Toddler Sleep Schedules [with 2-1 information!]

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Considering the popularity of my blog post for sleep schedules from 4 months to 18 months, I thought it was time to give toddler sleep some love! Read on to learn about different schedules for toddlers from 18 months [or 1 nap] to age 3! I will preface this blog post the same way I did my first schedule post by saying that all children are different and yours might not necessarily fit into this schedule perfectly every single day but it is just meant as a guide to know what is typical at each age and as your child grows.  I intended this to be a helpful guide to see what a day in the life of a toddler on an age-appropriate schedule looks like - meals, naps, and nightsleep. When looking at these schedules, what's important to note is the time awake in between sleep times, not necessarily the time on the clock [unless otherwise indicated]. I generally recommend laying the child down 15 minutes before these targeted 'asleep' times to give them ample time to fall asleep.

18 months [the start of the 2-1 transition]

Children at this age need roughly 13 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period, 1.5-3 hours of that sleep should occur in the daytime with 11-12 hours of sleep at nighttime.

Prior to the transition [age 13-18 months]:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:00am - snack
9:45am - 10:45am - nap#1 [to hold off the transition until this point, it's beneficial to cap this nap at 1 hour]
12:00pm - lunch
2:00pm - snack
2:45pm - 3:45pm - nap#2 [a full 4 hours of awake time between naps 1 and 2]
5:30pm - dinner
6:30pm - bedtime routine [should not include any milk, last milk with dinner!]
7:15pm - bedtime [asleep by this time]

One week into the transition:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:30am - either a big snack OR lunch split in half
10:15am - 12:15pm - nap [we pushed out the first nap by 15 minutes every 3 days. If the nap ends at noon or later, we move to bedtime. If the nap ends before noon, we do a catnap/quiet time around 3:00pm]
12:30pm - either a big snack OR the other half of lunch
2:30pm - small snack
5:00pm - dinner
5:30pm - bedtime routine
6:15pm - bedtime

Two weeks into the transition:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am -  breakfast
10:00am - either a big snack OR lunch split in half
11:00am - 1:00pm - nap [we continued to push the nap out by 15 minutes every 3 days]
1:15pm - either a big snack OR the other half of lunch
3:15pm - small snack
5:30pm - dinner
6:00pm - bedtime routine
6:45pm - bedtime

Four weeks into the transition [transition complete]:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:00am - snack
11:15am - lunch
12:00pm - 2:00pm - nap [nap was pushed out by 15 minutes every 3 days to a 5.5 hour waketime]
2:30pm - snack
5:45pm - dinner
6:15pm - bedtime routine
7:00pm - bedtime

Please check out my Comprehensive Nap Transition Guide here for detailed information about each nap transition!


19-23 months 

Children at this age require 12-12.5 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. 1.5-3 hours of that sleep should occur in the daytime and 10-12 hours of sleep at nighttime.

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:00am - snack
11:45am - lunch
12:30pm - 2:30pm - nap [if the child's 1 nap is well-established, we should move to a 'by the clock' nap occurring between 12:30-1:00pm. This nap should be no longer than 3 hours and not past 3:00pm]
3:00pm - snack
5:45pm - dinner
6:45pm - bedtime routine
7:30pm - bedtime

2 years old 

Children at this age require 12-12.5 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. 1-2 hours of that sleep could occur in the daytime and 10-12 hours of sleep at nighttime. After age 2.5, children do not developmentally *need* a nap like they did prior to this age [although the longer you can hang onto it, the better!] Keep in mind that if your child has dropped their nap, they should now be clocking the full 12-12.5 hours of sleep at nighttime, so bedtime should reflect that based on what time they normally wake up in the morning.

A 2 year old who is still taking a nap:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:30am - snack
12:00pm - lunch
1:00pm - 3:00pm - nap [at this age, the 'by the clock' nap should occur between 1:00-1:30pm. This nap should be no longer than 2 hours and not past 3:00pm]
3:30pm - snack
5:45pm - dinner
7:15pm - bedtime routine
8:00pm - bedtime

A 2.5 year old who is no longer napping:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:30am - snack
12:00pm - lunch
1:00pm - 2:00pm - quiet time [a quiet time every single day for a toddler who is not napping is extremely important. Even if they are not sleeping, time to re-charge their batteries for at least 45 minutes mid-day will help avoid major evening crankiness]
2:30pm - snack
5:15pm - dinner
5:45pm - bedtime routine
6:30pm - bedtime

3 years old

Children at this age require 11-12 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. 1-2 hours of that sleep could occur in the daytime and 9-12 hours at nighttime. For children who no longer nap, they should now be clocking the full 11-12 hours of sleep at nighttime, so bedtime should reflect that based on their usual wake-up time.

