler Got Settled Into One Nap A Day, How Long Was The Nap?
Frequently Asked Questions for Dropping Morning Nap
My 20 month old has been reluctant to totally drop to one nap, but I am sure this is why she now wakes up in the night more often, so I am NOT letting her sleep in the morning! However, you suggest that her taking only short naps, even when that is her only one, may be because she is staying up too long.
In this process of dropping the morning nap, what do you do with lunch? I have moved lunch a little earlier than her normal noon-time to get her down for a nap, but what if she is acting tired at 10:30 (or even earlier!)? Would you keep her up for another hour until lunch at 11:30? Would you put her to bed then and hope she doesn’t wake up hungry? Would you feed her a snack and have a late lunch whenever she does wake up? I know you have lots of suggestions about trying earlier and later and have read most of your articles about weaning and transitioning but don’t see anything about eating in conjunction with figuring out naps. This is the first big transition that has not gone easily for us within a few weeks. Thanks! Debbie
Debbie, just a little anecdotal help from me. My daughter is 23 months and we went to one nap at about 18 months. She still acts tired around 10:30 or 11:00 am. However, I know from experience I have to keep her up until 1:00 (used to be 12:30) otherwise she’d only sleep for an hour. I try to give her a snack around 10 am and then we often get out of the house until lunch time around 12 to keep her happy. It’s better now, but it was pretty hard to keep her up for a month or two. I hope Valerie will also have some good advice for you.
January 20, 2010 3:03 PM
Jennifer, thank you for your help! After only one day of trying to let her nap earlier, we went back to running errands or something until lunch so she could nap around 1 or 1:30. She has begun napping better – 1-1/2 to 2 hours. I am looking forward to hearing more, though, about sleeping all night again! I had thought that the nap transition would help that, but it hasn’t. She wakes up at least once nearly every night and has for the last three months – ugh. Today I found the posts about toddler sleep problems and was glad to hear that many other parents have dealt with the same thing. It means we’ll all make it through eventually! 🙂 I guess the questions here, to follow up are the following . . . How much sleep do they need at different ages? When she goes to only one nap, and still sleeps the same 11-12 hours at night, is that enough? What else can you do in the night to keep the child from waking the house? What else could help to solve this besides working through the nap transition? I am sure that winter – less active playing time – doesn’t help, but I don’t know what else to try. We’ve tried earlier and later bedtimes, letting her cry longer to see if she’ll go back to sleep on her own (she doesn’t; she just gets really agitated and then bothers the upstairs neighbors and is much harder to calm down to sleep), more or less pajamas/blankets. She has always slept in a dark room, and there isn’t much noise at night. I certainly have appreciated all of the help here – from Valerie and other parents!
Babywise Mom said…
I would treat dropping the nap as a weaning process. Some days, she might need two. Others, just one.
If she was tired at 10:30, I would put her down for a morning nap–a short one. Maybe 1-1.5 hours. Then I would have lunch and put her down for an afternoon anp around 2 or so depending on when she was tired.
Another option is to take her out of the house so she can be distracted from being tired while her body adjusts to one nap.
I usually give my kids snacks around 10ish when they are down to one nap. That is our one snack of the day because we eat an early dinner.
She should be getting about the same amount of sleep per 24 hours, so if going to one nap dropped daytime sleep, move bedtime up.
Watch for molars that can disrupt nighttime sleep, as well as nightmares.
Debbie said…For our part, she now naps most days after lunch for 2 hours. If she wakes up earlier, she will sometimes lie back down. We have had more full nights than interrupted and hope to keep working toward not waking at all in the night. Not perfect, but better! What a transition . . .
Natalie said…Does your daughter always take her second nap when she has taken a good morning nap? For quite a while my daughter would take a morning nap, but then just rest/play through her afternoon nap. I would put her down at 10:30, feed her lunch when she got up, then put her down for an afternoon “rest”. I very, very gradually move the morning nap later and later, and right now it’s at 11:45. She no longer needs the afternoon rest. I keep her in her crib til 2, feed her lunch and she seems fine. My daughter isn’t a big eater, but if i was concerned I’d feed her breafast, feed her a snack at 10, put her down then feed her lunch when she woke up. Good luck!
