TRANSITIONING TO ONE NAP

Fast asleep.

If you follow One Fit Mom’s Facebook page, you may already know that we decided to do a week-long trial of switching Oliver from two naps to one.

The ideal time to make the transition is between 12 and 18 months. The majority of children will be ready to do so between 14 and 15 months. Oliver is 14.5 months old.

We had noticed, over the course of the previous few weeks, that Oliver’s nighttime sleep had been decreasing from an average of 12-13 hours per night to about 11 hours. He hadn’t been waking appreciably earlier, but it had been taking him a really long time — sometimes an hour or more — to fall asleep. He was napping 1.5 hours in the morning and two-ish hours (plus or minus a half hour) in the afternoons.

Since the last time I wrote about Oliver’s sleep habits, he had been having longer naps, eating greater quantities of solids, and nursing less. Here is what a typical day looked like before we dropped the morning nap:

8:15 – wake
8:30 – nurse
10:00 – nap
11:30 – wake
11:45 – lunch
2:45 – snack
3:00 – nap
5:00 – wake
5:15 – snack/nurse (if hungry/cranky)
6:45 – supper
7:30 – bedtime routine
7:50 – nurse & brush teeth
8:10 – bed
9:00 – asleep

Oliver always seemed tired within a couple of hours of waking in the morning, but on the occasional mornings where he had slept in (to 9:00 AM or later), he was unable to fall asleep for his morning nap, even if we adjusted the nap time accordingly later. This led me to believe that the longer nights of sleep made his morning nap unnecessary. So, I wondered, would the reciprocal be true? Would eliminating the morning nap lead to longer nights of sleep?

Another reason we decided to make the switch is that at the end of this month, Oliver will be moving from his daycare’s infant program into the toddler program. While the infants operate on individualized nap and feeding schedules, the toddlers are on a group schedule that allows for only one nap, right after lunch. Oliver attends daycare two days per week, and in preparation for the transition, they have had him on one nap since mid-October. His naps at daycare have been mediocre at best, and I wondered if adjusting his schedule at home to more closely match the daycare’s would help him to sleep better at daycare.

The information that follows is a longish day-by-day account of Oliver’s transition to one nap, as the process might be of interest to some. If you don’t feel like reading all the details, just skip to the bottom for the happy ending :).

Here is how the week unfolded:

Day 1 — Chaos. Monday was a rough day. Oliver became extremely cranky at 10:00 (old nap time). I put him down for his nap at 12:10. Half hour later he was still fussing, so I went into his room to settle him and discovered he needed a diaper change. I changed him, put him back in his crib, and he fell asleep at 12:50. At 1:30, he awoke, crying. I used our old sleep training strategy and went in his room to help settle him (without removing him from the crib) every 15 minutes. By 2:40 it was obvious that he wasn’t going to sleep, so I took him out of bed we headed to family playtime at the YMCA. He went to bed at 7:50, exhausted, and it still took him nearly an hour to fall asleep.

Day 2 — Daycare. Oliver woke at his usual time of 8:15. He was put down for his nap at 12:30 and spent more than two hours in the crib. According to his daycare, he napped a total of 90 minutes during that time (he woke and fussed for about 30 minutes mid-nap). That night, we put him down at 8:00 and he was asleep by 8:10.

Day 3 — Compensating. Oliver slept in until 9:45! He must have been running quite a sleep deficit from the previous two days. I put him down for his nap at 11:50. He fell asleep within 10 minutes and woke at 1:40. Ideally I would have wanted him to sleep until closer to 2:30, but he had a solid hour and 40 minutes of uninterrupted sleep, so that was great progress. That evening, he was in bed just before 8:00 and asleep by 8:05.

Day 4 — Daycare success. On Thursday he awoke at 8:40. It was another daycare day, and this time he napped for two hours and 10 minutes. This is the longest he has ever napped at daycare. I had to go to a seminar in the evening, so J fed Oliver supper and put him to bed (with no nursing or bottle!) at 7:35. Oliver was asleep in less than a minute.

Day 5 — Perfection. On Friday he woke at 8:15. I put him down for his afternoon nap right at noon. He was asleep within 10 minutes and didn’t start stirring until 3:20. He probably would have continued sleeping if I’d let him, but three hours of napping was plenty, so I got him out of bed at that point. He was put to bed at 8:00, and was fully asleep by 8:20.

