Got a baby or toddler who suddenly won’t go down for naps without an epic meltdown or midday battle? It might be time to trade their two-naps-a-day schedule for a one-nap scenario. While some parents view dropping a nap as a major accomplishment (something akin to a college graduation) others fear all the what-ifs of having one less nap. Don’t worry—or have a celebration—quite yet! First, find out if dropping the second nap is a must-do for your toddler…and learn how to make the transition from two naps to one as easy as possible.   

Why should I consider transitioning my baby to one nap?

Daytime naps are lovely! And adequate daytime sleep promotes good nighttime sleep—sleep begets sleep. At the same time, it’s also true that too much daytime sleep may delay bedtime or cause middle-of-the-night waking. The trick is figuring out which bucket your little one falls into.

When do babies transition from two naps to one nap?

Most babies drop the second nap between 12 and 24 months. Some toddlers drop the morning nap, while others phase out the afternoon nap…and some tricky toddlers like to alternate, napping in the morning one day, then napping in the afternoon the next day! But be aware, this transition period from two naps to one is often a bit rocky.

If your little one is happy and playful in the late morning as they start to skip their post-breakfast nap, consider yourself very lucky. Because often, this will-they-or-won’t-they naptime ambivalence makes babies and toddlers overtired, extra grumpy…and weepy. In other words, your sweet bub will start acting even more like a little caveperson than usual!

Is 9 months too early to transition to one nap?

While most babies drop the second nap between 12 and 24 months, not all children follow that timeline. It’s possible that some babies are ready to transition to one nap sooner. The key is to let your little one take the lead—and for you to adjust sleep times before dropping a nap cold turkey. If your bub begins showing some of the signs listed below, they may be ready to drop the extra nap, and transition to one.

Signs Your Baby or Toddler Is Ready to Drop Naps:

If your toddler is between 12 and 18 months old—and does at least one of the following, they might be ready to drop a nap:

  • Refuses their naps for two weeks
  • Fusses or talks during naptime rather than sleep
  • Refuses the afternoon nap, but takes a morning nap
  • Protests regularly scheduled naps and falls asleep later
  • Remains cheerful until their next nap—or bedtime—if a nap is missed
  • Took equal length naps, but now their naps vary in time
  • Spends more time awake (typically around 4 to 5 hours) than usual without any fussiness
  • Can stay awake for morning car rides

Again, if you see these signs consistently for approximately two weeks, then it may be time to transition your toddler to one nap.

How to Transition to One Nap

Remember, there’s no rush to transition your child from two naps to one. Making the two-to-one nap transition before your sweet pea is ready can make for unhappy days and waking at night. Plain and simple: Overtired children don’t sleep as well as rested children. But if your bub is ready for the big nap transition, follow my advice below. Keep in mind that it can take a couple of weeks to a month to complete the transition from two naps to one.

  • Go slow. Your baby or toddler may spend a few weeks bouncing back and forth between one and two naps… almost as if your little one needs one-and-a-half naps per day! This is normal.

  • Set your toddler up for success. Thirty minutes before naptime, engage in some quiet play and put on soft white noise in the background as a subconscious clue that naptime is coming. If you haven’t already, introduce a lovey to your toddler’s sleepytime routine. These cuddly friends help tots build confidence and comfort, which makes going down for naps (and nights) easier.

  • Move naptime. Start moving your toddler’s one-and-done nap to after lunch. You can do this by slowly pushing their morning nap later by 15- or 30-minute intervals every couple of days.

  • Rejigger your tot’s bedtime routine. You may need to move your toddler’s evening routine—dinner, bath time, bedtime—a bit earlier to accommodate for fewer daytime ZZZs.

  • Hone your Toddler-ese. As you transition from two naps to one, get ready for some crankiness and an uptick in tantrums. To help, lean into using Toddler-ese. This style of talking combines your tot’s native tongue (short phrases and repetition) with you mirroring about one-third of your tot’s feelings with your tone of voice and gestures. (“Candy! Candy! You want it…now!”) When you trade long, adult sentences (and even your calm, rational tone) and gently reflect your child’s emotions back at them—eye-to-eye—they, quite simply, feel cared for and understood…and when kids feel that way, tantrums simply don’t arise.

  • Have “quiet time.” Many parents find that the best strategy for this “in-between” period is to at least some midmorning rest time, complete with white noise, and perhaps, a little reading, or massage. If your child seems antsy, it’s okay to let them relax watching just 20 minutes of a calming Sesame Street episode or a low-key nature show—no cartoons, please.

Transitioning From Two Naps to One Nap: Final Thoughts

If your little one switches to one nap, but then starts waking too early in the morning and seems overtired all day—they’re irritable, staring, rubbing their eyes, falling back asleep while snacking, and clumsier than usual—go back to two naps for a month or two before trying again.

For more help with toddler sleep:

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.