Why Not All 12 Month Olds Transition to One Nap

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Toddler NappingAs your baby approaches her first birthday, most parents are beginning to wonder when it’s time to transition to one nap. How will you know when it’s time? Don’t all 12 month olds take just one nap? Actually, they don’t. It surprised me when I was a new mom, too, but the average age for a toddler to transition to one nap is actually between 15 and 18 months. They take just one nap until between 3 and 4 years old, on average, before they stop napping all together. This article will review the reason not all 12 month olds transition to one nap.

Once a baby goes through her 8, 9, or 10 month old sleep regression, typically most babies will get into a pretty good groove. A 10 month old’s schedule typically involves being awake for 3 to 4 hours between sleep periods. 10 to 11 month olds get 11-12 hours of sleep at night and 2-3 hours total in naps, for an average total sleep of about 13 1/2 hours per day, on average. Naturally, some babies will get more and some less, of course.

Based on both my personal experience and in my consultations with countless parents, I know that 11 month olds also seem to go through a nap regression. It starts to appear that your 11 month old is trying to transition to one nap. They either start skipping one nap entirely or they start taking two 45-minute naps. You might think it’s time to transition to one nap. Many parents will transition their baby and many babies will do just fine. Similarly, babies in daycare typically are required to transition to one nap around 12 months old, ready or not. Again, most do just fine. However, I typically tell parents, who have a choice, not to rush this transition.

Just last week, a new client told me her baby started walking at 8 months! I was shocked as this is the youngest I’ve heard of a baby WALKING! My boys didn’t even CRAWL until 10 months! :D Although my eldest was a late crawler, he started walking just three weeks later around 11 months. He always wanted to be on his feet, since he was just a few weeks old, actually. He’s the son of a track star, what can I say? This kid very rarely sits still.

While there are babies who walk very early, the average age is between 10 and 14 months to take first steps. Keep in mind that those first few steps pale in comparison to how active they will become and this is why not all 12 month olds actually finish the transition to one nap. Once they start really walking, they get extremely tired, again. Think of what you might feel like after you’ve done cardio or run on the treadmill for an hour. Now do it three times in a day. You would be pooped! Lately, I’ve been sucked into doing Turbo Fire (seen the infomercials?) and I have been EXTRA tired almost every night, too (more on this later as I have more to tell you). Well, your baby cruising, walking, running, and climbing is expending a LOT of energy. I find some babies even start getting hungry at night, again, due to all the calories burned (that does not necessarily mean feed them, but do increase daytime intake).

I find that although an 11-month old may begin to transition to one nap, she seems to go backwards and get tired sooner, again, a few weeks later. So, you may want to hold on to those two naps for a bit longer before you push her too soon. I didn’t know better my first time around and had a mess a month after transitioning my 11 1/2 month old to one nap. My toddler was extremely overtired and CRANKY and I just couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong! The second time around, I hung on to two naps for about three weeks and my toddler happily kept napping twice a day until he was around 14 to 15 months old. Now I help clients in similar situations every day as they transition to one nap.

For help getting your toddler on a good nap schedule, transitioning to one nap, or helping him sleep through the night, check out The 5-Step System to Better Toddler Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-Book puts you back in control with a toolkit of strategies and sample schedules to put your toddler on the right sleep track. For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider the book option with consultation or one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan™ you can feel good about!

When did your toddler transition to one nap?

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Comments

  1. Liz O'Callaghan says

    I enjoyed the article above but I did not see anything specific to what signs to look for and how to know when your child is ready or starting to transition to one nap. I have a 14 month old who still takes 2 naps and doesn’t show any signs yet that she’s moving to 1 nap. She naps so-so at daycare, always has…but at home she takes one long nap (2-2.5 hours) in the AM and then an hour (give or take) nap in the afternoon. She goes to bed at 7:30 and sleeps til 7-7:30. Any input is appreciated!

  2. says

    This is really interesting to me! My almost-1-year-old seemed to transition herself to 1 nap a day a couple of weeks ago… she started majorly fighting her second nap and going through just fine without it, though she’d go down early for bed. So I’ve just gone with her. The last few days, however, it’s been clear she needs that second nap, she was so cranky and whiny. So it will be interesting to see if she continues the 2 naps now.

