When you reach the age range of 14-18 months you are likely right around the time of dropping the morning nap. For some little ones it may be a little bit sooner; for others, later. Once you reach this range, you will probably notice you hit a bit of a ‘grey zone’ where two naps seems like too many, and one nap seems like too little. It can be a bit of a tricky time to navigate.
In our home, we were in the grey zone for what seemed like forever. With two naps, he struggled to fall asleep and stay asleep for the afternoon nap. With one nap, he was a force to be reckoned with by lunch time. We spent the majority of this past summer in the grey zone; however, once we arrived in Japan, we finally managed to drop the morning nap.
In continuing with my Baby + Sleep Series, here are some tips I learned while we transitioned through the grey zone and after we finally committed to only one nap per day:
1. How to navigate the ‘grey zone.’
Once we reached the grey zone, I started to cut off naps. I hate doing this, as it means you will have to wake your child from his morning nap to ensure he is tired enough for the afternoon nap. Sometimes I even needed to cut off the afternoon nap to ensure my son was tired enough for bedtime.
If you remember from my post 8 Infant Sleep Facts Every Parent Needs to Know, the ideal nap length is 1.5 – 2 hours.
So basically if you are having trouble keeping two naps, you will likely want to cut off the morning nap at the 1.5 hour mark. If a 1.5 hour morning nap still seems like too much for your child, go ahead and decrease the nap to 1.25 hours, then to one hour and see if that helps any. If you need to decrease the nap any further than that, your child is very likely ready to drop down to one nap per day.
You may also need to cut off afternoon naps. Start by waking your child up after 1.5 hours in the afternoon and work your way back from there. See what happens.
After doing a lot of reading, I learned that your child should be awake for about 4 hours before bedtime, which may translate to no napping beyond 4 pm, depending on bedtime in your home. Our son has a 7:30 pm bedtime, so if he is still sleeping at 3:30 pm, I would likely wake him. Although, he rarely sleeps that late.
2. Learn the signs of readiness for dropping the morning nap.
When my son was ready to drop the morning nap, the number one thing I noticed was the afternoon nap started to get bad. It’s common for kids to either experience a difficult time falling asleep and/or staying asleep in the afternoon. Worst case scenario, a child may not sleep at all when laid down for the afternoon nap.
Other signs of readiness include:
- Your child is able to sleep uninterrupted for 10-12 hours through the night.
- Your child experiences difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep for the morning nap.
3. How to transition to one nap per day.
Once I felt my son was ready to transition, I slowly started delaying his morning nap each day until it becomes an afternoon nap. I originally aimed to feed him an early lunch, and lay him down for a nap around 11:00 or 11:30 am.
Then I tried to delay nap time by about 15-30 minutes each day until I reached 12:30-1:00 pm, with that being our ideal afternoon nap time window. The best time for an afternoon nap (or one nap per day) is approximately one hour after lunch. In our home, we typically do lunch around 11:30 am, so our afternoon nap time is 12:30 pm. As my son gets older, I may bump it to 1:00 pm. Right now I am simply playing it by ear.
Overall toddlers in this age range average about 14 hours of sleep per day. This is only an average, but aiming for somewhere in that ballpark is ideal. So if your child sleeps for 11 hours at night, a good nap may be around 2.5-3 hours in the afternoon.
If your child sleeps longer at night, expect a slightly shorter nap. Right now, my son sleeps about 11.5 hours at night and sleeps about 2-2.5 hours in the afternoon at 14 months. It’s very common to see nighttime sleep extend out a bit after dropping the morning nap. So if your child currently sleeps 10-11 hours at night, he may start sleeping 12 hours overnight.
4. Things to keep in mind.
Dealing with short naps. Once you go down to one nap per day, there may be a few short naps. I read that you should try to help your child back to sleep for at least 30 minutes before aborting the nap all together. For my son, this does not work. If he saw me after he woke up and then I left him in the crib, he would not be happy. My solution: if he wakes early, I usually give him some time alone to try and go back to sleep before going into get him. If he is crying is usually go in pretty quickly, but if he is just talking to himself, I try to wait. In my mind, at least he is resting a little bit.
If you are experiencing short naps, it’s a common problem. It took my son about one week before he started to take a good 2.5 – 3 hour nap. I just stuck with it. Being consistent with your schedule and routine may start to elongate naps without much intervention. It can take up to 7-10 days for a child to adjust.
There may be some days two naps are required. There will still be some days where two naps are required. Sometimes my son is extra tired from a busy day or illness or teething or simply just an off day. Every now and then we do two naps. Some days where my son gets up really early in the morning, and he won’t go back to sleep. Because his night sleep was too short, we will do two naps on those days, aiming for an overall goal of one4 hours per day.
Reverting back to two naps. If you try one nap per day, and realize it isn’t working, it’s okay to revert back to two naps per day and try to drop the morning nap again in a few weeks or so. I’ve also known some moms to do two naps every other day and one nap every other day. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. In our own personal experience, it didn’t work very well with our son. So we continued with the balancing act of two naps per day until he was more ready to drop the morning nap.
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