It’s no secret that babies need their sleep, and rightly so! With so much development, alongside processing all the wonderful new sights, smells, and sounds they’ll be experiencing, sleep is vital.
As your baby grows from newborn status into toddlerhood, they’ll need varying levels of sleep to ensure their development is supported. One of the questions parents sometimes get stuck on is when do babies drop to one nap a day, and how can they support this transition?
When Do Babies Drop to One Nap?: The Quick Answer
Most babies drop from two naps to one between 12 and 18 months old. This is usually done by consolidating the morning nap into the afternoon nap.
Exactly when to drop to one nap will depend on your baby, and they’ll start to give you some cues that they’re ready for this to happen, which we’ll explore more in this article.
How Much Sleep Do Babies and Toddlers Need?
Some babies might need more sleep than others, depending on their individual needs. Premature babies, for example, may need more sleep in their first few months than full-term babies, and this is nothing to be worried about initially.
There are some general guidelines for how much sleep your baby or toddler should be having within a 24 hour period meaning daytime sleep and nighttime sleep. These are as follows:
Newborn to Four Months: Your baby needs between 14 to 17 hours of sleep a day, sleep should be on demand at this stage.
Four to Eight Months: Your baby should get between 12 and 16 hours of sleep a day. They may go from 4 to 3 naps throughout the day, and a slightly longer sleep at night. Now is a great time to establish a consistent sleeping and bedtime pattern with your baby.
Eight to Twelve Months: Your baby should get between 12 and 16 hours of sleep a day. At around this stage, you can expect your baby to drop from three naps to two naps. If your baby still needs 3 naps after this age and its working then follow their lead.
One to Two Years: Your toddler will need between 11 and 14 hours of sleep a day, on average. You can expect to start seeing some signs your baby is ready to drop to one nap a day at this stage.
3 Signs When Baby is Ready to Drop to One Nap a Day
It’s unlikely that transitioning your baby from two naps to one nap a day will be clear cut, and it helps to observe and pick up on any small signs that could indicate they’re ready.
Below are three subtle signs that could indicate when to drop to one nap a day:
Taking a long time to settle for their nap: If you notice your baby is taking longer than normal to settle down into their morning nap, this could be a sign they’re ready to drop to one nap.
Waking up earlier from their morning nap: If your baby wakes up a few times during their usual nap, or wakes up earlier and stays awake, this could be a sign they’re ready. You need to monitor their awake times.
Settling well for one nap, but struggling with the other: You may find your baby settles well for one of their regular naps, but struggles with a second nap. This is also a sign they could be ready to drop to one nap.
How to Navigate this Time Together
Deciding when to drop to one nap a day will be individual for you and your baby, but once you know you’re both ready there are some key steps you can work through to aid this transition successfully.
Here’s an outline of the steps I’d recommend:
Decide a time for their single nap, a time closer to the afternoon nap tends to work well, and begin to merge their morning nap and afternoon nap together.
Start slowly by moving their morning nap time closer to their afternoon nap in increments of half an hour until you can merge them into one-nap schedule. Night waking is very normal.
Once you’ve moved the morning nap into the afternoon nap, you can still give them ‘quiet time in the morning where they rest but don’t necessarily sleep as they process the transition.
Play with your child and keep them active until about half an hour before their new, single nap time.
Don’t force them to stay awake if they show signs of sleepiness. Get them down for a nap when signs they need one appear.
What to do if the Transition Doesn’t Work
When to tackle the two-to-one nap transition will be trickier than dropping from three naps to two, so go slow. It’s unlikely to happen smoothly and straight away, so be prepared for small setbacks and accept them as a part of the process.
Below are my essential tips for handling this transition if it doesn’t seem to be working:
Give it time: Don’t rush this delicate transition, and remember your baby will find transitions challenging, especially once they’re used to a particular routine. Take small steps that work for you and them.
Expect a little regression: Some days your baby may successfully navigate one nap a day, others you may find they need two. This is completely normal. Work with your baby, and if you need to take a step back and start again, don’t panic.
Understand how much sleep your baby needs: Stay within the recommended guidelines of how much sleep your baby needs within a 24hour period to help maximise their nap and sleep time overall. Be aware of their awake time or wake windows as they are also called.
Look out for things that could impact their sleep: If your baby is unwell, has gone through other changes or transitions, or experienced a challenging day, these things can all impact their sleep. Make sure you take these things into account and allow them extra sleep accordingly.
Get some help: It’s okay for this transition to take time but if you find you’re really struggling or keep taking two steps forward, one step back, get some professional help. Baby sleep coaches, like myself, are always on hand to help – no matter the sleep challenge.
Check out the below infographic summarising the above content!
Sleep Guidance FAQs
How do you know when your baby is ready for one nap?
The three key common signs I suggest show your baby is ready for one nap are that they’re waking earlier from one or both of their naps, they’re taking longer to settle at nap time, and struggling to settle at all for one or both of their naps.
Is 11 months of age too early for one nap?
Most babies drop from two naps to one nap between 12 and 18 months old, but if your baby is giving signs at eleven months that they’re ready, you can begin this transition. Go slow and keep an eye on their overall sleep to make sure it’s meeting their requirements. Eleven-month-olds do generally still require two naps a day to meet their needs.
What is a good schedule for a one-year-old?
Many one-year-olds will still be having two naps a day – a morning and afternoon daytime nap. If they’re ready to transition, I recommend merging their morning nap with their afternoon nap. So, for example, they may wake at 6.30am, have their first nap at 9.30am for one hour, and second nap at 2.30pm for one hour, with a earlier bedtime of 7.30pm.
What happens if you drop a nap too early?
If you drop a nap too early, it can cause your baby to become overtired and irritable. This can further lead to disruptive sleep patterns such as longer nighttime awakenings and difficulty falling asleep at bedtime. It can also lead to increased crankiness during the day, which is not ideal for anyone involved! Additionally, if your child is still young—before 18 months of age—dropping too early may cause them to miss out on certain developmental milestones.
Dropping your baby from two naps to one will take a little time and adjustment. This may take several months, so don’t worry if some days it goes smoothly and other days they struggle. Keep working with them, and you’ll both get there.
If you’re struggling with nap transitions, the one-nap schedule or any aspect of your baby’s sleep – I can help. As an experienced baby sleep consultant based in Sydney I’ve worked with hundreds of parents and their babies, and I can provide you with the advice and guidance that will see you through subsequent regressions too.
Book a completely free chat with me here today, and let’s help your baby on their way to better sleep.