3 To 2 Nap Transition – When It’s The Right Time & How To Manage It?

3 to 2 Nap Transition - When To Do It And How To Manage It

Article by Jessica Pierce – Registered Nurse & Nationally Registered Paramedic

Nap time – those sweet magic words signal rest not only for your baby, but for you. Whether you plan to use the time your sweet little one is slumbering to take a quick shower, catch up on some housework, or even sneak some Zzzs in yourself, naptime is precious.

So it certainly comes as no surprise that slowly transitioning your baby’s naps down from several a day to just one can be very stress inducing.

Nap transition can be very difficult to navigate, especially for new parents. Will your baby tolerate fewer daytime naps well? Will dropping a nap mess up their sleep schedule? Should you try to keep them awake, or let them lead the transition? These are all great questions that I’m about to address, so keep on reading!

Coming up are some of the most tried and true tips to survive this nap drop (just like you’ve survived the transition from 4 to 3 naps!), make it easier for your baby to get a good amount of sleep every night, and also give you some emotional support during this tricky time.

This article is not a substitute for medical advice or consultation.

What Age Do Babies Transition From 3 Naps To 2?

In general, baby’s naps should transition from 3 to 2 between 7 and 10 months of age1.

Why this time frame? Answer: it’s all about age appropriate awake times.

As your little one grows, they should start to have longer wake windows. As baby’s awake times naturally increase, they’ll need more wake time during the day as well as more nighttime sleep – that’s where nap transitions come into play.

Remember, every baby is different so this isn’t necessarily an exact formula, but more of a general guideline. If you have questions or concerns about how well your baby is tolerating their current sleep schedule, there’s nothing wrong with reaching out to your pediatrician for more guidance.

Which Nap Gets Dropped?

Baby sleep experts say that the third nap of the day is the one that needs to be dropped. This can be done by stretching out awake time in between naps, thus making naps number one and number two occur later in the morning and afternoon.

When this happens, it generally means that there is no longer time in the day for a third nap before bedtime. It also leads to more sleep pressure, or your baby’s desire to go to sleep – which can help them get better night sleep as well.

What Age Do Babies Transition From 3 Naps To 2?

What Are The Signs Your Baby Is Ready To Drop To 2 Naps?

Here are some common signs that your baby is ready for a two nap schedule2.

  • Naps one and two are less than one hour

In general, you want baby to get at least one hour of sleep at each nap to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm, aka sleep cycle.

When naps 1 and 2 regularly last less than one hour, it could mean that your little one is needing less daytime sleep. Often, removing nap number 3 will help to keep those first and second naps over the recommended one hour so that baby can get truly restorative sleep both during the day and at night.

Remember, two long naps are better than 3 naps that are short naps or more like a cat nap. Too much daytime sleep can make it harder for baby to fall asleep at night.

  • Nap three is pushed back past 4:30 PM

Baby sleep experts state that a nap past 4:30 or 5pm is actually bedtime. So if baby is not ready for nap 3 by then, it’s a good sign that they may no longer need it.

To prevent overtiredness before bedtime, consider moving to an early bedtime for a short period while baby gets used to their new nap schedule. Bedtime can gradually be moved back in short increments until baby gets back to their normal bedtime.

  • Baby fights or skips nap three frequently

If your baby is regularly fighting naps in the mid to late afternoon, or just doesn’t go to sleep during their third scheduled nap time, this could be a sign that your baby is ready to drop that 3rd nap.

It’s a good idea to start the 3 to 2 nap transition slowly and carefully, and be willing to transition back to 3 naps per day if baby does not do well or shows signs that they aren’t ready for this transition yet.

  • Baby wakes up during the night

If the 3rd nap is too much day time sleep for your baby, they may struggle to fall asleep at night, or fight an earlier bedtime. Frequent night wake ups are a sign that baby is ready for two naps a day instead of 3.

If your baby is sleeping for a really long time at each nap, you could consider a shorter naptime and longer wake windows to see if that fixes the problem. But if it doesn’t, it may be that a 2 nap schedule is in order.

