Every month in the first year your child’s life sleep changes. Patterns and sleep needs shift. Nap transitions happen and they can be hard to manage and also work out when it is the right time to do it.
Here in this blog I am going to explain about the 3 to 2 nap transition, when it may happen, how to do it and the what if’s!
The 3rd nap of the day is ALWAYS the hardest to get in. Why? This is due to the fact the timing of the nap is completely out with a biological sleep window. Biological sleep windows are between 9 and 10 am and 12 and 2 pm and then from 7pm onwards and babies can be very fussy towards the end of the day and harder to get to sleep. This nap is often achieved by a motion or contact nap but even that may not be working as easily as before.
The signs it’s time to drop the nap...
Your baby will be around the age of 6.5-9 months
Your baby is fighting this 3rd nap
They may be happy to go to bed but are just chatting and playing away in there!
If baby is taking this nap you may find bedtime is becoming a little bit of struggle or you are noticing a “false start” which means baby is falling asleep but perhaps waking half hour or so later and struggling to fall asleep again
Night wakes start to occur where previously this did not happen
Early waking’s where this also previously did not happen
One or any of these signs has been happening for at least 2 weeks
Just experiencing one of these signs is enough for you to consider cutting or dropping this nap. Of course if there are more signs from the list above then it is a sure thing this nap needs to go!
How Do You Drop This Nap?
If your baby is still taking this nap you may just want to cut it short down to 15 minutes for a few days and then drop it altogether. Cutting short naps is a very soft and gradual way to do any nap transition and for a sensitive sleep needs baby this is the best way to do it if it works for you!
When this nap is dropped bedtime will become much earlier than it previously was. Perhaps as early as 6pm. You may need to gradually extend the awake window from lunch nap to bedtime which may get to around 7pm. It may not happen super easily for some babies as they can be sensitive to sleep needs. They may not right away be able to be awake 4 hours. It will come though so no need to rush it.
Spend some outdoor time in the afternoon soaking up that serotonin (which will convert into the magic sleep hormone melatonin) from the sun and fresh air. This will help keep your baby engaged and alert.
Bedtime may still need to be early for quite a while and 6pm bedtime is often needed. Remember, earlier to bed means your child will catch up on that sleep debt and cut out a possibility of waking early. It does not mean your child will wake earlier.
Why Drop This Nap?
Your baby will be of an age where they can go 3 to 4 hours awake before bedtime. Remember every child is made up of different DNA! Some babies will drop this nap but only just manage 3 hours awake and others will happily go 4 hours. There is no rule. This is just a window, a guide, and you will find your baby’s sweet spot and what works for them!
Well, it may co –inside with the 8 month sleep “progression” so be patient and know this transition may take up to 4 weeks for your days to run smoothly again. The key is to be consistent. Your baby will now be having 2-2.5 hours of day time sleep
Reasons Your Baby Is NOT Ready To Drop This 3rd Nap...
They are under 6 months of age
They may still protest a little at nap 1 and 2 but the fall asleep and take a good nap
Night wakes are sporadic and there is no consistency of night wakes or early rising
But What If…
Your baby is a habitual catnapper. Every day taking short and random naps and there is no pattern to any day? Then your baby will very probably find it had to make a transition to just 2 naps. Ideally you want to have a short nap the morning usually around 30 minutes and then the lunch nap aim for 2 hours. Some babies only manage 1.5 hours and it works for then which is absolutely fine. Some babies actually prefer having both naps quite long and the total day sleep divided into two equally. There is not right or wrong way of doing this. Just what works for you is the right way!
Your baby starts waking even more in the night? It is possible not enough day time sleep is being had, naps have not been taken at the optimal time of day or perhaps there is a sleep association creeping in. Hunger may also be a reason. It is worth taking a diary for 3 or more days and track what is going in in your baby’s world and this way it will be easier to pinpoint what may be the cause.
Suggested Schedules That May Work For Your Baby
Here are some of my suggested schedules that you may find works for your baby.
Option 1. The short / long nap
Option 2 The Mid long / Long Nap
Option 3 The Short/ Long Nap early start to day
As you can see there are different options and there could be another schedule that works more so for your baby. If you would like some help working it out please feel free to drop me an email HERE and ask away!
Or if you would like some help to go through this transition or to dig a little deeper into your child’s sleep then click HERE to book in your FREE 15 minute call and we can chat about how I can help you!
Don't forget to share this blog with a friend who may be approaching this nap transition time also!
Happy nap transitions!
Your Paediatric Sleep Consultant