I've attributed a lot of sleep problems to our recent move, but something has dawned on me: By now, Baby Y is fine with his new surroundings. But at almost 12 months old, he’s edging closer to transitioning from two naps to one, and that is almost certainly what's throwing us for a loop.
It hardly seems possible that we’re already at this point, because I remember when he dropped from three naps to two, almost six months ago, so clearly. Baby Y was just snapping out of his 45-minute short-nap phase, but he hadn’t kicked the habit completely. Some days, he would manage two longer naps and we were golden; other days, one or both naps were short and I would have to load him into the car for a late-afternoon catnap (he would fight it in the crib) just so he could make it until bedtime without becoming a massive crankypants.
From about 7 months until recently, Baby Y was faithfully taking two 90-minute naps – one around 9 or 10 in the morning, and the next around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. Lately, though, he has started fighting the afternoon nap. He still falls asleep eventually, but he wakes up late and I have to move bedtime later to make sure he’s tired enough to go to sleep. A couple of times he has only managed a 30-minute afternoon catnap, which left him an overtired mess come bedtime. And just a few days ago, he refused his morning nap and ended up taking one epic, three-hour nap from 1:30-4:30.
Suffice it to say that the inconsistency has made our days more interesting – and to be honest, frustrating! Eager for a fix, I’ve been reading up on when and how babies drop from two naps to one. Here’s a summary of what I’ve found:
- While some babies do transition to one nap as young as 11-12 months, it is more common for them to drop a nap between 15-18 months according to the Baby Sleep Site, and even as old as 24 months, according to Elizabeth Pantley, author of "The No-Cry Sleep Solution"
- While some babies seem OK transitioning early, they often regress to needing two naps again as they learn to walk and burn more energy
- 11-month-olds (hello, Baby Y!) often seem to go through a nap regression that makes parents think they should transition to one nap
At just under a year, it is pretty early for Baby Y to transition to one nap. Papa Y is pushing for this, and I’ll admit that it’s tempting – one long nap makes it easier to run errands and participate in activities aimed at older babies and younger toddlers (almost all of which occur around Baby Y’s morning naptime). And some babies do make the early transition OK. But I don’t want to force this before the kiddo is ready.
Beyond Baby Y’s young age, here’s a helpful list from Pantley that I used to determine that we should probably still stick to two naps for a while longer:
Your child needs two daily naps if . . .
- he is under one year of age. (Note: A small percentage of younger babies are ready to drop to one nap. If all other signs point to one nap, you can make the switch early)
- he sometimes talks, plays, resists, or fusses when you put him down for a nap, but he always ends up falling asleep and sleeping for an hour or more.
- he almost always falls asleep in the car.
- missing a nap makes him cranky and fussy.
- he gets whiny, fussy, easily frustrated, or has tantrums three to four hours after waking up.
- he often misses naps because you’re on-the-go, but when you are home he takes two good naps.
So – for us, that would be yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and no (but only because I make sure he doesn’t miss naps because of errands). I also double-checked the next list to be sure:
Your child is ready to switch from two naps to one if . . .
- when you put him down for a nap, he plays or fusses for at least 30 minutes before falling asleep. Then, he takes only a short nap.
- he can go for car rides early in the day without falling asleep.
- he can miss a nap and remain cheerful and energetic until his next nap, or bedtime.
- he naps well for one of his naps, but totally resists the other nap.
My answers: Only a couple times; nope; nope; and somewhat (definitely not "totally").
Given that we’ll try to stay with two naps, I’m adopting a fairly simple strategy from Marc Weissbluth, author of “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child,” to make our days less painful: I'm starting to limit the morning nap to one hour. The logic? An hour is enough to get Baby Y through the early afternoon, but supposedly not so much sleep that he will fight his second nap tooth and nail. I’ve only done it a couple times so far – and believe me, it pains me each time to rouse my sleeping baby – but it has worked. The afternoon nap is once again a predictable 90-minute affair, and because he’s not resisting, it’s early enough to allow for a normal, easy bedtime around 7:30.
Once this strategy stops working, as I'm sure it will sooner or later, I'll revisit the issue. When the time comes to go to one nap, I think we'll use a gradual approach, moving the morning nap later and later in small increments each day until the afternoon nap disappears, and moving bedtime earlier to compensate as necessary.
How have you dealt with rocky nap transitions? How old was your child when he or she dropped to one nap?