Your 13- to 16-month-old toddler’s sleep routine

sleep training process

by Jolandi Becker – MD of Good Night

One of a toddler’s developmental goals is autonomy. At this age, your baby is becoming more active and independent. It is GREAT news for their sleeping routine because sleeping on their own becomes an extension of their personality.

Between 13 and 15 months, your baby lives in the Right Here and Right Now. They are determined to quench their curiosity, so much so that they might not be able to see past their own passions. As a result, they may appear defiant to no end. It might seem as though the only thing you are doing is saying NO. No wonder one of the first words they learn is NO.

How much sleep do they need?

Babies require approximately 13–14 hours’ sleep in total at this age. This is divided into 1–2 naps during the day and 11–12 hours’ sleep at night. Yes, 11–12 hours’ sleep at night is necessary up until the age of 5 years old!

What is normal sleep?

Healthy toddlers should be able to sleep throughout the night. In fact, any feeding at night could do more harm than good. 

This is a tricky age for naps because they need to transition from two naps during the day to only one.

How and when to move to one nap a day

Although the average age of taking only one nap is between 12 and 16 months, it is more about looking out for the signs of readiness.

Signs of Readiness:

  • Your toddler may begin to sleep longer during their morning nap and progressively shorter during the afternoon nap.
  • Many children who are ready to make the switch will simply play in their crib during the afternoon nap and never sleep, or if they do sleep, it will be too late in the day and you will need to wake them to preserve their bedtime.
  • Occasionally the morning nap becomes the challenging one and the afternoon nap the long one.
  • One of the naps may suddenly become challenging. Instead of playing in the crib, they cry and fuss for much longer than normal and do not sleep during the entire naptime.
  • If you find that the abovementioned happens 4 to 5 days per week, it may be time to make the switch.

Making the Switch:

  • Transitioning from two naps to one is not easy and it might take a month or more for your child to become comfortable with the change. Although it may be challenging, once you have made the decision to switch, it is better to just do it than to jump between two naps or one.
  • Your child may seem tired at their usual naptime, but you should just keep going. Try playing with them outside or giving them a snack when you notice that morning grumpiness sets in.
  • Step one:  Start by moving your baby’s morning nap later by half an hour. So, if they usually napped at 10h00, move it to 10h30 for 3 days and let them sleep until they wake up by themself.
  • Step two:  You should still put your baby down for quiet time around 14h30 to help take the edge off until bedtime. They may not sleep, but at least they had some down time on their own. If they fall asleep, don’t let them sleep past 15h30 or 16h00 so that you may keep your bedtime on track.
  • Step three:  If you put your baby down for quiet time and they do not sleep, you need to move your bedtime forward to 18h30 to prevent them from becoming too tired.
  • Step four:  After 3 days, move the naptime to 11h00 for another 3 days. Follow the same advice for the afternoon’s quiet time and bedtime.
  • Step five:  Move naptime to 11h30 for another 3 days. At this point, there may not be any afternoon’s quiet time and your toddler will most likely be fussy by supper time. Remember, it is okay to put them to bed earlier. It is a much better solution than living with a raging toddler!
  • Step six:  Move naptime to 12h00. This might mean that you need to move lunch to 11h30 for a while. Do not be surprised if, for a few weeks, your little one starts nodding off in the highchair.
  • You will most likely find that naptime hovers between 12h00 and 12h30 for several months.
  • By 13h00 some children get their second wind and it may be too late for a nap because they missed their optimal naptime window.
  • Be patient; remember this is not an easy transition and it may take a month or more before you notice that your child is handling the switch much better. I also suggest that throughout the transition period your child should go to bed between 18h00 and 19h00 at the latest.
  • You might also move bedtime forward with 30 minutes if your toddler gets too fatigued before their regular bedtime.