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3 to 2 Nap Transition Insight

3-2 nap transition

Another nap transition? Already?! 

Parenting can seems like it’s just one thing after the next, especially with baby sleep and naps! Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, it changes. Two steps forward and one step back. 

It can be so frustrating and confusing trying to understand what is going on when your baby starts fighting naps or skipping them altogether. I’ve been there. But don’t fret – I am here to help walk you through this next phase with clarity, confidence and calm!

When is my baby ready for the 3 to 2 nap transition?

Your little one may be ready to drop down to two naps anywhere between 6 and 9 months of age. This range can vary based on how well your baby is sleeping at night, lengths of the other naps, and other developmental factors. Anecdotally, I most often see this occur closer to 8 months. 

8-10 Month Sleep Regression

As it turns out, this nap transition oftentimes collides with the 8-10 month sleep regression. This can leave us wondering “is it time to transition or is this a sleep regression?” Understanding what is going on will help you remain patient and steadfast.

Deep breaths! Your baby is going through a lot developmentally, and that growth is bound to impact sleep. The good news is that your sweet little one is growing by leaps and bounds physically and mentally. Now that is exciting!

The Catnap

The third nap of the day, known as the catnap, is short, flexible and can be taken on-the-go. This nap simply holds your baby over in order to make it to bedtime. While this third nap is not mentally or physically restorative like the morning and afternoon nap, it is still vital for babies under 6 months, as it protects against getting overtired.

As baby becomes older, wake windows naturally lengthen, and naps #1 and #2 are solidified, this nap becomes less and less important. The fact that it is not a truly restorative sleep period actually makes it easier to say goodbye to the catnap. 

However, you may not want to jump to the conclusion that your baby is ready to drop this nap. Even for younger babies that truly still need this catnap, it’s easy to fight or protest. Why? Falling asleep in the late afternoon is much more difficult. The natural drive to sleep is not as strong at this time of the day. 

But if your baby is constantly skipping their third nap (for 1 – 2 weeks), it might be an indication that they are ready for a two-nap day. 

What else can you be on the lookout for?

Signs your baby is ready for two naps

  • Your baby is between 6-9 months, consistently sleeping well at night and meeting their sleep needs of 10-12 consolidated hours.
  • Their morning and afternoon naps are at least 60 – 90 minutes each, (ideally 1.5 – 2 hours long).
  • If your baby is consistently taking short naps (under 60 minutes) check out some of these reasons your baby might be a short napper!
  • Your baby is refusing the third catnap more often than not.
  • The last nap is starting too late in the afternoon. When this nap starts at or after 5:00 PM, bedtime will likely be pushed too late. If bedtime is too late, there may be a natural cortisol surge causing your little one to go down overtired, which can result in night wakings, more restless sleep and early morning wake ups.

Tips for the three to two nap transition

  • Don’t force this transition too early: If your baby isn’t ready, or if independent sleep skills are not in place, it can cause them to become overtired quickly! This can cause a downward spiral of sleep issues.
  • Adjust with an earlier bedtime temporarily: On a three-nap schedule your little one may have been going to bed in between 7:00 and 8:00 pm, but as they are moving to a two-nap schedule they may need a 6:00 – 6:30 PM bedtime.
  • Remain patient and flexible: During the first few weeks of the 3 to 2 nap transition, nap lengths and schedules may fluctuate. For example, some days you will need to offer three naps again as your little ones work through this transition. On days like this, I’d ensure your baby is only sleeping 30 minutes. We don’t want baby getting too much daytime sleep, which can steal from nighttime sleep and cause issues like very early morning wakings.

I hope this is helpful and you are feeling more confident. You got this! If you need more support and guidance I would love to set up a time to chat about working together to help your family become happy, healthy and well rested!

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