You may be wondering “When do I do the 2 to 1 nap transition?” and “How do nap transitions help my baby?” This article will answer those and so many more questions about the 2 to 1 nap transition.
When Should I Transition from 2 to 1 Naps?
Your baby is unique and has their own sleep patterns, but generally the 2 to 1 nap transition happens between 14 and 18 months.
How Can I Tell My Baby’s Ready for a Nap Transition?
Common signs your baby is naturally read for a nap transition include
- Trouble Falling Asleep for Naps: One sure sign your baby is ready for the 2 to 1 nap transition is if they’re suddenly having trouble falling asleep during a nap, probably the second one. This is a sign that their wake window is getting longer, and they don’t need that rest.
- Nap Protests: Similarly, if your suddenly refuses a nap they used to naturally need or enjoy, their sleep pattern is probably shifting toward a 1 nap day.
- Your Baby Misses a Nap and Doesn’t “Miss” It: Often you can tell when your baby needs some sleep, most notably they’re cranky or fussy. If your baby misses a nap and isn’t cranky, that’s a sign they don’t need that nap anymore and it may be time for the 2 to 1 nap transition.
- Trouble Falling Asleep at Night: Since your baby’s wake windows are adjusting, if they get too much sleep during the day, they may have trouble falling asleep at night. If your baby is staying up past their wake windows or not showing their typical sleepy cues, it may be time to consider a nap transition.
- Extra Crankiness Between Naps: Another sign it’s time for a nap transition is that your baby is suddenly crankier between naps. This may mean, their sleep cycle is out of sync. A nap transition may help get it all back on track.
It is important to remember that once you notice a signal that it’s time to nap transition, you want to see it consistently over a couple of weeks before making the adjustment. If your baby skips one nap it doesn’t necessarily mean your baby is ready to drop that nap completely.
If you’re struggling with the 2 to 1 nap transition consider downloading the Smart Sleep Coach™ by Pampers app to get step by step sleep training support while your baby adjusts and beyond.
How Do I Do the 2 to 1 Nap Transition?
Transitioning a nap is more than just dropping a nap. You also have to briefly adjust their bedtime up about 20-30 minutes to avoid overtiredness. Overtiredness happens when your baby’s wake window goes on too long. This results in the release of cortisol and serotonin, two “wake up hormones,” and melatonin, the sleep hormone – conflicting hormonal signals that confuse and irritate your baby. [The same thing happens to us adults if we stay up past our sleepy cues, too!]
What If I’m Not Ready for My Baby to Nap Transition?
Parents or caretakers may want to put off nap transitions for many reasons. For example, they have another baby that needs more daytime naps; or, quite simply, they don’t want to lose that quiet time during the day. We completely understand.
The challenge is that your baby’s biological rhythm is changing and as that adjusts when you continue to keep the nap it can have a knock on effect to other things such as bedtime, overnight wakings and early wake ups.
It’s a careful balance and only you can judge what will work best for your family, when considering all the factors.
Sometimes Babies Transition on Their Own:
Despite your desire to keep a second nap, sometimes babies will simply nap transition on their own. For example, they’ll sleep longer during their first nap and then be wide awake when it’s time for their second. Or maybe they skip their first nap and then sleep longer during their second.
If either of these scenarios happen, it’s probably time to ditch that second nap entirely.
Why Do Babies Need So Many Naps?
There are a few reasons babies need so many naps. First and foremost, adenosine. Adenosine is a hormone that’s released as soon as your baby wakes up. The level of adenosine then rises steadily until it reaches its upper limit; when that happens, your baby feels tired and needs to sleep – that's the end of their wake window.
Once your baby goes to sleep, adenosine dissipates. Once it falls to zero, your baby’s “wakeup” hormones activate and the cycle begins again.
Adenosine builds up very fast in babies, which is why they need so many naps. As your baby grows, though, the adenosine is released more slowly, which leads to longer wake windows and fewer naps.
Hormonal explanations aside, though, naps perform two important functions for your baby:
- Naps are an opportunity for your baby’s body to grow and develop healthily
- Naps provide your baby with NREM sleep
What is NREM sleep?
We humans, including your baby, have a sleep cycle that’s divided into two categories of sleep REM sleep and Non-REM sleep.
- REM sleep is the sleep that builds learning and cognitive skills.
