Here’s what you need to know about nap transitions

Seeking a night of Zzz’s? We asked Mahaley Patel, Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant for her tips on how to get through the night.

I get a lot of questions about the 3-2 and 2-1 nap transition. Some babies and toddlers make the transition to fewer naps easily, and others do not. Transitions can be really hard, so if you are struggling, just know that it is normal! Each day may be different for a while during transitions, which can be hard on some families. Know that it will pass, and you will soon fall into a new and more predictable schedule. Here are some tips for each nap transition.  

3-2 transition

This usually happens at eight months. Babies either refuse the third catnap of the day or start extending/pushing back their first two naps and the third nap gets kicked out. If this starts happening, I usually recommend waiting 10-14 days to make sure they are truly making the transition. There may be days where they take the third nap and days where they do not. Sometimes it can take a few weeks to kick that third nap out fully. Don’t rush it.

If your child’s second nap ends before 2:30 pm, I would suggest offering a third nap. If they do not take it, compensate with an early bedtime (as early as 5:30 pm). If they do take it, cut off their third nap by 5pm to preserve bedtime. If your child’s second nap goes past 2:30 pm, I would offer a bedtime roughly 2.5-3 hours after their second nap ends. 

2-1 transition

The average age for the 2-1 nap transition is between 12-18 months, with the average being 15 months. If your child is 12 months and skipping his/her second nap, please keep in mind there is a “nap fake out” around this age, and it often passes. I do not recommend making the switch until your child has had at least 14 days of nap refusals. So what does the transition look like? Your child is likely napping around 9 am and 1 pm. They will either start to refuse the morning nap altogether, pulling the second nap earlier in the day. Or, they will extend the first nap and naturally kick the second nap out.

As with all transitions, there may be days with one nap and days with two. Be patient and know that it is only a few weeks until the transition is usually complete. The ideal nap time for a child on one nap is 12:30/1 pm. You may not get there immediately, and that’s ok! Try pushing the nap closer to this time each day, even if you can only move it by 10 or 15 minutes each day. 

1-0 transition

Toddlers drop their nap anywhere between the ages of 3-5. On the days your child does not nap, I recommend early bedtimes (5:30/6 pm). I encourage you to not give up that “nap time” even when your child shows signs that they are dropping their last nap. Turn that nap time into quiet time, where they can play or rest quietly in their room. If they sleep, great! If they don’t, that’s okay too. Just because they are not napping does not mean they do not need to rest (or that you don’t need a break) and turning their nap time into quiet time is beneficial for them.

Toddler clocks are a great tool to use for nap time/quiet time and can help them understand that they should stay in their room for the entire duration of quiet time. I recommend at least an hour of rest time each day. 

About the author

I’m Mahaley Patel. I am originally from Atlanta, Georgia, and I currently reside in Los Angeles, California. I became certified as a Pediatric Sleep Consultant through the Family Sleep Institute. I am currently a Marriage & Family Therapist, Trainee, specializing in working with new moms. My best role is as a mother to my three-year-old daughter, Amelie, my thirteen-year-old Boxer, Coco, and as a wife to my husband, Ravi Patel. You can learn more about me and my services on my site, Mahaley Patel. 

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