Some parents proudly look at the change from two naps to one as a major accomplishment, something akin to a college graduation! But what’s the rush? Daytime naps are lovely, and as I’ve said, adequate daytime sleep promotes good nighttime sleep—sleep begets sleep. Although it is also true that too much daytime sleep may delay bedtime or cause middle-of-the-night waking.
Is Your Tot Ready to Go from Two Naps to One? Most tots give up the second nap between twelve and twenty-four months. But be aware, this transition period is often rocky. Some toddlers give up the morning nap, some the afternoon nap . . . and others alternate (one day they nap in the morning, the next day in the afternoon)! Consider yourself very lucky if your little guy is happy and playful in the late morning as he starts to skip his post-breakfast snooze. More often, tots start skipping the morning nap but still need it. And this internal ambivalence makes them overtired and extra grumpy . . . and weepy. (In other words, even more like a little caveman than usual!) Your little man may spend a few weeks bouncing back and forth between one and two naps. (It’s almost like he needs one and a half naps per day!)
Many parents find that the best strategy for this “in between” period is to at least have a midmorning rest time (with white noise, a lovey, and perhaps a little reading or massage). If your child seems antsy, let him watch twenty minutes of a calming Sesame Street or nature DVD (no cartoons, please). If your little guy switches to one nap, but then starts waking too early in the morning and seems overtired all day (irritable, staring, rubbing his eyes, falling asleep while snacking, being more clumsy, etc.), go back to two naps for a month or two. When he finally settles into a one-nap schedule, the noon nap will last a little longer, and lunch, dinner, and bedtime will arrive a little earlier. Is Your Tot Ready to Go from One Nap to None? Like big, clumsy birds that plop back to the earth a few times as they run, trying to get airborne, some toddlers take many weeks— bouncing along—before they’re definitely able to take flight and say au revoir to their last nap. They struggle to stay awake during play and fall fast asleep the instant they’re put in the car. And they become wild during afternoon play—melting into tearful streams of “no, no, no!”—yet keel over in the high chair before they get even halfway through dinner. About 20 percent of two-year-olds have stopped all naps— although you can be sure those parents wish they still had that little break during the day! By the third birthday, 43 percent of kids no longer nap. And that increases to 74 percent of four-year-olds and 85 percent of five-year-olds. An early sign that the nap is waning is when your child sleeps at preschool but skips it on the weekend. Most kids take this final step over several weeks—napping some days and not others. Ultimately, your child will completely switch to an afternoon quiet time. When your tyke gives up her last nap, expect her to start running out of gas earlier in the evening. So be prepared to slide dinner and bedtime an hour earlier. Surprisingly, your four-year-old will go to bed earlier than she did at eighteen months! But that’s what she must do to continue getting ten to twelve hours of sleep a day after napping is finished. (And don’t be surprised if, during this transition, your lovebug also pops awake in the morning a little earlier than usual.)