  3. Sara says

    Gosh Liz, if my baby slept like yours I would be ecstatic!!
    My 15 month old has been meandering between 1 and 2 naps a day for the last couple of months, ever since he has been walking. Sometimes one nap works OK, sometimes on one nap he is mega tired and cranky. Trying to work with two naps a day is also problematic, sometime he just wont go to sleep until lunchtime anyway, and other times he has a late morning nap which means his afternoon nap becomes a late afternoon nap and bedtime doesnt happen until 9pm!
    He sleeps 8pm – 6am if I am lucky (can be up as easly as 5am!) and if one nap then about 1.5 hours at lunch time and if two, between 45 mins and 1 hour each.

  4. Amber says

    My daughter is almost 1 and still taking 2 naps. One is usually 1hr or 1hr 15min… the other may be as short as 30min or as long as 1hr. There is NO consistency!! but she used to only take two 30min naps… so I’m much happier w/ this scenario. I have noticed though that some days she’ll fight one of the naps (either, there is no rhyme or reason to the one she fights), or only sleep for 30min both times. But she’s overtired and cranky the next day and usually sleeps well for both naps, so I don’t think she’s ready to transition to one nap. My question is the same as a previous poster, how will I KNOW when she is ready?? what are the signs?? I feel like it’s going to be especially hard since her naps are so inconsistent to begin with.

  5. Donna says

    Hi my 16 month old twins still nap twice a day at home and daycare. They can’t be up for more than 4hours at a.time without needing a nap. They go to bed At 7.30 pm and sleep til 6.00 am. No matter how or what we have tried they will sleep no later. I found it iinteresting that 12 month olds may have only 1 nap. They walked at 15 months and are Leays extremely active when awake even more so now. Not looking forward to 1 nap. Thanks donna

  6. Jane says

    This is very helpful! My 11 1/2 month old went through a bad sleep transition for about a month (10-11 months). Before this she was sleeping entirely through the night (11-12 hours) and taking a morning and afternoon nap (both 2 hours). She was like clock work. Then she learned how to pull herself to standing and every nap was doing that and then crying. We went round and round and I was doing everything I could just to get her to sleep. I wondered what happened to my baby and I was afraid of all the bad habits I was starting to get her to sleep! I began thinking that maybe she was trying to go to just one nap, but she was always cranky and then began waking at night when we did that. I tried following her schedule, but nothing really seemed to work. On days where she got two naps, she slept better at night. On days where she only had one nap, and it happened to end too early in the day, she did not sleep well at night. She has finally learned how to lay herself back down after standing and her naps are getting back on schedule. She’s doing two naps a day again (although not quite like clock work like before), and she is sleeping through the night again, too! I’m a believer that it was just too soon for her to go to one nap. I’m also learning first hand that the more rest she gets during the day, the more rest she gets at night.

  7. Liz says

    Sara – I think we partly just got really lucky but my sisters and mommy-friends also drilled into me the importance of sticking with a schedule, sleep training, etc. We basically have no life on the weekends b/c we are a slave to her sleep schedule but it makes for a much happier household when we are all getting the rest we need. I do look forward to when she’s older and we are able to actually do things again. We are expecting #2 though so that’s probably going to be awhile for us! :)
    Jane – no mystery there…sleep begets sleep. My daughter is the same way…if she’s overtired, or misses a nap….she will go down for bed fine but will generally be restless and will wake up throughout the night. Which is why we don’t miss too many naps. Glad to hear she’s past that sleep regression though!

  8. Sara says

    Hi Liz, schedules and sleep training don’t work for **all** babies, a friend of mine swore by this for her first two children but has had quite a different experience for her third – they are all different. I also look forward to doing things too as my son is a little unpredictable we can’t plan too much. Good luck with No2 :-D

  9. Liz says

    Sara – oh yea, totally agreed! Part of it is just luck of the draw….hoping # 2 has a similar temperament…but will feel a little more prepared if s/he doesn’t! The first time around we were CLUELESS! Ha ha ha…..

