How to Transition Your Baby from 3 Naps to 2

3 to 2 nap transition for 6-12 month babyHere’s a parenting truth I’ve come to learn over the years: Nap transitions are often tricky. Sometimes, they can be downright awful.

Deciding when the right time is for your baby to drop a nap can be confusing on the best of days. Sure, your 6-12 month old baby may be suddenly crying at nap time or taking shorter naps, but is this a sure sign that she’s ready to drop the third nap and settle into two naps each day? And if so, how does this affect bedtime and night sleep? 

I’ve worked with exhausted parents of crappy nappers for many years now, so let me ease your worries by assuring you…

Getting your baby to take 2 long naps everyday
can be straight-forward and simple
when you
follow a few important tips.

Before I share these important tips with you, let’s first discuss IF your baby is ready to transition from 3 naps to 2.

Jilly walks you through the 3-to-2 nap transition in the video below

Signs that your baby is ready to drop to 2 naps

  • Your baby is 6-12 months old. (Most drop the 3rd nap by 9 months.)
  • Naps have recently gotten shorter & baby cries or takes longer to fall asleep. This is usually a sign that awake times aren’t right. (More on that in a minute.)
  • Baby consistently refuses her 3rd nap
  • 3rd nap consistently pushes bedtime too late
  • Your great sleeper is now waking throughout the night & staying awake for long periods. (She may be happily talking or playing.) This is often caused by too much daytime sleep.
  • Having 3 naps makes baby wake before 6 am & isn’t able to fall back asleep. Also caused by too much daytime sleep.

 Some of the above should be occurring multiple times over multiple weeks before dropping a nap. 

Signs that your baby is NOT ready to drop to 2 naps

• Day AND night sleep have recently worsened.
Sudden disruptions to overall sleep are usually due to travel, sickness, teething or a sleep regression. (There can be FOUR regressions between 6-12 months….sigh.) Rather than changing your baby’s nap schedule, it’s best to keep baby on a consistent routine until this passes.

• Your baby is going through a big development. 
Is your little one trying to sit up, stand or crawl? A surge in brain development happens during developmental milestones (like learning to stand) and this often coincides with another part of development regressing (like sleep.) It’s hard to change habits during a regression, so better to wait it out a few days until baby is standing or crawling with ease. 

•  Is baby sprouting a new tooth? 
Babies experience teething differently. Some sleep right through it while others wake often due to discomfort. If your baby is fussy, drooling and is having trouble sleeping, give a bit of TLC and wait 1-2 days for the pain to pass. Research has shown fussiness, drooling, runny nose, loss of appetite and sleep disturbance can be associated with tooth eruption. 

How to drop down to 2 naps

Naps 1 & 2 must be at least an hour

  • For babies younger than 6 months, short and unpredictable napping is common and not worth stressing over. What’s most important for young babies is to nap often.
  • In order to drop your baby’s 3rd nap, the other naps need to be long. Ideally morning and afternoon naps are each 1-2 hours. If your baby tends to have one long nap of 1.5-2 hours and another 45 minute nap, that can be ok too. It’s better if the afternoon nap is the longer one. This helps baby make it to bedtime without becoming frazzled.

Cat nappers will need 3 naps

Long nappers can drop down to 2 naps

Nice and early bedtime

  • Once you decide to drop the 3rd nap, you need to move bedtime earlier so baby isn’t awake too long. (More details on this below.)
  • Most babies napping twice per day settle into a bedtime of 6-7 pm.

Monitor awake times

  • 6-8 month olds need awake times of 2-3 hours. 9-12 month olds need awake times of 2.5-3.5 hours.
  • Typically, the shortest awake time of the day is between morning wake up and your baby’s first nap. Each awake time gets longer by 15-30 minutes. If this is too much for you to keep up with, stick to a consistent awake time throughout the day. For example, keep all awake times at 2.5 hours for your 7 month old.
  • If your baby is used to shorter awake times, push naps later by just 10-15 minutes every 2 days and see how she responds. 

Wean down the 3rd nap

  • Once your baby is ready to drop the 3rd nap, wean her off it slowly.
  • Limit her 3rd nap to 20 minutes for one week. Then cut it down to 15 minutes the next week. Some babies might need a 10 minute cat nap as well. I find it’s easiest to have this 3rd cat nap in the stroller, car or baby carrier. 
  • As you wean off this nap, keep adjusting bedtime slightly to ensure you’re sticking to the recommended awake times. 
  • As your baby lengthens naps 1 & 2, the 3rd nap may push bedtime too late. If that’s the case, skip the 3rd nap and move bedtime earlier. 

Measure progress by the week, not by the day

In my years working in the pediatric hospital setting, we always measured progress by the week, never by the day. Simply put, when deciding if something is truly a new trend (and worth freaking out over) make sure it’s been happening for many days. 

A helpful tips I give clients of my naps program is to put a note on your fridge every Sunday. Quickly jot down how many naps your baby is taking and for how long. Each Sunday, have a look at last week’s note. This helps you see real patterns. 

LET’S RECAP

Most nap transitions take a few weeks.

You may have to give some 3-nap days and some 2 nap-days as your baby works through this transition.

By paying attention to your baby’s awake times, nap lengths and moving bedtime earlier, you can glide through this nap transition without tears, frustration or pulling your hair out!

In my opinion, nap transitions are a GOOD thing because they consolidate your baby’s naps. And consolidated naps means LONGER naps. I dare you to find me a parent that doesn’t love long naps!

Need More Help With Your Baby’s Naps?
Check Out My Naps Program!

Get your baby taking long naps everyday