Between the ages of 1 and 2, most kids need about 12 to 14 hours of sleep over a 24-hour period, including 2 naps. But once kids hit 18 months, many of them condense those 2 naps a day into 1.
For many parents, figuring out how and when to make that move, however, can be tricky.
“The timing on this transition really depends on the child and her sleep schedule,” said Dr. Sarah Adams, a pediatrician at Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics in Hudson. “Just because she turns 18 months, doesn’t mean you should automatically make the transition. If your child is sleeping well at night and taking 2 naps happily during the day, let her be.”
Once she’s ready for her napping schedule to be tweaked, there are lots of ways your child will let you know. If she begins to resist going down and takes longer to nod off (30 minutes or more), or maybe takes a good morning nap but then never falls asleep during the afternoon one, she’s probably ready to skip a nap. Or, if she wakes up early from both naps, that’s a sign she may not need both.
Also, if she’s more alert and awake during the day without any meltdowns, that’s a good sign you can drop one of her naps.
“If your child is an early riser, she may need that morning nap and can skip the afternoon one,” said Dr. Adams. “But if she’s a late riser, she may skip the morning one. The biggest concern is you don’t want to do anything to affect nighttime sleep, so be sure to be consistent, no matter what her schedule is.”
Once you determine your child is ready to make the transition, you can start by pushing her morning nap later by 15 or 30 minutes every couple of days. If the first nap ends before noon, you could try for a catnap around 3 p.m. to prevent her from becoming overtired during the transition.
Even if your child doesn’t actually fall asleep in the afternoon, it’s important to encourage quiet time for about an hour. Give your toddler time to unplug from the TV or devices and play quietly. It’s a time to rest and recharge her batteries — away from you and other activities. It’s OK if your child isn’t lying down in her crib, just so she’s playing quietly and not running around.
During the transition, your toddler may be crankier than usual from being sleep-deprived. Moving her bedtime up 30 minutes or so can help her make up for the reduced daytime sleep. Or, consider giving her 2 naps on occasion during the transition. Some kids go through a phase where 2 naps is too many, but 1 is not enough.
“Every child is different, so what works for one child may not necessarily work for another,” said Dr. Adams. “Consistency and routine is the key to making the transition a smooth one.”