When do babies drop to one nap?
When it comes to babies and newborns, there is never a one-size-fits-all answer. However, most children usually drop from two daytime sleeps a day to one between the ages of 12 and 24 months.
The most important thing to remember is not to force the change, but you can read a few key signs in your baby's behaviour and you should be able to gauge when to start transitioning to one nap.
Of course, this change won't happen overnight - when you’re transitioning to one nap you’re creating a whole new routine for you and bub, so it will take a bit of time and patience as you both learn to adjust to a new schedule.
Why do babies drop a nap as they get older?
As any new parent knows, getting your baby to fall asleep soundly is no easy task, so the idea of cutting one of those blissful periods out of your day may not sound too appealing, but it is more important than you think.
In the early stages of life babies fall into REM sleep (dreaming state) during their morning nap which is crucial for brain development. Brain development occurs early in life so the younger the bub the more crucial the morning nap, as they grow and get older the need for a morning nap lessens.
However, every single child is dfferent and will develop at their own pace, so don't worry if your baby doesn't do what seems expected. There are no fixed rules.
But as your child gets older, one nap in the middle of the day of around two to three hours will give your child a much-needed break, and they will feel energised for their afternoon and evening (yes, that might mean less tantrums!).
How do I know when my baby is ready to drop to one nap?
When to drop to one nap is never easy to decide. With some children, it becomes very evident that they just don't want to sleep twice a day, or maybe they have a very short sleep early in the day and refuse to nap again.
But with others the signs are more subtle and the switch down to one nap a day is harder to make. It's probably easier to look for signs that your baby is ready to transition from two naps to one nap than it is to consider what age babies drop to one nap!
Key signs your baby is ready to drop to one nap a day
- Your baby is older than 12 months old.
- Your baby doesn’t fall asleep during morning car rides anymore.
- Your baby takes longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep if you put them down in the morning. Or has a very short nap in the morning or evening.
- If you give your baby a dummy to soothe them before they fall asleep, they tend to pull it out and play with it rather than suck it.
- If your baby naps during the day, they take longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep at night or don't seem tired in the evening.
- Your baby naps well in the afternoon.
- Your child is waking very early in the morning.
- Key signs your baby still needs two naps a day
- Your baby is under 12 months of age
- Your baby still falls asleep during morning car rides or when they're out in the stroller
- Your baby is grumpy if they don’t get a morning nap
- Your baby sleeps well at night despite having two naps during the day
How to transition to one nap?
It can help to think of this period as changing your child's daily schedule or routine, rather than dropping a nap.
And remember, on some days over the next few months, your child might still need two naps and on other days he'll be totally happy with just one.
Going to just one nap a day might take months so patience is the key (not easy when you have a tired toddler around...).
There are a number of different options.
Choose a new nap time.
1. Pick a time for your child's nap that’s later than the usual morning nap, but not as late as the afternoon nap, and try to stick to that if you can. For the first few days, make sure your child is busy and active during the morning but doesn't doze off in the car.
2. If your child does nap like this, move their bedtime forward by 30-60 minutes, so they don't get too 'strung out' or over-tired before bed.
3. This might take a few weeks to get right and you'll need plenty of patience!
Let your child sleep when he wants to sleep.
1. Watch for your child’s sleepy signs, like rubbing eyes, yawning, pulling on their ears and and put them down for a nap when they seem tired.
2. This might mean they still have two naps a day, but might not sleep long during either. In that case, they can keep the two naps, but don’t expect that your child sleeps at both times – allow quiet resting instead.
3. After a while, move the morning nap a little later but use the second nap time as 'quiet time' instead. Maybe you can read a book together or your child can have some books in his bed to look at alone.
4. Once your child gets used to this quiet time, ensure that you move the morning nap later but still give them some 'down-time' in the afternoon.
If your baby is struggling with sleep altogether, try these seven baby sleeping tips.
What is a typical schedule if your baby has one nap a day?
Ideally your baby should sleep for around two to three hours a day, and you're aiming for a bedtime window of around 6.30pm - 8pm.
Help your child stay awake until half-way through the day.
You can do this by playing games outside, or in the backyard. Go swimming, walk to the park, do something that keeps them alert and awake if possible. Try not to go on long car rides or walks in the stroller as this makes it easier to fall asleep or power nap.
Initially, your baby may only make it until 10:45am-ish each day, but try to stretch the nap time out by 15-30 minutes until your little one can ideally stay awake until after lunch at 11:30am-12:00pm.
Ideally your child will then sleep for around two hours and their bedtime needs to be about 4-5 hours from wake-up. You may need to push bedtime earlier depending on the timing of the nap.