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4 to 3 Nap Transition Insight

4 to 3 Nap Transition

I like to think the 4 to 3 nap transition is a nice little consolation for making it through the newborn phase! Longer naps, a more consistent and predictable schedule, longer wake times – this is what you have to look forward to by the end of this transition! Let’s talk it out so that you can move through this phase with confidence and ease.

Your baby is no longer a newborn

First of all, let’s talk about that is going on developmentally at this age. Around 4 to 5 months of age your baby’s circadian rhythm (internal sleep and wake clock) becomes more established. This is a big deal!

Your baby no longer sleeps like a newborn that immediately and easily drifts off into a deep sleep. Now your little one sleeps more like you do, which means they now have to go through lighter sleep stages in order to get to the deep sleep cycles. This also means they have the ability to connect their daytime sleep cycles providing nice, long restorative naps.

4 Month Sleep Regression

Oftentimes, naps transitions coincide with sleep regressions. Of course, right?! Babies who are going through the 4-month regression are also likely ready to drop the 4th nap.

Remember, regressions actually mean progressions…your baby is growing and learning, as they should! This is a GOOD thing, but can make sleep tricky for a couple of weeks.

Daytime sleep needs change

Daytime sleep needs change around this age. On the 4-nap schedule baby was likely taking naps that greatly varied in length, some lasting 2 hours and others 20 minutes, totaling up to 5 hours of daytime sleep.

Now, on a 3-nap schedule, the day will consist of a solid morning and afternoon nap, as well as a late afternoon catnap in order to make it to bedtime. Typically, about 4 hours of sleep total between these 3 naps.

Signs your baby is ready for the 4 to 3 nap transition

  • Their morning and midday naps are consistently longer – closer to 1.5 hours.
  • Your baby is refusing the 4th nap regularly.
  • The 4th nap is starting too late in the afternoon. When this nap starts at or after 5:00pm bedtime will likely be pushed too late.

Tips for transitioning to 3 naps

  1. Be careful not to force the 4 to 3 nap transition. If baby isn’t ready it can cause them to become overtired quickly. Overtired babies have short naps, night wakings, restless sleep and have a harder time soothing.
  2. Adjust with an earlier bedtime. On a 4-nap schedule your little one may have been going to bed around 7:00 or 8:00 pm. As your little one is moving to a 3-nap schedule they may need a 6:00 – 6:30 pm bedtime.
  3. Discontinue using wake times and begin using times on the clock. Since your little one’s internal clock is established they are ready for set nap times on the clock. Ideally, morning nap is between 8:00 – 9:00 am and the afternoon nap is between 12:00 – 1:00 pm. The morning nap is mentally restorative, while the afternoon nap is physically restorative. It’s important these two naps are solid and offered at consistent times. The later afternoon catnap is not restorative, but its purpose is to ensure baby will make it to an age-appropriate bedtime without becoming overtired.
  4. Keep in mind, you may need to be flexible during the first couple weeks and fluctuate naps schedules. For example, some days you will need to offer 4 naps again as baby fully works through this transition. Totally normal!

Overall, this is a fairly natural transition and the start of an amazing new chapter with your baby – longer wake windows means more quality time and a consistent schedule brings more predictable days. You got this!

If you need more support dealing with this transition or if you are struggling with the dreaded 4-month sleep regression, the Bella Luna team is always here for you. Set up a free 15-minute get to know you call to talk about working together and getting your whole family sleeping!

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