Sleep In the Second Year of Life

General Notes for 12-24 Months


  • We remove the bottles at 12 months of life.
    • Bottles before sleep (overnight and naps) cause tooth decay.
  • Some parents worry this will affect the baby’s sleep, because bottles are part of their bedtime routine.
    • If you remove the bottles “cold turkey” at this age, the transition will be seamless, and they’ll forget they’ve ever seen a bottle in a day or two.
    • If you wait until 15 or 18 months, when the long term memory is more developed, they will remember and it will hurt their sleep.

Items in the Crib

  • At 12 months of life, it is now safe for your child to have a few things with them in the crib (e.g. lovey, stuffed animal, blanket, small pillow).

Sleep Environment

  • Optimize the sleep environment for daytime naps and overnight sleep.
  • Light-proof the room to make it as dark as possible.
    • The goal is that you can’t see your hands in front of your face.
      • When light enters the eye, it suppresses melatonin secretion from the brain.
  • Use a sound machine.
    • Use something rhythmic, like white or brown noise.
    • Don’t use a timer. It should run for the duration of sleep.
    • Place the machine at least 200 cm from your baby’s ears, and turn down the volume.
      • The point of the sound machine is not to block out noise in the environment
        • The goal is to create a rhythmic sound to put babies back to sleep if they wake up.

If It Ain't Broke Don't Fix It

  • We developed these guidelines based on sleep consults with families whose babies were not sleeping well.
  • If you’re happy with your baby’s sleep, don’t change a thing.
  • If things suddenly go downhill, return to this guide for help.

Your Baby Will Be Fine!

  • Poor sleep doesn’t hurt babies, it hurts parents.
  • The truth is your baby will be fine either way.
  • This is about you getting the sleep you need to be the best parent, partner, and person you can be.

Overnight Sleep

Avoid an Overtired Baby

  • Keep the same early bedtime you’ve been using.
    • One common pitfall is moving the bedtime later between 12-24 months as your child gets older.
    • Don’t let a complicated routine delay bedtime.
  • When your baby has risk factors for being overtired, move the bedtime earlier by 30+ minutes.
    • Risk factors for being overtired:
      • Slept poorly the night before
      • Had a day of short naps
      • Daycare
      • Traveling
      • Meeting lots of new people
      • Extra activities outdoors, in the heat
      • Your child is sick
        • Fighting infections is exhausting!



  • Every nap should last for at least 1 hour.
    • Longer is better.
    • Never wake a sleeping baby.
  • If a nap doesn’t last for at least 1 hour, it means the wake window before that nap was too long. 
    • Example: Today, your baby woke up at 7am, and went down for the first nap at 10am. If that nap lasted less than 1 hour, then this first wake window (3 hours in this case) was too long. Tomorrow, you should shorten the first wake window by 15-30 minutes.
  • When your baby has risk factors for being overtired, you should proactively shorten the wake windows by 15-30 minutes.
    • Risk factors for being overtired:
      • Slept poorly the night before
      • Had a day of short naps
      • Daycare
      • Traveling
      • Meeting lots of new people
      • Extra activities outdoors, in the heat
      • Your child is sick
        • Fighting infections is exhausting!

Transitioning From 2 Naps to 1 Nap

  • Babies transition from two naps to one nap sometime between 12 and 21 months.
  • At some point between 12 and 21 months you’ll put your baby down for the morning naps, and she’ll just lie there, awake and playing or talking to herself.
    • If she does this for 30 minutes, you can go get her, and plan for a single nap that day.
    • This doesn’t mean she’s dropped the morning nap for good.
      • Continue to offer the morning nap, until she does this same thing for 7 days in a row.
        • The transition usually takes 2-4 weeks to be complete.
    • If your baby cries when you put her down for the morning nap, you can assume the wake window before that nap was too long.

Common Pitfalls

Transitioning Before Baby is Ready
  • The idea that caregivers can or should “transition” a baby to 1 nap is false, and will lead to an overtired baby.
    • Instead, we recommend you continue offering the morning nap until she goes 7 days in a row without needing it.
Daycare Wants to Move Baby to the Big Kid Room
  • A common problem is daycare wanting to move baby to the big kid room (where they only take 1 nap) before your baby has transitioned on their own.
    • This inevitably leads to an overtired baby.
  • If this happens, we suggest the following:
    • Speak to the daycare to see if your child can stay in the younger room until he is ready.
    • Continue offering 2 naps on days your baby doesn't go to daycare and on weekends.
    • Give baby an extra early bedtime (6pm, or the earliest you can offer) on daycare days.
Dropping the Afternoon Nap
  • When babies transition, they drop the morning nap, not the afternoon nap.
  • If your child is fighting the afternoon nap or it’s getting shorter than 1 hour, it means the second wake window is too long.
    • If this happens, shorten the second wake window by 15-30 minutes.