The 2-1 Nap Transition
By far the hardest nap transition to go through is the 2-1. I get a lot clients who reach out when their child is somewhere around 14/15 months and they tell me that one day everything was going well and their child was taking predictable naps twice a day. Then all of a sudden, their little one starts fighting the second nap of the day and refusing to go to sleep. Or, if they are somewhat flexible, their child pushes that second nap later and later and bedtime then goes out the window.
What most parents think they should do is let their child nap around 10/11 and then just keep them up. But this often backfires by around 4 pm when you have an extremely overtired toddler in meltdown mode or you’ve got the child who just passes out at 4 and then is up until midnight.
A toddler’s circadian rhythm tends to dip around 12/1 pm and that’s why you’ll see many schools and day cares who have nap-time for the older children at this time. By allowing a nap to happen too early in the day, you’ll have a child who shifts their entire day earlier resulting in an early wake-up, early nap and early bed. But if you are going through or have ever experienced this transition, it may feel impossible to keep your child awake until 12 when they are exhausted by 10.
So what do you do? My favorite tip is to keep the morning nap at the usual time (ideally between 9 and 10) and cap the length. So if your child normally sleeps 90 minutes, cut it down to 45 (one sleep cycle). If they are still fighting the PM nap even with 45 minutes, then continue to cut back in 15-minute increments every couple of days until you’ve found a time that allows them to still keep their PM nap.
If they are refusing to nap altogether even with only 15 minutes worth of morning sleep, then it’s time to just push them to one nap. You’ll have to start around 11 am and slowly push the day forward towards 12:00 at least and eventually 1:00. In the reverse manner as above, push the nap later and later by 15 minutes every couple of days. You may have a few days/weeks where your child goes to bed earlier than planned but if you are actively attempting to get them on a new schedule, it will pass.
You may find your child takes one nap one day and then needs two naps the next two days and then back to one. It’s very common for this transition not to be an overnight process. Most toddlers move to one nap between 15-18 months but that can be a month-long process. It was for my son! However, despite how frustrated you might feel going through this, remember that even if it’s not an overnight success, your child will eventually make the transition to one nap.
Nicole Cannon, The Sleepy Mama, is a certified sleep consultant through the International Maternity Institute. Although she had previously done sleep work with families she nannied for, it wasn't until Nicole had her first child in 2013 that she was able to experience how difficult sleep deprivation can be on both children and parents. Now a mom of two, Nicole uses a variety of sleep techniques and methods with families to help everyone get more rest.
For more information about Nicole, or to schedule a consultation, visit her website:
The Sleepy Mama