Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
Moving From 2 Naps to 1 Nap
June 24, 2024

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Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

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Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

5th Edition: 
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A Healthy Child Needs a Healthy Brain, A Healthy Brain Needs Healthy Sleep

Blog Posts 15, based on the United States of America Department of the Army Field Manual: Holistic Healing and Fitness, describe what really matters for your child’s sleep. If sleep is an important enough topic for national defense than surely sleep should be considered a serious topic for parenting!

Blog 195Moving From 2 Naps to 1 Nap

“It’s shockingly counterintuitive that he goes to bed so early and sleeps so late, but it works.”

Moving from two naps to one nap was one of the more difficult sleep regressions we went through with our son, starting around 13 months old. He also started walking around this time. We’ve always put our son to bed early (6 or 6:30 p.m.) upon the advice of Dr Weissbluth, and he’s generally woken up around 6:30 a.m. on most days (since about the age of 6 months).

Moving to one nap was particularly a challenge for us, as our son has always been a short napper. When he took 2, 3 or even 4 naps a day, 30 minutes sufficed for him, particularly with the early bedtime of 6/6:30). When he moved to one nap, however, 30 minutes was certainly not enough. I was thinking he was a genetically short napper, so came to seek Dr Weissbluth’s advice on his blog. After a short exchange, Dr Weissbluth recommended cutting down to 1 nap around midday, and pushing the bedtime up to 5:30 p.m. to lengthen the daytime nap. I was skeptical, and knew it would be tough to do (he’s in childcare until 5 p.m.). His advice was that when our son’s nap lengthened to more than 60 minutes reliably, we could push the bedtime back to 6/6:30, but never really later than 6:30 p.m. given the one nap = less sleep.

Admittedly, the first few weeks were hard. It’s tough to get your child back at 5 p.m. and have him in bed by 5:30, but my husband and I worked diligently to make it happen. My son mostly requires mom to go to bed (unless I’m not home), but often both mom and dad put him to bed together.

Over the first two weeks, we didn’t really see any improvement in his naps. It was hard to keep sticking to 5:30 p.m., but we kept at it, particularly after returning to Dr Weissbluth’s blog and him telling us to stay the course. Then, one weekend, my son slept for over an hour both days. My husband and I started to feel hopeful. We kept going with the 5:30 p.m. bedtime. During the week, he was still only napping for about 30 minutes, but the next weekend, he did 120 minutes! We were ecstatic. But weekdays continued to be a problem.

I’m very fortunate that I work from home and we have a nanny, so I started paying closer attention to what she was doing with his naps. I first discovered we had been feeding him ahead of his nap, and she had not. I instructed her to feed him ahead of his nap. I then learned by watching her put him down, that she was rocking him fully to sleep – not putting him in the crib awake and allowing himself to fall asleep. He would wake up hysterical after 30 minutes. One day, I was fortunate to not be in a meeting when this happened, and I went down to soothe him during one of these outbursts, and he screamed for the nanny and shoo’d me away – big AHA moment! He wanted her comfort/rocking to sleep – he’d been spoiled! After a few more days of early bedtime and having her put him down awake, and instructing her to let him cry a little bit, he started sleeping 60/90 and sometimes even 120 minutes with her.

It took about 2 months (until 15 months of age), but he’s finally reliably sleeping at least 60 minutes for every nap, sometimes up to 120 minutes. It was a very difficult journey to keep sticking with the 5:30 bedtime – it’s hard with two working parents to orchestrate a bedtime that early, but we managed to do it. We’ve now moved his bedtime back to 5:45 or 6, but generally never later than 6. He’s started sleeping very reliably until 7 a.m, sometimes 7:30. It’s shockingly counterintuitive that he goes to bed so early and sleeps so late, but it works. We’ve also had a few instances where we’ve had to push back his bedtime to 7 p.m. when we travel (due to a travel schedule, arriving somewhere late) and it results in an earlier wakeup time – sometimes as early as 5:45 a.m. After a day like this, we always revert back to a few nights of 5:30 bedtimes to get him back on track, and it always works to turn him around.

Most of our friends think we are crazy for putting our child down to bed so early, but it truly works. As a parent, I know it’s hard and we certainly don’t get as much time as we want in the evenings with him, but we try to take advantage of the mornings and cherish our time on the weekend. We prefer the mornings with him anyway, he’s a much calmer and sweeter baby than in the evenings. My advice to all parents is to not let a 5:30 or 6 p.m. bedtime scare you into thinking your child will wake up earlier in the morning – it just won’t! You’ll have a better rested child who sleeps much more soundly during the night with better quality naps during the day.

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