Tracy said…Sounds like you’ve got it all figured out, but I will add that when we first started making the transition, I gave my kids (twins) lunch earlier, say at 11. They would then nap at 11:30ish, for 2-3 hours. We gradually pushed it back, and now they eat lunch between 1130-1200 and go down for a nap afterwards. I find they need sleep regularly 11.5-12 hours solid at night, and then the 2ish hour nap, so approx. 14/day. Our bedtime is early right now (7pm), so they’re getting up at 630-7, having breakfast around 730, then a snack at 930. Some days we have to have two snacks in the afternoon, depending on what time we’re having dinner, but most days that is around 530-6pm. We’ve definitely fallen into a pattern again, but dropping this morning nap seemed to be a two month transition phase. It’s nice, though, because now we can have outings in the morning, which also serves to keep my kids stimulated enough that they stay awake.Hope this helps. 🙂 p.s. we are getting our 2-year molars in now and my son is waking several times at night a couple days each week. We’re just rolling with it.
Courtney said…We, too, are having a difficult time with 2 naps, however, my son is only 11 months old. Our problem lately (the last month and half) has been that he will usually play through one of his 2 naps. He is tired when I put him down for his nap but then proceeds to play for the whole 2 hours, completely content but not getting the rest he needs. If he plays during his first nap, he, of course, is tired and fussy once I get him up and will definately sleep during the 2nd nap. At first I thought it was a development issues but now its been going on for so long. I am not sure what to do since he seems too young to go to one nap and appears very tired to me. He is a late crawler and just starting to be a bit more mobel which I thought might have something to do with it too. I would love any suggestions you might have. Thank you so much for taking the time to help out so many mothers! Courtney
Tracy said…Hey Courtney, for what it’s worth, my daughter (I have b/g twins) started going through the same thing around 11months. I started transitioning them around 12 months, and regularly got a 3 hour nap out of her. But if I had her nap in the morning, no way would she nap in the afternoon. IMHO, each child is different, so it is possible that your son is ready to start the transition. Some may disagree with me, but that’s what I found having two very different children of the same age.That may also explain why the transition was so long for me…for my daughter we were starting late, and my son we were starting early, so we had challenges for a good 2-3 months before it all ironed itself out.
Amy said…My DD dropped her AM nap very young at 12 months old. Her waketime was 6:45 am, and I did a very early lunch around 10:45 or 11am. She does act tired at around 9:30 or 10am most mornings, but I just give her some milk and/or a snack and take her outside. She bounces back fine. She gets sleepy again around 11am, and I feed her lunch now at round 11:15am. She then perks up again b/c of the food and we do some quiet play right after lunch, then read books and is napping at 12:15pm. You CAN do lunch after the nap if it is really necessary, but I always felt that it would be easier just to keep the order of events the same during this pretty rough transition (lunch, then nap). The first 4 days were rough (we dropped it cold turkey), and after that it has been going very well.HTH!Amy
Mary Ashley said…We JUST did this within the past two weeks. He was starting to full out refuse the morning nap about every 4-5 days (especially when with me, not at daycare) so I started only letting him sleep for 20 minutes (so he didn’t enter deep sleep, around 10). He didn’t want to wake up but then I put him down again around 1:30-3:30. If he didn’t have a morning nap (no tired cues, etc.) then we ate lunch at 12 and went down by 12:30 and slept until 2:30 at the earliest. The first few times I had to either go in and pat him back to sleep or rock him back to sleep. He had to get used to sleeping longer b/c he never really napped more than 1:15. Hope that helps!
the Heller Family said…My daughter did not drop the morning nap until she was 20 months old and we had the exact problems. She dropped it around 18 months and was so exhausted most days, that I brought it back for 2 more months and then did more of a weaning process. I was eventually noticing on the days that she had a good morning nap though that the afternoon was terrible. I then switched her to only an afternoon nap by keeping her busy during that cranky time around 10:30. If we fought through that time, she would usually get a second wind, especially if she had a snack. I played with the optimal time to have her go down too. After a lot of trial and error, we finally settled on this wake 7:30, snack around 10 or 10:30 and then lunch at 12 and nap at 1. I give her a board book and remind her that she can sleep or read but she must stay in bed until nap time is over and then I don’t get her out for at least 2 hours. Some days she will only sleep an hour and a half and other days she will go three but I make sure she is at least down for 2 and at least resting if she does not sleep through. I also moved bedtime from 8:30 to 8 and that helped a little too. The board book seemed to help keep her laying down resting and also seems to settle her on the days that she might have a harder time falling asleep.
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