How to Drop to One Nap
One of the best transitions I experienced with my little boy was when we decided to consolidate his two short daytime naps into one big one, right in the middle of the day.
I can’t deny it, I loved the time off in the middle of the day. I would put the kettle on and make tea and toast whilst catching up on my guilty pleasure, reality TV. It felt like heaven!
He went from sleeping an hour and a half in the morning, and a little less than that in the afternoon, to sleeping a solid three hours a day, right in the middle of the afternoon. Like clockwork!
This was great for a couple of reasons. First of all, it made planning our day so much easier easier, since I didn’t have to be close to home all the time, in order to ensure that he was getting back into his cot at the appropriate time. Suddenly, we had the whole morning to go out and do things.
Secondly, and I must be honest here, that two-to-three-hour break in the middle of the day was absolutely amazing. I could get a whole lot done in that time, or I could take a break, if that was what I needed. I sometimes took a little nap of my own, if I’m being honest. I was a better mum for it too as I wasn’t so frazzled and felt like I could really be ready for the afternoon ‘shift’ when he woke. I was ready to hear my name being called another 20,000 times before bedtime!
Now, I’m not one to recommend less sleep, typically, but there’s no getting around the fact that, as babies get older, they don’t need as much zzz’s as they do when they’re infants. But how are you supposed to know when that time has come, and how do you make the transition?
Well, first things first. How do you know that baby’s ready to drop a nap?
If you notice that baby’s doing great in the morning nap, but then crying or playing for an hour or so before finally falling to sleep, that’s a very strong indication.
“He does that for a few days in a row, but then on day three, he’ll absolutely have his afternoon nap,” I hear you saying, and that’s really common.
The rule I like to adhere to is this: If baby’s fighting the afternoon nap four or five times a week, it’s probably a good time to make the switch. Developmental milestones can cause some disruptions which might make you think that baby’s ready when they’re actually not, so make sure this is the pattern for a minimum of two weeks.
The reason I error on the side of caution here is because once you start with this process, it’s important not to back-step. If you drop the nap, but then baby manages to fight off the change, it’s going to cause some confusion, and that will just complicate the situation.
So, now that you’re sure the time is right, it’s time to implement the new system. So, what does that look like?
Well, we obviously can’t just change the schedule overnight. I’m sure every mother of a toddler can appreciate how smoothly that would go over.
My approach is to nudge the morning nap time a half hour later every three days, up until nap time hits around 12:30. You’ll want to take your time with this, because it’s a tough transition for your little one. Don’t worry if the process takes 4-6 weeks to get fully implemented. That’s a good amount of time to aim for.
As I’m sure you’re expecting, your toddler is going to get a little sleepy at their usual nap time, so avoid going for a car ride at all costs if you can, or taking them out in the pram around that time. A piece of fruit, (or fruit juice) can provide just enough of a sugar rush to get baby over the slump in this situation, so keep a stash of your child’s favourite in the fridge so they can be brought out at the speed of light.
You’re probably going to have to bridge the gap slightly in the afternoon, so a ride in the pram or a quick doze in the car seat is a good way to get a quick catnap in without putting baby down for a full nap. Temporarily moving bedtime up a little earlier might be necessary as well, until they get the hang of the new schedule.
Once baby does start accepting the one nap, you may notice a little inconsistency in the length. This is completely normal and to be expected while their bodies learn to consolidate the amount of daytime sleep that they require into one afternoon nap.
And just like that, before you even know what hit you, your little one will have cleared this early hurdle, and baby will be enjoying a daily dose of quality sleep.
Once your heart gets over the fact that your baby is growing up in the blink of an eye, you’ll be able to enjoy a little time off and a more flexible daily schedule.
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