By the time your baby is one year of age, you have probably settled her into a predictable rhythm of day sleeps. The age appropriate sleep for this age is two day sleeps and around 12 hours at night. Then just when you feel you have a handle on sleep, enter the toddler years.

At about a year, you may find that your little one starts to fight going to sleep at either of the day sleeps and/or at bedtime. This is an indication that his sleep requirements are changing. At this time you can start to reduce his day sleeps from two sleeps to only a midday sleep. This sleep is vital because it is the single day sleep that your toddler will keep up right into the preschool years.

To change to a single day-sleep routine follow this easy step by step guide:

Week 1

Day 1

  • Two day sleeps (as you have been doing)- one of 45 minutes and one longer sleep

Day 2

  •  One day sleep for 45 minutes to 2 or even 3 hours
  • 11:00 Large snack or small lunch
  • 11:20 Small milk feed in your arms in the dark, quiet bedroom (100ml to cue your little one that sleep time is coming)
  • 11:30 Down to sleep independently (your little one will be tired and should settle easily)

Day 3

  • Two day sleeps

Day 4-8

  • Alternate days with one day sleep and two day sleeps

Week 2

  • Two days in a row with one midday sleep (45 minutes to 3 hours)
  • 11:00 Large snack or small lunch
  • 11:20 Milk feed in your arms in the dark quiet bedroom – only 100ml to cue your little one that sleep time is coming.
  • 11:30 Down to sleep independently (your little one will be tired and should settle easily)

Week 3

  • New routine has been established of one sleep at 11;30.
  • Four months later, move the midday sleep to 12:00, where it can stay for the toddler years.

During the transition from two to a single day sleep, remember these tips:

  • If your toddler is battling to stretch to 11:30am for the midday sleep, every third day or so, do two day sleeps – as needed.
  • On days that your little one is tired, for instance if he wakes frequently at night or wakes for the day before 5:30am, watch his signals and revert to two day sleeps. This can be the case until around 18 months.
  • On days when your baby has one day sleep but wakes from it before 2pm, you may need to bring bedtime forward to 6pm to avoid an overtired toddler.

While this all looks very simple, there are curve balls that you may need to cope with:

 Day sleep too short

“I am desperate – I just need some time to get chores done but as soon as I get my toddler down, he wakes up within 30 minutes. Surely this is not enough sleep in the day?”

  • Move lunch to before the day sleep and offer a small bottle of warm milk – a full tummy will make him sleep for longer.
  • Watch how you settle him at naptime. If he falls asleep in your arms, he may wake, expecting the same warmth and comfort.
  • Make sure the sensory environment supports sleep – dark and warm with white noise playing.
  • Try to resettle him by patting or stroking his head. If all else fails, rock him back to sleep or have a little lie down with him.
  • If nothing works and he is up for the afternoon, bring bedtime earlier to 6pm.

Outings and parties

“I’ve been invited to a party during my child’s nap time. Is it fair to take her to the party during her naptime? If so, how do I re-schedule the day so that her sleep routine isn’t totally out of whack?”

  • If your toddler is a good sleeper – sleeps 12 hours at night and a good 2-hour sleep over midday, the disruption will not have consequences. Just move the sleep an hour earlier, wake her after an hour to go to the party.
  • There are some babies who just don’t cope with a change in routine and when overtired are unmanageable. If you have a poor sleeper in general, you risk upending a routine that works. So move the sleep earlier and don’t wake her from this sleep. Go late and explain to your friend that next year you will be on time.
  • What ever you do, don’t miss the sleep altogether, as an overtired toddler won’t cope with the stimulation and socialization very well if over tired.

All toddlers differ in the age they drop the day sleep completely – some do so as early as two and a half and others hold onto that day sleep until preschool. Regardless of your baby’s preference, it is a healthy habit to instill a day rest time, in which they have the opportunity to sleep or just to relax after a morning’s interactions.