Day 6 — Regression. No sleep transition would be complete without a regression. On Saturday morning, Oliver woke up at his usual time of 8:15, but was super cranky all morning. I had a couple of appointments, so J fed him and put him down for his afternoon nap at 12:10. Oliver awoke an hour later needing a diaper change. After the diaper change, J was unable to get Oliver back to sleep, so nap time ended at 2:00, with a mere hour of sleep. We had previously planned to put Oliver to bed a half hour later in order to ease his adjustment into the time change, but he was so cranky in the evening, that we just had to go with his usual bedtime and hope for the best.

Day 7 — Misery. Amazingly, despite the time change, Oliver still woke up at 8:00 (we would have expected a 7:15 wake-up). He had a somewhat cranky morning. We served an early lunch (10:30), and managed to hold off his nap until 11:45, which of course would have felt like 12:45 to him. This allowed him to take care of his bowels before the nap. I’ve now built in a half hour break between the end of lunch and the start of nap time so that we don’t continue to have naps foiled by diaper changes. Oliver woke up fussing at 1:10. Waking up cranky is always a good indication that he needs more sleep. I stayed in “sleep training mode,” going into his room to settle him (but not pick him up) every 15-20 minutes, or whenever his crying got intense. A few times it appeared that he might go back to sleep, but he wasn’t able to seal the deal. At 2:00 I took him out of his crib, and we headed out to family playtime. It was a cranky, unbearable afternoon and evening, which culminated in an all-out meltdown before dinner (though based on the amount of stew he ate — more than I did! — he may have also been quite hungry). We put him to bed at 8:05 and he fell asleep within 10 minutes.

Day 8 — Consolidation. Oliver woke at 8:20 and had a brief cranky period around 10:00 (the last vestiges of the morning nap). After reviewing my sleep training information, I realized that we had actually scheduled Oliver’s afternoon nap too early. His morning “awake window” was too short (less than four hours), and the afternoon one too long (more than five hours), hence why we were having such difficult evenings. So I adjusted his schedule to allow for a 1:00 PM nap, which would give him just under five hours of awake time in both the morning and the afternoon. After lunch and a diaper change, Oliver went down for his nap with no fuss and fell asleep immediately. He awoke after two and a half hours (perfect!) and the rest of the day and evening went reasonably smoothly, save for a small meltdown in the checkout line at Safeway (to be fair, it was a very long queue and he was both bored and hungry by that point).

Oliver’s new schedule is:

8:15 – wake
8:30 – nurse
10:00 – snack
12:00 – lunch
1:00 – nap
3:30 – wake
3:45 – snack
6:45 – supper
7:30 – bedtime routine
7:50 – nurse & brush teeth
8:00 – bed
8:10 – asleep

On the whole, the transition went quite well. The regression at Day 6 was expected, as regression is a normal part of any sleep training process. I am particularly pleased that with the additional nighttime sleep and the long afternoon naps, there will be no loss in the total amount of sleep Oliver gets (it’s actually a bit of an increase!). I credit our earlier sleep training experience for Oliver’s ease in adjusting this new schedule, and for our persistence, despite two days of setbacks.

Eliminating the morning nap has also freed up our mornings for more play time and community activities. Both Oliver and I are enjoying getting out of the house earlier in the day. As soon as Oliver has had his morning snack, he follows me around with his shoes, saying, “Out. Buh-bye. Buh-bye,” until we leave :).

6 responses to “TRANSITIONING TO ONE NAP

  1. We just went through this with my son. We spent Thanksgiving at my mom’s house and she does home day care. He was pretty much on the exact same schedule as your son with two naps and now he is down to one nap at 1 pm until about 3 pm (and if we’re lucky, 4 pm). My son has always been a night owl so he goes to bed about 9 pm, sometimes 8:30 if he’s had a big day, and we don’t push him to go to bed earlier. He wakes in the morning anywhere from 7:30 am until 9 am. He goes to my mother-in-law’s house twice a week so he’s up at 7 am on those days.

    I used to read all the baby books but honestly, I gave up on them and when I decided to follow DS’s cues everything fell into place.

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