Transitioning from 2 to 1 nap transition is probably the most challenging nap transition your little one will go through. The 2 to 1 nap transition often happens before your little one is really ready, and can result in a very overtired child and frustrated parents when not transitioned properly. I give you all you need to know including SAMPLE SCHEDULES in this post!
Signs baby is ready to transition from 2 - 1 nap
The 2 - 1 nap transition generally happens around 14 - 16 months, but can sometimes be pushed until 18 months, and will often be accompanied by the following signs:
Increased night wakings
Early morning wake-ups (before 6 AM)
Shorter afternoon nap
Taking a long time to fall asleep for naps
Consistently refusing the first or second nap
Child's behavior is fine, and child is totally happy until bedtime (or within an hour of bedtime) when missing the second nap
Second nap gets pushed too late in the day
Daytime sleep requirements
When your child transitions to one nap, their daytime sleep requirements actually don't change, they just consolidate into one nap instead of two. Notice in the chart to the left, the total daytime sleep for 9 - 24 months old is 2 - 3 hours.
How to transition from 2 to 1 nap
Continue offering the 2nd nap for a minimum of 2 weeks before dropping it. Nap transition signs are very similar to the signs of a sleep regression (there's a big sleep regression around 12 months!), so we want to ensure we don't jump to a 1 nap schedule before baby is ready. Once your tiny toddler has consistently refused the 2nd nap for a minimum of 2 weeks, you can transition from 2 to 1 nap.
Once ready, I prefer to transition to 1 nap cold turkey. In my experience your child will adjust more quickly than if you were to slowly push the first nap later and later until at your desired time. You'll likely have a very tired child the first couple of days, and that's okay and normal. Get your little one outside in the fresh air and sunlight as much as possible before naptime. Keep them busy and occupied so being tired is the last thing on their minds until their new naptime. If needed, move bedtime earlier during the transition until they can make it to normal bedtime.
When the 1 nap transition happens before 18 months
This nap transition is a tricky one because often times your little one is ready to transition to one nap before their body can actually make it to bedtime without becoming overtired. I usually see this in tiny toddlers who transition to one nap before 18 months old.
It's also common for daycares to force a one nap transition at 12 months old, before you toddler is anywhere near ready. In rare cases, I see a one nap transition happen naturally for a 12 month old.
For example, my son started refusing his second nap when he was 11 months old. We hung onto that second nap for a solid 2 months, offering it daily, because it was waayyyy too early to drop the nap. Some days he took his second nap, other times he refused it or took a 30 minute nap. On days he refused or took a short second nap, we moved bedtime earlier. We increased his wake times, tried cutting his first nap shorter so he'd take the second nap, and tried all the tricks in the book. Finally at 13 months we transitioned him to one nap on a modified schedule, and it was smooth sailing from there.
If your child is under 14 months old, I would continue offering that second nap for at least 6 weeks (like we did) to account for the 12 month sleep regression, which can last 2 - 6 weeks. If you're still seeing the same signs, then go ahead and transition to 1 nap cold turkey.
Early 1 nap modified schedule
When your tiny toddler transitions to a nap BEFORE 18 months old, you need to use a modified nap schedule until they're ready to be on a full one nap schedule. Your toddler will not be ready for a full one nap schedule until closer to 18 months old.
In this schedule you're giving your tiny toddler 5 - 5.5 hours of wake time in the morning, a solid 3 hour nap (which they still need) and you're moving bedtime up until they can make it to a normal 7/7:30 PM bedtime without becoming overtired.
Full 1 nap schedule
For toddlers 18 months and up on 1 nap, the nap should occur 5.5 - 6 hours after morning wake up, and last for 2 - 3 hours, with bedtime 4 - 4.5 hours later. The link below gives you free sample schedules for 12-18 months and 18+ months.