  10. Heather O says

    could you explain more about the 11 month nap regression!? my LO turns 11 mos tomorrow and she’s finally evening out with sleep so i’d like to be prepared on how to handle it and what causes it!

    i love your website and your services (you’ve helped me so much in the past). i recommend you almost daily to the women on my baby center birth board.

  11. says

    @Liz Oh sorry about that! I went over a lot of nap transition stuff awhile ago. :) A baby or toddler will either begin to resist one of their naps more than 4-5 times per week OR naps will get so late that bedtime becomes too late (usually means past 8 or 9 p.m.). Some families are fine with having say a 7-11-4-9 schedule while others that wouldn’t work so well for, so then that would mean you’d want to transition to one nap by moving the 11 a.m. nap to 12 and going with an early bedtime. It is very common for them to alternate one nap or two naps every few days, too, because having just one nap for ONE day is very different than EVERY day as they become chronically overtired. Still other children will begin to wake up too early or have long middle of the night wakings, too. There are many ways the transition can manifest itself. It sounds like your daughter is still very much entrenched in two naps, so I’d continue with that for awhile longer until she starts to show signs. Good luck and thanks for commenting!

    @Natalie That is exactly what happened to my eldest only I never went back to two naps and he was supremely cranky! Poor thing! I would not be surprised if she goes back to two naps for quite awhile, now. Good luck!

    @Sara One strategy you could try is offer one nap for 2-3 days, then 2 naps, then one nap and repeat. He will become tired with just one nap for a couple days in a row, but the two naps will stop him from unraveling into an abyss of over-tiredness. It definitely sounds like he’s working on transitioning. Sometimes it does take some adjustment period and if you stuck with one nap for 2 weeks in a row (or so), he may just adjust and stop waffling. Good luck!

    @Amber It sounds like your daughter still mostly needs two naps. You might try bumping the afternoon nap a bit later to encourage a longer nap. See above for knowing when to transition. It can be tricky, but most will do well after some adjustment period, especially as they approach 15-16 months. Good luck!

    @Donna Your twins definitely sound like they need a lot of sleep, so don’t rush the transition. I actually liked one nap sooo much better for getting out of the house! :) They will likely sleep 12 hours once they do transition, so that would be a plus (but still don’t rush it! haha!). Good luck!

    @Jane Yup! Better napping usually makes night sleep much better and more restful. I’m glad she’s getting back into her routine. Good luck!

  12. Carrie Dodd says

    My son transitioned on his own fairly easily at 9 months! We just needed a few weeks of earlier bedtimes but there were minimal meltdowns.

  13. says

    @Sara and @Liz I agree that a lot is luck of the draw with a baby’s temperament. Although we worked SO hard with our son’s sleep, it was rarely perfect no matter how “perfect” we tried to be. I’m glad that part is over. :) His brother is/was soooo different! But, I am glad that you have found what works for you and that is awesome!

    @HeatherO Well, I am still working on finding more information about the 11 month old nap regression in that I have only gathered knowledge from my own kids and clients’ babies. I *know* that many 11 month olds do have a “blip” in naps at this age. I suspect it must be related to a developmental leap with learning to talk and walk. Molars could be mixed in, though I have found it is definitely more prone to disrupt naps more than night sleep, which I find very different than the 4-month or 8/9/10 month old sleep regressions. There is an influx of more night-wakings related to learning to walk and any development, of course. With my sons I always notice them “going backwards” before a big leap in maturity, too. My 5 year old all of a sudden wants to get picked up again right now! I’m thinking he must be going through a period of maturity (which he seems to do every summer). I will make sure I write another article specifically about the nap regression at this age. Wonder Weeks does talk about another developmental leap around this age, but it doesn’t address why it seems to affect naps more than anything. I can imagine that as they approach toddlerhood, though, they begin to realize (if they haven’t already) that playing is a lot more fun than sleeping. :) Thank you so much for referring the site to others! I really appreciate it!

