How To Help Toddlers Transition From Two Naps To One

As your little one grows, his sleep patterns will undergo a change. Learn how to help your child as he transitions from two naps to one.

By Dr Suruchi Goyal Agarwal

How To Help Toddlers Transition From Two Naps To One

Timely nap is vital for small children, as it ensures rest and aids development and growth. As a mother, you may have worked hard to create a perfect timetable for your baby and ensured she was getting adequate sleep. However, this routine is subject to change every few months. As the baby grows older, her requirement for napping reduces. At times, this can be challenging for you, as you have to keep altering your schedule and that of the baby, according to the changing body clock of the little one.

The first few years of a child’s life, from birth till toddler-hood, are full of changes. These changes may result in altered sleep patterns for your child. Therefore, it is important to make proper schedules and necessary arrangements to ensure your child sleeps for the required number of hours. 

How to know if a nap transition is needed

Sometimes, it can be difficult to understand that your child’s nap transition is approaching. Below are a few signs that you can look out for: 

  • Your baby starts refusing to take naps: You may notice that your child becomes extremely active in the afternoons and refuses to nap, especially when he was perfectly okay with it the previous day. 
  • Nap schedules get distorted: Instead of sleeping according to the schedule that parents have made for them, some children do exactly the opposite.  
  • Nap times are shorter: If your baby starts sleeping for shorter intervals of time than he was used to, it could be a sign that a nap in the day needs to be dropped. 

Sleep schedule for your child according to various age groups

Below 9 months: It depends on the eating and feeding schedules of the baby.

915 months: Children in this age group require at least 14 hours of sleep. Although a lot of parents believe that these naps can be reduced to one from two, the average age to do that is usually 15–18 months.

18 months4 years: Children in this age group need to sleep for 13 hours. For any sleep transition, parents should give at least two weeks for the child to adjust to the new food and sleep timings. 

Understanding sleep schedule of toddlers 

At this age, children should ideally go to bed early at night and wake up at around 7:30 a.m. for a good breakfast. They can take a nap for about an hour around 11:00 a.m.–12:00 noon, just before lunch. After this, they should be awake throughout the day.

A lot of parents let their children take a nap between 2:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Instead of this, parents can engage their children in different outdoor activities. You should avoid indoor activities at this time, as children may get bored or cranky, and would eventually fall asleep. It’s important to keep them active during this period. If the sun is too hot, you can opt for indoor play areas that will offer scope for physical exercise.

Initially, the children may fall asleep between 5:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. You can always look at changing this nap time slowly and steadily. These transitions usually take about two weeks to happen. For children who sleep right after lunch, parents should try to wake them early or let them take half an hour naps in the afternoon. Slowly you can change this habit and engage them in fun activities.

By the time the child turns three or four years of age, parents should make it a point to cut down on afternoon naps.

A few tips to help you understand how to transition children from two naps to one:

  • Engage them in outdoor activities. If it is hot, you can opt for indoor play areas.
  • Indoor activities, which keep children engaged, like hand painting sessions or messy activities, can be encouraged.
  • ‘Early to bed and early to rise’, should be your motto. Toddlers need about 12–13 hours of sleep through the day. If they sleep from 7:30 p.m. to 7: 30 a.m., they will be ready for a nap by 11:00 a.m. and will not sleep around 2:00 p.m.
  • If toddlers sleep at 10:00 p.m., they will wake up at 10:00 a.m. and then they will feel sleepy by 2:00 p.m. Hence try to avoid this.
  • Opt for an early afternoon nap from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, just before lunch.
  • Remember, transitions take about two weeks and they should be done slowly.

If the transition is done slowly, the child won’t be cranky or suffer from any health problems. Also, the meals are not affected, as parents can fix the mealtimes during these transitions. There is no adverse effect on the child, as she gets into an excellent routine. Parents should not panic if the child is not following the routine initially. She will slowly get used to it.

The author is a Consultant - Pediatrics and Pediatric Endocrinology, Columbia Asia Hospital, Bengaluru.  

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