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Ask Dr. Marla – Babies and nap routines


When I return to work my one-year-old will be going to day care. She is expected to nap only once in the afternoon. She is currently napping twice a day and I’m afraid this transition is going to be difficult. Any advice?


I can understand your concern, as your child is napping twice daily in an established napping routine. Experts, however, generally do suggest that, as your child is going to day care, you transition your one-year old from two naps a day to one in accordance with the daycare’s schedule. 

The first question I have for you, is how long is your child napping in the morning and the afternoon? We know that naps vary quite a bit from child to child. Often by 12 months, your child is ready to drop the morning nap. That might mean the afternoon nap is a little bit earlier and runs a little bit longer. It is not unusual for parents to try and mould their child’s nap to fit their schedule. Typically we encourage a nap to be over by 3 p.m. so that your child is ready to go to sleep in the early evening. Many of my working parents want their child napping later in the day so they can have some quality time in the early evening, pushing bed time back a little. In this case, the schedule she will be keeping at the day care is the schedule you should be following.

Dr. Reshma Amin, Pediatric Sleep Physician at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, shared these useful tips:

  • The transition is not going to happen overnight so if you have a week or two, or even a month, before returning to work, it makes sense to start the transition to one nap a day at home.
  • Find out what time naps happen at the daycare and model the schedule at home for the few weeks prior to the transition to be the same as at the daycare. Ideally the nap time will be at an intermediate time between the child’s original two naps.
  • Consider moving the bedtime earlier, especially if you are noticing that your child seems to be tired or irritable and cranky in the evening.
  • A consistent routine on the weekdays and weekends will also help facilitate the transition to the new routine.


With these tips and gradual transition, your child will adapt to the new routine!


Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, June/July 2014.

a man carrying two children

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