  14. says

    @Carrie WOW!! That’s so great it was with minimal meltdowns! Goes to show that all babies are indeed different. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Carrie says

    This article seemed to be right on with what my son is going through. He is now 13 months and taking 2 naps, about 1.5 hrs each. He was always a short napper 45 min and some long naps. Around 11 months, I decided to go to one nap, he seemed to do just fine. But as the article states, he definietly was crankier in the evenings. So I went back to 2 naps and I’m trying to be very consistent. He sleeps 11hrs in the evening and is doing very well. Thanks for your article. Carrie

  16. says

    My oldest (who is not a month shy of 4yo) was forced to transition to one nap at 12 months because she was in daycare. On the weekends, she would occasionally take two naps though. I now have an 18 month old who is just starting to transition from two naps to one. Sometimes, I can see she just needs her morning nap. My girls are no longer in daycare, so we are going with what seems required by them…

    People tell me my almost 4yo shouldn’t be napping, but by 1PM, her eyes are puffy and red and she starts acting up. I know she still needs the nap -no matter how much she fights it.

  17. Wendy says

    Hi Nicole,

    My almost 14 month old has just started walking and is needing to go down for her morning nap earlier and fighting her 2nd nap. I don’t think she is ready to transition to 1 nap since I can’t push her 1st nap until any later than 9:30am and even that is a push. She spent months taking her 1st nap around 10:30am, but has recently been waking up earlier and now needing an earlier nap. This one is 45 minutes if we are lucky and then the 2nd is about the same. I don’t know what to do. I have tried an earlier 2nd nap, a later one and they end up being at the same time. Her 2nd nap is anywhere between 2-3pm now and if I put her down any earlier, she ends up needing a 6pm bedtime instead of 6:45/7pm.

    How do I know she is ready to transition to 1? She sleeps about 12 hours at night, but I feel like she isn’t getting enough daytime sleep. And she is waking up from her 2nd nap cranky and yawning.

  18. gena says

    Thank you nicole for this great article and to all you ladies who have commented. Its nice to be able to read everyones comments and know I’m not the only one with questions! My daughter will be 12 months tomorrow and she has always been a terrible sleeper, she usually goes to sleep sometime between 7 30 and 8 and getsup around the same time in the morning. Now the terrible part is she wakes up every two hours or so, during the day she has two naps that are an hour each at most. For the past month she has started fighting her morning nap so I tried transitioning her to one, bad choice. Instead of napping two hours like I hoped she would;she napped 30 mins. So now when she fights her nap and only has one, if she wakes up fairly soon and I can get her quick enough I can get her back to sleep and then she sleeps another hour usually! We have been doing this the past few days and having good naps and…good sleep! She has woken up at 12 30 and 6am and that’s it! I am really hoping I have found what was going wrong and hopefully she will sleep through the night soon!

  19. Maree says

    My Daughter is now 20months and since reaching 18months has refused to go to bed during the day, she just screams for as long as you leave her in her cot. But put her in the car or buggy and she is out like a light. Now she is very overtired and has started waking early every morning. She sleeps through 7pm to 5am and has 1.5hrs in the car during the day. Suggestions anyone?

  20. Lauren R. says

    I have a 13 month old whose nap schedule is so off! I am so cranky and so is the rest of my house. I am a stay at home mom, so I have no excuse that my schedule is conflicting with his naps. I a try everyday to put him down at the same time (10:30 and 2:30) and he goes to bed at 8pm and sleeps until 6am. However, most days of the week he will not take both naps. Its either one or the other. If he does fall asleep both times, they are 45min to 1hr naps. I need help! He is cranky most evenings and always fussy in the mornings. I thought he would do better is I moved up his bedtime, but he will fuss and roll around in his crib and get up earlier. Any advice mama’s?

  21. Wendy says

    What perfect timing! My son is almost 1 and I was beginning to wonder if I was doing the wrong thing putting him down for two naps. He gets tired anywhere between 2 1/2 and 4 hours and I tend to go with his signs rather than watching the clock but part of me wondered if I was forcing him to nap when what he really needed was a change of scenery or something. Good to know that it’s normal for 12 month olds to continue to have two naps and also good to read all the different experiences, all babes are different.

