BONUS MATERIAL: Download my FREE sleep chart HERE that has ALL my suggested wake windows, sleep totals, and nap totals for babies ages 0 until age 5! This way, you’ll know what wake windows to use for your baby going through the 3-2 nap transition today, as well as what they will need next month and next year!
Let me guess- you FINALLY get your baby onto a solid nap schedule with 3 consistent naps. And suddenly, everything changes and your little one drops down to 2 naps! It’s SO frustrating. I’ll be honest, this nap transition can be VERY tricky to navigate when you don’t know what you’re doing.
Don’t worry, when you know how to navigate the 3-2 nap transition, this change can go smoothly. I’ve got you! In this blog post, I’ll be discussing how you know when your little one is ready to transition to a 2 nap schedule, as well as my top tips for managing this scheduling change.
At what age do babies go from 3 naps to 2?
The 3-2 nap transition typically happens by 8-9 months of age. Some babies are ready for this transition earlier than this age range and some babies hold onto that third nap past 9 months. But contrary to popular belief, most 6 month old babies are NOT ready to move to a 2 nap schedule.
Please note that if your little one was born premature, always go by their corrected age for sleep milestones.
How do you know when your baby is ready to drop their third nap?
The MAIN sign we look for to determine whether your baby is ready for the 3-2 nap transition is when your baby’s wake windows can stretch to the 3+ hour range without getting overtired in the process. See, for a 2 nap schedule to work, it means your baby needs to be taking two very big naps with these bigger wake windows. Otherwise, your baby will likely be very overtired without their third nap.
Simply fighting their naps is NOT a sign that they’re ready for 2 naps just yet. This could simply mean that they’ve outgrown their current wake windows and need more wake time within their 3 nap schedule.
Here are the main signs your baby is ready for the 3-2 nap transition:
- Baby is 8-9 months-old
- Resisting naps or skipping them entirely, despite stretching out their wake windows
- Taking shorter naps than usual
- Sudden night-wakings, split nights or early rising
- Getting less than 10 hours of sleep each night on a 3 nap schedule
I want to make a very important note about the third nap of the day. This nap is usually a catnap and can be VERY tricky for some babies to take. This is because external sleep pressure is becomes weaker as the day goes on, making it VERY difficult for many babies to fall asleep without assistance.
If your baby is often fighting the third nap despite needing it, feel free to nap him in the car, stroller, baby carrier, or in your arms to ensure he doesn’t skip it.
What wake windows do you need for the 3-2 nap transition?
When your baby is on a 2 nap schedule, their wake windows will be somewhere in the 2.5-4 hour range. That being said, when they’ve recently transitioned to a 2 nap schedule, those wake windows will be on the shorter end of that range.
Here’s what your little one’s schedule might look like at the end of their 3 nap days:
9:00am- 10:15am- nap 1
1:00pm-2:15pm- nap 2
5:00pm-5:30pm- nap 3
In this example, the baby’s wake windows are in the 2.5 hour-2 hour 45 minute range. They are ALMOST big enough for a 2 nap schedule…but not quite.
Here’s what your baby’s schedule might look like when he’s moved to a 2 nap schedule:
9:15am-10:45am- nap 1
1:45pm-3:45pm- nap 2
In this example, the baby’s wake windows are in the 2 hour 45 minute-3 hour 15 minute range. Notice how the baby’s bedtime was bumped a full hour earlier upon transitioning to 2 naps. It is very common for your baby to need an earlier bedtime as he adjusts to this new schedule. Over time, his wake windows will increase again which will bump his entire schedule later, including his bedtime.
Also note that in both of these schedule examples, the first wake window of the day is the shortest, which is typical until your baby transitions to a 1 nap schedule.
**If you need more guidance on figuring out your little one’s wake windows, nap timings and sleep needs, grab a free copy of my sleep chart here!**
How do you transition your baby from 3 naps to 2?
1) Lengthen your baby’s wake windows. On a 2 nap schedule, your baby’s wake windows need to be at least 2 hours 45 minutes-3 hours long. Stretch out these wake windows using 15 minute increments. Don’t make big, abrupt changes as your little one could get overtired in the process.
2) Implement a naptime routine. Think of this as a condensed version of a bedtime routine that cues him that sleep time is coming. This naptime routine only needs to be 1-2 minutes long. For example, when my kids were younger, their naptime routine would consist of a diaper change and bedtime song before I turned on the white noise machine and placed them into the crib.
3) Bump your baby’s bedtime earlier. When your baby’s 3rd nap is dropped, your little one will need to go to bed earlier to avoid overtiredness. This wake window will likely need to be 3-3.5 hours maximum. Don’t be afraid to put your baby to bed for 6:30pm as a temporary means of “damage control” to avoid overtiredness during this nap transition.
How long does the 3-2 nap transition take?
It really depends on the baby. Some babies jump to 2 naps very quickly whereas others might go back and forth between 2 naps and 3 naps for a 2-3 week period. AND THAT’S FINE!
For example, if your little one gives you shorter naps one day, feel free to offer him a third catnap to help him get through the day to bedtime without getting overtired. And then if your little one give you 2 longer naps the next day, he’ll be fine with no third nap and an earlier bedtime.
Can the 3-2 nap transition cause nightwakings?
Sometimes! This usually happens when your baby is transitioning to a 2 nap schedule before they’re ready. Dropping a nap too early can cause overtiredness, which can lead to difficulty falling asleep, nightwakings, early rising and short naps. To avoid this problem, don’t move your baby to a 2 nap schedule until you’re sure they’re ready.
**Note- if your baby has always been waking frequently throughout the night and the 3-2 nap transition is making their sleep even worse, sign up HERE to watch my free masterclass called “How to get your little one consistently sleeping 11-12 hours at night so you can feel like a functioning human!”**
That being said, I still see babies who experience night wakings during this scheduling change who are VERY ready for this transition. Here are the most common reasons for why these nightwakings can happen in this situation:
- Going to bed too late. Remember, with the third nap gone, you will need to bump your little one’s bedtime earlier in order to protect their bedtime wake window and avoid overtiredness. If you keep your little one’s bedtime the same, your little one will almost certainly become overtired, which can cause him to start waking up at night.
- Too much daytime sleep. As your baby gets older, their sleep needs gradually decrease. And if your little one is sleeping too much during the day, it can take away from their nighttime sleep and cause early rising.
- Your baby’s wake windows are either too big or too small. It can be confusing trying to figure out your baby’s wake windows since overtiredness and undertiredness can both cause night wakings! Make sure you’re getting your little one down in his “sweet spot”, JUST as he’s beginning to get tired but BEFORE he becomes overtired.
Have you checked out my free Facebook group yet?
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Other baby sleep resources
6 Month-Old Wake Windows and Sleep Schedules
Nap Training Guide: How to Sleep Train your Baby for Naps
When can my baby sleep through the night without a feeding?
Baby Sleepy Cues and the Truth about What They Mean
Pacifiers- The Good, the Bad, and When to Use Them