A 3 year old who is still taking a nap:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:30am - snack
12:30pm - lunch
1:30pm - 3:00pm - nap [at this age, the 'by the clock' nap should still occur between 1:00-1:30pm. This nap should be no longer than 2 hours [but may need to be closer to 1-1.5 hours to not interfere with nightsleep] and not past 3:00pm
3:30pm - snack
5:45pm - dinner
7:15pm - bedtime routine
8:00pm - bedtime

A 3 year old who is no longer napping:

6:30am - up for the day
7:00am - breakfast
9:30am - snack
12:30pm - lunch
1:30 - 2:30pm - quiet time [a quiet time every single day for a toddler who is not napping is extremely important. Even if they are not sleeping, time to re-charge their batteries for at least 45 minutes mid-day will help avoid major evening crankiness]
3:00pm - snack
5:30pm - dinner
6:15pm - bedtime routine
7:00pm - bedtime


Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

The (Dreaded) 8-10 Month Sleep Regression

You came out of the 4 month sleep regression unscathed (sort of) and things are going pretty well in sleep-land when BAM! the 8-10 month sleep regression hits you like a ton of bricks. Babies seem to always be going through 'something' - whether it be a growth spurt, a mental leap, a regression, or some other super-fun phase that gets in the way of sleep. If we are prepared for these 'regressions' and understand why they are occurring, it can make it easier to get through and perhaps help to avoid a true 'regression' at all.  Read on to find out about the two main reasons for the 8-10 month sleep regression, the 4 month sleep regression's less popular friend.

What is a sleep regression?

The 4 month sleep regression is vastly different from the 8-10 month sleep regression because the 4 month sleep 'regression' isn't really a true 'regression'. A regression would mean that, with time, the baby's sleep would eventually resume as usual, but unfortunately, that's not what happens. The changes in a baby's sleep at 3-5 month's of age are here to stay. With the 8-10 month sleep regression, the changes are often temporary and are due to a baby's brain development. There is a lot that goes on cognitively at this age, and all of these changes can affect baby's sleep - whether that means they start waking more at night and/or start fighting/refusing naps.  Not coincidentally, these 'regressions' (which generally occur at 4 months, 8-10 months, and 18 months) all occur around the same time as nap transitions.  If we aren't prepared to handle these changes in baby's sleep, this can lead to the child becoming overtired, overtiredness leads to difficulty falling and staying asleep, and before we know it, a 'regression' has occurred.

8-10 month sleep regression cause #1 - Physical milestones

There is so much going on in baby's life at this age. They might be sitting up, scooting, crawling, pulling up, cruising, and some might even start walking. Baby is also learning the basics of communication and might start teething (if they haven't already). This is a lot in a little baby's life, and all these things take time, energy, and practice. Sometimes this 'practice' can occur at the wrong times, when baby should instead be sleeping. It can be hard for a baby to learn to shut down their brain, particularly a child that doesn't have self-soothing skills to begin with. Those babies that need more help to sleep may now start to really fight your soothing efforts, finding them too stimulating, and may try to take these opportunities of your company to show you their sweet new moves. If your 20 minutes of rocking has now become 60 minutes, that may be your baby's way of telling you that they are ready to be going down more awake on on their own, as your presence is inhibiting their ability to fall asleep, instead of helping.
If your baby is already an independent sleeper and has started to have some serious party time in their crib before sleep times, firstly you want to make sure that their environment is conducive to sleep. We want to be extra-vigilant that there is nothing stimulating in our child's crib and that their room is pitch black. A baby can be stimulated by anything - a wallpaper design, a toy across the room, a pattern on their crib sheets - so making sure that room is nice and dark will surely bore them into sleep (check out this company here that makes awesome custom window covers to get baby's room pitch black). As well, using a sleepsack for naps and nighttime helps to cut down on monkey business - it's not impossible to roll/sit up/crawl/stand with a sleepsack on, but it makes it more difficult. If baby is already sleepy, they might decide it's not worth the fight. Additionally, make sure your baby's sleep schedule is meeting his needs. Does he need a bit more awake time before naps so that he's tired enough to sleep easily? Here's a good way to determine if pushing a nap later might help:

  • If your baby is taking a long time to fall asleep (much more than 15 minutes) with lots of protesting/playing but then still takes a good nap (over 1 hour) that he wakes up happy from - try pushing that nap 15 minutes later.