  22. Wendy says

    Lauren R. – my son is a month younger but I would put him to bed earlier (my son goes to bed at 7). Also, I know that set schedules work really well for some families but they never did for us, you might find that by going by the clock rather than his cues you’re putting him down too early for some naps (so he complains) or you’re missing the window and by the time you put him down he’s over tired (so he can’t get himself to sleep). I try to look for my son’s sleep cues (whinging, rubbing eyes, yawning) and then use the clock as back up – if it’s been three hours then I’m pretty sure he’s tired if it’s only been an hour then there’s probably something else going on – or he might genuinely need to nap because he’s going through a growth spurt or something.

    That’s just my experience but I hope it helps you.

  23. Mandy says

    @Tina – I have a 6 y.o she was in full time daycare before school and she had to have a daytime sleep(around 2-3 hrs easy at home and 1 hr at daycare) until she was 3/4 of the way through her 4th year. (mond you she still went down at 7pm at night and slept till 7am just fie). towards the end of the year she started to not sleep in the day in readiness for school the next year. She was still looking tired and if I pushed I reckon she would have slept. I was very worried how she would cope at school. But when she started school she was fine and everyday they did have a rest/quiet time and if they woke up extremely tired the next day we were told to just keep them home that day.

  24. Lauren R. says

    @ Wendy- Thanks for the feedback. Now is the time I usually put him down for his 2nd nap (2:30) and he is showing no signs of sleepiness. I am watching his cues more than the clock. I am going to aim to get him to sleep 15 min earlier each night for the next 4 nights, until I can get him to 7pm. Hopefully that will work :)

  25. says

    @Tina Some kids nap even after starting Kindergarten! You’re her mommy and know her best. :)

    @Wendy Have you tried a later nap? Many times a nap gets as late at 3 or 3:30 p.m. before they transition. It sounds like she still needs two if she can’t even get past 9:30 for the her morning nap. She likely needs more time awake before her afternoon nap and a later bedtime. Good luck! :)

    @Gena Waking every two hours at night is most likely a sleep association problem and not being able to go back to sleep without help. I would work on her going to sleep and BACK to sleep on her own, first and foremost. That is the first step in the sleep coaching journey, usually. Schedules go out the window during coaching and learning, so start there first and see how the dust settles. Quite often things look a lot different once a baby or toddler is sleeping more restfully at night. They can often stay up longer during the day, because they are not so exhausted from poor night sleep.

    @Maree What time do you try her nap? Make sure it’s not too late. Her waking at 5:30 a.m. is symptomatic of her being over-tired and over-tired children will fight sleep most. If she wakes at 5:30 a.m. try an 11 a.m. nap time and 6 p.m. bedtime and then slowly move everything forward. It works wonders! Good luck!

    @Lauren It sounds like, in your case, your son is possibly trying to transition to one nap, but 2:30 p.m. may just be too early for the second nap. Try bumping it to 3 or 3:30 p.m. before trying to transition to one nap. Once you do try one nap, try offering just one nap at 11 a.m. for several days in a row, then offer two naps, and back to one nap, and so on. Also, keep bedtime early during the transition. Don’t do an 8 p.m. bedtime unless he has taken an afternoon nap. Good luck!

    @Wendy Yes, completely normal. It sounds like you are on top of things! Thanks for commenting.

  26. Margaret says

    This is a really helpful discussion, but I still find myself stumped about my 12-month-old daughter’s sleep needs. At 10 1/2 months, after being a great napper, she suddenly started fighting one or both naps. I stayed consistent with routine and time (while still watching her cues), extended her wake time, and basically she has kept fighting. If I let her, she will take a morning nap. I have tried waking her up after an hour, hoping that will force her to take an afternoon nap, but not once in 2 months of trying has that strategy worked. I have basically had to concede that she is dropping a nap, in spite of everything I’ve read and heard. It seems she does better to take a longer one in the middle of the day, rather than just a short morning nap (because I kept it short) and have to stay up until bedtime. When I do try to put her down for an afternoon nap, like yesterday, she usually just talks to herself — she doesn’t cry. I want to give my child the sleep she needs, but she doesn’t seem to take the offer.

  27. Maree says

    I hear where you are coming from Margaret, you could be describing my daughter at that age. And within a few months she was fighting any day nap. Even the suggestion of a nap and she shakes her head and runs the other way. I will try Nicole’s suggestion of an 11am nap (in the car because she wont go near her bed during the day) and 6pm bedtime for the next week but if that doesn’t work then i am sick of fighting her during the day and we will see how she goes with no naps.

