Your little one might be happily napping twice a day- once in the morning and once in the afternoon. But then you find that one of those naps is either not happening at all or they’re finding it harder and harder to go to sleep. This may then affect bedtime settling and night wakings and often, everything spirals out of control!
Does that sound like you? Is your child aged between 11 and 18 months? If so, it’s likely your child is going through a nap transition! But don’t fear- this is the beginning of the time when the day gets evenly split into 2 and actually makes it a lot easier for the you, a nursery or childminder
In an ideal world, we want this 1 nap to fall after lunch but still not be a massive stretch in the morning but with nothing to tide them over with before bedtime. However, this transition can rear its head with the morning nap getting longer and then afternoon one falling away. If this is you, you’ll need to work on shifting this to be an afternoon nap with similar wakeful windows on either side… but we’ll get onto that soon.
Children don’t simply drop the need for sleep- their wakeful windows just increase but total daytime sleep actually only falls a tiny bit.
For morning nap refusers:
Try to bring the 2nd nap forward considerably as we don’t want to shock them with a super long wakeful window that they’ve never had to deal with before. This could lead to further problems associated with overtiredness such as night wakings and early wakeups. 11.30am can be a good place to start- and can do a split lunch so they don’t wake up hungry.
For morning nap strugglers:
Push the morning nap back a bit each day and do some manipulation is needed i.e wake them up. Waking a sleeping child is not something I’d normally recommend but, if the morning nap is being pushed back, we don’t want them to sleep so long that the afternoon nap doesn’t happen. Push it back and reduce it slightly until it merges into an earlier afternoon nap.
And for those of you who’s child’s morning nap is a 3 hour long snooze-fest, and the likelihood of a second nap is zero, but you then have an overtired, grumpy one at bedtime:
They could also maybe struggle with bedtime settling, night wakings and early risings. We want to get this sorted for them (and us!) don’t we? Basically, we want to push this larger chuck of sleep back gradually but with some momentum, e.g. 15-30 mins per day. The split lunch nap works well here as well.
Remember that you can always compensate with an early bedtime if your little one is struggling to make it through the late afternoon (I wouldn't recommend this much more than about 30 mins earlier than usual or about 6.30pm as this may start a cycle of early wakeups). Think of this transition as a pattern change, rather than a sudden drop in their daily sleep need.
The early 11.30am ‘lunchtime nap’ can be gradually moved back until it sits around the 12.30/1pm time as your child gets more used to it.
During this transition, no two days are the same and you have to stay on the ball so a sleep log may be a good idea to stay on track with it.
I can, of course, help with this transition so get in contact if you need help!