  • If your baby falls asleep quickly at naptime, but then takes a short nap (under an hour) that they wake up happy from - try pushing that nap 15 minutes later.

  • If your baby falls asleep quickly for a nap, but then takes a short nap (under an hour) that they wake up crying from - try pulling the nap back by 15 minutes.

  • If your baby falls asleep within 1-15 minutes for a nap and then takes a long nap (over 1 hour) - you have nailed it, don't change a thing.

What not to do:

Don't give too much attention to the nap/bedtime battles. You don't want to make long-term habits for a short-term phase. This regression will pass in time, but if you make a habit of now rocking the child, letting them sleep in your bed, sitting with them until they fall asleep (unless you are already doing these things), or skipping naps entirely, this regression now turns into a new habit for the child, one that will be tough to break.

8-10 month sleep regression cause #2 - Nap transition

Eight months is the age where your 3rd catnap needs to be eliminated, if it hasn't already. Especially if you are finding the child refuses this nap at least 50% of the time, if the 3rd nap is occurring much past 4:00pm, or if with the 3rd nap, you are now clocking less than 11 hours of sleep at night - it's time to go. I generally recommend that even if you're not seeing these obvious signs of readiness by 8 months of age, you should still begin the transition towards a two nap schedule. Nap transitions are tricky and they can be messy if we're not handling them properly. If we  jump too quickly into a two nap schedule, this can cause baby to become overtired... and a regression is born. Nap transitions aren't a race - slow and steady really is best. Start by slowly adding awake time before each of your naps - maybe 5 minutes onto all of them or 15 minutes before one nap. The best order to add time in is middle first (2nd and 3rd nap) then 1st nap, then bedtime. It is normal during a nap transition to flip-flop back and forth between 2 nap and 3 nap days depending on baby's wake-up time and the quality of the naps. With time, you will find that you are unable to fit in a 3rd nap before 4:00pm so you'll want to use an early bedtime to compensate. I can't stress this enough, this is where nap transitions go wrong. Parents become too stuck on a 'set' bedtime, but now that we've lost an entire sleep period, that stretch between the 2nd nap and the 'set' bedtime is way too long, causing the child to become overtired (bedtime battles, nightwakings, sleep-cries, and potentially an early wake-up the next day are all symptoms of a too-late bedtime). There is no advantage to a later bedtime if the child is awake crying every 3-4 hours because the bedtime was too late. Do not be afraid of a temporary early bedtime during nap transitions - it is essential.

What not to do:

Don't let that third nap hang around too long if it's obviously causing issues with nightsleep. Naps are important but nightsleep is far superior.  If your 3rd nap is interfering with nightsleep and causing baby to clock less than 11 hours at night - it's time to go. 
Don't rush the transition - slow and steady is best.
Don't stall in the transition. You need to continue to slowly stretch baby's awake times to move them to a solid 2 nap schedule. Your day will likely start out like this:

7:00am - wake-up
9:30am-11:00am - nap 1
1:45pm-3:15pm - nap 2
6:15pm - bedtime

and should eventually look like this:

7:00am - wake-up
10:00am-11:30am - nap 1
3:00pm-4:00pm - nap 2
7:30pm - bedtime


Sleep regressions are an exhausting part of parenting but we all go through it at some point.  During these times, just remember to be flexible, be prepared, and be careful not to create a new sleep crutch (or bring back an old one).  As hard as it can be to remain consistent at times, it really is best for everyone and helps the regression pass in a more timely manner. If you’d like my information on the 3-2 transition, check out my Comprehensive Nap Transition Guide here!

 

Pam Edwards is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant and founder of Wee Bee Dreaming Pediatric Sleep Consulting in Grande Prairie, Alberta. Healthy sleep is addicting and she has made it her life mission to help families all across the world get the sleep they deserve - a good night's sleep doesn't have to be a dream!

