Shifting Schedules: Switching from Two Naps to One (page 2)

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Updated on May 14, 2012

Making the Switch

Instead of thinking of your baby’s transition as dropping a nap, it’s better to frame the switch in terms of a schedule change. This change is rarely a one-day occurrence—most often, there’s a transition period of several months when your kid clearly needs two naps on some hectic days, but is just fine with one nap on others. Use these tips to navigate successfully through this tricky time period:

  • Watch for your toddler’s sleepy signs—such as spacing out or rubbing his eyes—and  put him down for as soon as you notice he’s tired.
  • Keep a “two nap” timeline, but don’t require that your child sleep at both times—instead, allow him to quietly rest during one of the scheduled shut-eye moments.
  • Choose a single sleepy-time that‘s later than the usual morning nap, but not as late as the afternoon nap. Keep your child active (and outside if possible) until about 30 minutes before the midday time you’ve chosen.
  • On days when your child naps early in the day, move his bedtime earlier by 30 minutes to an hour, in order to minimize the length of time between nap and bedtime.

Toddlers get a bad rap for their “Terrible Twos,” but this fussy period is very likely caused by inappropriate napping schedules. There are a lot of toddlers who switch from two naps a day to one nap, or—heaven forbid!—drop naps altogether, well before they’re biologically ready, negatively impacting their mood and subsequent behavior.

If your child is suffering through the “Trying Threes” or “Fearsome Fours,” his misbehaving, an inappropriate nap schedule may be the culprit. Use the tips above to identify if a lack of sleep is to blame, and modify your little one’s schedule accordingly. Even a slight change of your child’s napping routine can make a dramatic difference in his day—and yours.

Parenting educator Elizabeth Pantley is the president of Better Beginnings, Inc., a family resource and education company. She is also the author of twelve parenting books, including the popular "No-Cry" series.

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