- NREM is a restorative sleep that helps build long-term memory
NREM sleep happens at the start of a sleep cycle. Since naps are shorter, they are more NREM than REM, giving your baby’s memory and mind an opportunity to synthesize and absorb all the incredible things they learn during the day.
How Do Naps Help Babies?
In addition to giving your baby’s body time to grow and develop, naps improve mental and motor skills, too.
- Naps improve memory consolidation, which helps your baby retain knowledge.
- Naps improve locomotor problem solving, such as learning to crawl through a tunnel.
- Naps foster flexible cognition; for example, recognizing the difference between two identical but different-colored puppets
Also, regarding sleep training, naps are another opportunity for your baby to practice self-soothing – an essential skill for sleep coaching.
Why Do Babies Nap Transition?
Though naps are essential to your baby’s physical and emotional growth, the ultimate goal of sleep coaching is to extend your baby’s night sleeps. Nap transitions help consolidate your baby’s sleep drive at night by lengthening their wake windows to grow their sleep drive.
For more information on wake windows, how they work and why they’re important for sleep coaching, check out the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™. It walks you through the sleep coaching journey step-by-step, explaining the biological processes that regulate your baby’s sleep.
What are the Signs My Baby Needs a Nap?
Your baby may be old enough for the 2 to 1 nap transition, but they’ll still show the same “I need a nap” signs as they did when they were wee babies.
Your Baby is Fussy: Fussiness or irritability during the day are tried-and-true signs your baby is ready for a nap.
Your Baby’s Eyes are Glassy: You’re probably familiar with this look: your baby’s staring into space, eyes glassy. If so, then you know a zoned-out baby is probably in need of some sleep.
Your Baby Rubs at Their Eyes: Eye-rubbing is another classic sign your baby is approaching the end of their wake window and will need to take a nap to recharge.
Do Naps Have Bedtime Routines?
Bedtime routines are essential to sleep coaching, but what about nap routines? Should you have a routine for naps? The answer is “yes,” but with one important caveat: your nap routine should be far shorter than your bedtime routine. This is for a few reasons:
- You have less time to get your baby down for a nap. As with nighttime sleep coaching, you want to put your baby down for naps when they’re sleepy but awake. A too-long routine may miss that opportunity.
- Babies produce less melatonin during the day, which means they can more easily breakthrough their “sleep drive.” In other words, it’s easier for them to miss the sleep they need and wind up cranky – the last thing you want after a nap.
- Lingering before a nap may actually motivate your baby to resist that nap. They’d rather hang out with you, which is flattering, but the nap is far more important.
Do Nap Transitions Lead to Early Wakeups?
Sometimes nap transitions will lead to early wake ups in your baby, yes. To prevent these, you can move your baby’s nap up, extending their wake window between naps and bedtime. You can also slightly move your baby’s bedtime back to achieve the same result.
What if My Baby Won’t Take a Nap?
Even with nap transitions, sometimes your baby will simply refuse to nap, even if they’ve just nap transitioned or aren’t ready to nap transition. If this happens, the best route is to stick to the nap schedule by placing your baby in their crib and leaving them for the entire duration of their planned nap.
Often a baby who “doesn’t want to nap” will in fact fall asleep. But even if your baby doesn’t sleep during that nap, that alone time will still help them calm and soothe themselves so they’re ready for the next part of their day.
What If My Baby Falls Asleep at the End of a Nap?
If your baby doesn’t fall asleep until the end of their nap time, let them keep sleeping until they naturally wake up. This may require keeping them up slightly later that night, but it’s better they get some daytime sleep instead of none.
What if My Baby Doesn’t Fall Asleep During a Nap?
Even if your baby is wide awake for all of “nap time,” leave them in their crib until nap time ends. Then, when you go in, greet your baby with a cheery ‘Hello!’ This will help reinforce in them the idea that post-nap is a new part of the day. You can catch them up on sleep when their sleepy cues appear next.
If your baby is struggling with naps, or any other sleep-related issue, you can easily get them back on track with the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™. It was developed by sleep experts to help any parent of any child quickly and effectively teach their baby to fall asleep longer and stay asleep longer – a skill that lasts them the rest of their lives.
“Many naps, one nap, none: A systematic review and meta-analysis of napping patterns in children 0-12 years,” Sleep Medicine Review.
“Mandatory Nap Times and Group Napping Patterns in Child Care: An Observational Study,” Behavioral Sleep Medicine.
“How might my baby’s sleeping habits change?,” Yale University.
How We Wrote This Article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.