Toddler Sleep 101 - PART ONE

I write a lot of posts about baby sleep so I thought it was time that we addressed our older kids' needs! While it's true that a vast majority of my clients are under the age of 1, there is also a significant portion of them that are toddlers/preschoolers. While many parents might feel that when their babies have trouble sleeping we can 'wait it out' and it will disappear once they are a bit older, more often than not this is not the case. I hope this series of posts can help you to get your big kids' sleep back on track because it is never too late to instill healthy sleep habits with our children!

What are some common toddler sleep issues that parents may face?

Toddler sleep issues can actually be very similar to some of the issues that we see with babies. The biggest ones I encounter are:

  • Early wakings (before 6:00am)

  • Nap transitions (transitioning from 2 naps to 1 or 1 nap to 0)

  • Transitioning to a big kid's bed

  • Bedtime & naptime battles

  • Nightwakings (either from nightmares, night terrors, sleep associations, or other reasons)

In part one of my blog post, I will address the first two issues above, and stay tuned for part two and three where I will discuss the final three.

Toddler Sleep Issue #1 - Early Wakings

I consider an 'early waking' to be anything before 6:00am. Anything after this time is a perfectly normal and acceptable time for a toddler to rise. Some of the most common reasons a toddler may be waking before the sun is up are:

  • Bedtime is too late. Are you sick of me talking about late bedtimes yet? I hope not, because I will never stop! While it seems opposite that a late bedtime would = an early wake-up, you need to remember this saying: sleep is not logical, it's biological. Simply put, a bedtime that is too late will almost always lead to a wake-up time that's much too early. If you are struggling with your toddler waking too early, try putting them to bed earlier. Check out my blog post here on how to find the ideal bedtime for your toddler and here for other causes of early wakings.

  • Parental inconsistency in the early morning hours. We need to be consistent in the way we respond to our children when they wake before it is 'acceptable' to be awake. If your child woke up at 2:00am, you wouldn't get them up and start the day, as we shouldn't if they wake up at 4:30 or 5:30am. We need to treat these wakings just as we would any other nightwakings. To help teach them what an acceptable time to wake-up is, I recommend a Gro Clock. Now, the key to these clocks is consistency. If you lose interest in the rules of the clock, so will they. Even if they wake up five minutes before the sun comes up, you walk them back to their room and tell them it's not time to get up because Mr. Sun is still sleeping. They might put up a fight the first couple of days but if you are consistent, they will learn the rules!

Toddler Sleep Issue #2 - Nap Transitions

Nap transitions can be a hairy time for everyone. We just recently went through the 2-1 transition with my son and while for us it was smooth as butter, it was not the same experience with my daughter years ago! The key to a successful nap transition is preparation, consistency, and patience. You need to have a plan of attack and you need to be consistent and patient with the process.

Rule #1 - don't rush the transition.  Many parents may think that once their child hits 12 months they should be transitioning to one nap. I can tell you right now that the vast majority of 12 month olds (aside from those perhaps who have been consistently sleeping through the night forever and who take 2 hour + naps) still need two naps. The normal age for babies to transition to one nap is 13-18 months (with the average being 15 months). Transitioning too early will almost always lead to a baby who becomes overtired and thus may begin taking short naps and/or waking at night. Some of the signs that baby may be ready to go to 1 nap include:

  1. Refusing the afternoon nap even after adjusting the awake time. Once you need more than four hours in between first and second naps, it is probably time to transition. The occasional nap refusal is normal, but if baby is refusing the second nap 50% of the time, it may be time to drop the nap.

  2. Afternoon nap is occurring too late in the day and thus pushing bedtime too late. If you are struggling to get that second nap in before 4:00pm every single day, it may be time to transition to one nap.

  3. Nightwakings that are otherwise unexplained. If you have a good daytime schedule, an age-appropriate bedtime, your baby is falling asleep independently and without props, but starts to have nightwakings while on two naps, it may be time to drop that 2nd nap and move to a one nap schedule.

  4. Early wakings that are otherwise unexplained. If baby starts to wake up earlier than usual (and clocking much less than 11 hours of nightsleep) and it cannot be explained otherwise (i.e. bedtime isn't too late, no sleep associations, etc.) then it may be time to move to one nap.