  28. Lisa says

    My son is almost 14 months & I’ve been wondering if he’s transitioning to 1 nap. Not sure if I’m ready!! He’s been waking a little at night and waking earlier in the AM (6, sometimes a little earlier!). He takes his first nap at 930 for 2-2.5 hrs & second nap around 3ish for 45min to 1.5 hr. Bedtime is 8pm. His nighttime sleep has shortened in the last few months which is why we pushed his bedtime back.
    All this to ask … Nicole, you mentioned that you had talked about nap transitions earlier … Can you include the links to those articles? It would be super helpful! Thanks!

  29. Deb says

    It’s good to know my 15mth old boy isn’t out of the norm! I’ve got lots of friends whose kids are the same age. And they’ve been on one nap since 12mths. But my boy has just always seemed to need 2 naps. I keep wondering if I should push him to drop one but this article just encourages me to follow my instincts and let him guide us. In saying all that though I do have some questions. Lately he’s often calling out in the night a few times but almost always self-settles back to sleep without us having to go into his room. He’s a 7-7 kid and has been for ages. Also, lately his early morning sleep (eg. 5am onwards) has been a bit disrupted. He can definitely survive on one nap a day, but some days he just seems too tired, sometimes still indicating he needs his first nap at 9.30am! I guess the question is, do I wait until it’s really clear he doesn’t need 2 naps (eg. he resists more), or start experimenting with one? If he does have one nap, he’s very tired by dinnertime…

  30. Maree says

    An update!! I followed Nicoles suggestion of an earlier nap time and bedtime and it has been a disaster – daytime nap time has reduced by half and my little darling is waking even earlier in the morning – 4.30am consistantly now. So much for expert help!!!

  31. kim says

    My baby girl is 16 months and we had alot ups and downs with her sleep routine but after reading the 5 steps she eventually started taking naps .Her bedtime is 6pm and sleeps till 6 am and naps at 9 am and at 1 pm.But sometimes she sleeps from 10 30 am till 12pm and then there is no afternoon nap. But I am grateful for whatever sleep she gets

  32. Debbye says

    @ Lisa-
    Sounds like her might be ready! You can try it out for a few days, and go back to two naps for a few days for a “test run.”
    Thank you for your interest, and here are a few links to articles yo may find useful:
    http://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-sleep…/4-times-wake-your-baby-sleep/
    http://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-sleep…/naps-night-sleep-whats-more-important/
    http://www.babysleepsite.com/schedules/toddler-schedule/
    Best wishes!

    @ Deb-
    There is really no rush, and we generally recommend to keep as many naps as you can! You are right in following your instinclts, and should continue to do so. And you really do want to keep him well rested instead of dog tired by dinner. That being said, yes, I’d wait till the signs are much clearer. Morning wakings get earlier and earlier (or bedtimes later) and just plain skipping many naps is the perfect cue. The brief wakings in the night are actually quite common, MIGHT be a sign of him being over tired, and will likely fade on their own soon.
    Good luck!

    @ Maree-
    Did you speak with Nicole directly after this blog post or are you basing this on this article/comment? All situations are unique and there are a variety of factors involved. Article comments are quick tips, but it doesn’t mean it will be THE answer without all your family’s details to consider. Also, is your baby still napping in the car? You likely need to help her fall asleep independently, first, so her nap is not in the car (naps in motion are not as restorative). And, have you tried two naps, so she’s not too overtired at bedtime? It sounds like you need to address more than just a schedule problem and schedule problems can take 1-2 weeks to fix, too. Nicole’s advice in article comments, as well as mine, is meant to give people little things to try, but by no means is this a comprehensive look at your whole situation. Clients send pages of history in a private consultation and I would recommend that you consider doing the same, if you’re still having a lot of sleep troubles. Good luck!

    @ Kim-
    Thanks for sharing, and I love your “appreciative” attitude! Sometimes we cannot have perfect sleepers (I’m included), but it is certainly good to be grateful for what we do have!
    Best wishes!

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