The same goes for the 1-0 nap transition. Most kids still need 1 nap up to 3 years of age or beyond (in fact, according to Dr. Marc Weissbluth, 91% of children at age 3 are still napping). Parents may think that just because a child starts to fight the nap that this means they don't need the nap anymore while in fact sleep issues at this age are more about discipline and less about actual sleep. Some of the signs that it may be time to drop the child's nap include:

  1. Consistently playing through nap time even after adjusting the awake time before the nap. Children's sleep needs are always changing so you may need to play around with the timing of their nap once they get a bit older. As well, if your child is sleeping in until 9:00am and you are trying to nap them at 1:00pm, it probably won't fly. It may be in your best interests to wake your child up at 7:00am to get them back on a regular napping schedule before deciding to drop the nap altogether.

  2. Consistently taking a very long time to fall asleep at bedtime. It is very normal for toddlers who still nap to have a long transition time before bed but if bedtime is getting pushed to 9:00pm or 10:00pm or even later, it may be time to drop the nap and move bedtime earlier. Or, if the child is in a pattern of a late bedtime, a late wake-up, and a late nap, you may want to break the cycle by waking them up at 7:00am so that they are tired earlier for their nap and thus tired earlier for bed.

  3. The child doesn't suffer any negative side effects when a nap is skipped. This one is very important. If your child skips their nap and then is an absolute demon in the evening (MY KID) then they are not yet ready to get rid of said nap. If after skipping a nap your child is pleasant and happy all the way to bedtime, this is a good sign that they may be ready to drop their nap.

For more information on the 2-1 and other nap transitions, check out my Comprehensive Nap Transition Guide here!

Rule #2 - have a plan of attack.  With nap transitions, we don't want to just dive in head first without a plan. A lot of times, parents will just drop the second nap, push the first one later, and be done with it. While it's possible that this may work for your child, in my experience this will lead to baby becoming overtired. Our #1 goal during nap transitions is to minimize overtiredness. With the 2-1 nap transition a solid plan would be to:

  • Move the first nap of the day slowly later in the morning (possibly by about 15 minutes every few days). If the first nap ends before noon, try for a cat nap in the afternoon around 3:00pm to help baby get to a 'normal' bedtime.

  • At the beginning, the stretch between the nap and bedtime is going to be quite long (around 6 hours) but as you stretch the nap later, you should also decrease the awake time before bed (until the nap is occurring about 5 hours after baby wakes for the day, and bedtime is occurring about 5 hours after the nap ends).

  • Eventually, you will want the nap to be occurring around 12:30-1:30pm (or about 5.5 hours after baby wakes for the day) and bedtime to occur about 4.5-5 hours after the nap ends. Once you are on this schedule, your one nap is well-established and there is no need to tweak unless you are getting lengthy monkey business before the nap/bedtime.

For the transition from 1 nap to 0 naps, the key to making this successful is:

  • Continuing to offer a 'quiet time' in the middle of the day (somewhere between 1:00-3:00pm). This quiet time should be occurring in the child's bedroom with no electronics. Around 45 minutes is sufficient and helps the child to recharge their batteries (thus hopefully avoiding a late afternoon meltdown!)

  • Move the bedtime earlier. I cannot stress this enough! Children this age still require 11-13 hours of sleep every single day. If they aren't getting any of that sleep during the day, they need to get it all at night. To figure out what your child's bedtime should be once their nap is dropped, take the time they wake up and subtract 11-13 hours from it. If they seem irritable and cranky throughout the day and/or are having difficulty falling asleep at bedtime, chances are you need to move bedtime even earlier and they need even more sleep.

Rules #3 - have patience.  As I have mentioned a few times, nap transitions can be hairy. There's likely to be some short naps, some frustration, perhaps some nightwakings or sleep-cries, but if you stay consistent and trust the process, it will all come together. Often, once parents don't see immediate results they are quick to switch things up and try something else, but with babies consistency is key. As well, a nap transition doesn't just happen overnight. It can take weeks from the first day that you decide you are ready to drop the nap to when baby is well-established on their new schedule. Take it from me, I just went through the 2-1 transition with my 15 month old and it has taken six weeks from the day I decided that I was done with the afternoon nap to today where he is solidly on one glorious nap.


Stay tuned for PART TWO of Toddler Sleep 101 where I will be discussing how and when to transition to a big kid's bed. Are you struggling with any toddler sleep issues that I haven't listed above? Leave me a comment below and let me know!