Signs That Baby Is Not Ready To Drop Nap

Signs That Baby Is Not Ready To Drop Nap

Here are a few potential reasons why your baby may not be developmentally ready3 to skip that last nap:

  • Baby is reaching one or more developmental milestones: sleep regression can occur during these times, and transitioning to only two naps per day will be more difficult than usual.
  • Baby regularly takes three naps: if your baby is doing really well on three naps per day, it may not be time to drop to 2 naps yet.
  • Early morning wakings: a sign that baby’s sleep schedule has been thrown off, possibly from too much or too little time in their last wake window.

What Happens If I Drop A Nap Too Soon?

Dropping a nap too early can result in a number of different sleep issues for your baby. These can include crankiness or fussiness due to being overwhelmed and overtired, frequent night wakings, or the dreaded early wake ups.

How To Transition From 3 To 2 Naps?

Here are several tips, tricks, and life hacks4 for navigating the 3 to 2 nap transition:

1. Move Up Bed Time

To prevent pre-bedtime exhaustion and fussiness, move your baby to an earlier bedtime in the day so their wake windows aren’t any longer than 4 hours.

Once you’ve started the nap transition, start to move bedtime back in ten minute increments every 3 or so days until you’re back to baby’s normal bedtime.

What Are The Signs Your Baby Is Ready To Drop To 2 Naps

2. Allow For Some Back And Forth

There may be a number of days that baby just needs that 3rd nap. This is totally normal, and nothing to worry about!

If baby just has to have a 3rd nap more days than not, it may not be time to transition them just yet. There’s nothing wrong with trying again in another week or two to make sure that they’re ready for the sleep schedule change.

3. Make Sure Baby Has A Good Nap Every Time

Try to keep baby’s awake windows consistent to facilitate longer naps as well as staying awake between naps. Facilitate falling asleep and help your little one stay asleep by creating a calming environment for them to sleep in, and don’t be afraid to adjust bedtime earlier if needed.

Let’s talk about nap length. The first and second nap should total right around two hours. If your baby is more inclined to take short naps, or you can’t get then past a short nap or micro nap, it’s a good idea to focus on quality day sleep before trying to get them to stay awake with only 2 naps per day.

Once your baby is napping well, that’s a good sign that baby is ready for the 3-2 nap transition.

2 Nap Schedule For Your Baby

Every baby’s sleepy cues and sleep schedule will be just a little bit different, because no two babies are the same. Here is just one example of what a two nap schedule5 could look like:

  • 6:30am – Morning Wake
  • 9:30am – Morning Nap
  • 2:30pm – Afternoon Nap
  • 7:00pm – Bedtime

Assuming that both naps number 1 and number 2 last for an hour each, this means a 3 hour wake window in the morning, 4 hours of awake time between nap 1 and nap 2, and 3 and a half hours of awake time before bed.

If your baby ends up taking a shorter nap most of the time, they may need a third nap. The third nap prevents wake windows from getting too long and negatively impacting night time sleep.

How To Transition From 3 To 2 Naps
Source: pampers.com

How Long Does The 3-2 Nap Transition Take?

For most babies, this nap transition can take several weeks to adjust to. There will probably be a good bit of trial and error involved, and that’s okay! It’s all about finding out what works best for both you and your baby.

Most baby sleep experts say to give your little one a few weeks (at least 2 to 4) to navigate this change in their nap schedule6. If your baby is still struggling after a month long adjustment period, it may be time to re-evaluate their schedule, or chat with your pediatrician or a pediatric sleep specialist.

Which Nap Transition Is The Hardest?

Some sources state that nap transitions get progressively harder as the number of naps goes down with the switch to one nap being the hardest, while others claim that the three naps to two naps transition is the most difficult.

To some extent, this may depend on your baby. Many babies are different, and will have different sleep and wake windows, or differing abilities to navigate sleep schedule change as they start to have more awake time.

Whatever the nap transition journey looks like for you, know that you are not alone! There are a vast number of resources and supports available to you as you work through your baby’s sleep issues. Keep coming back to this article for a refresher on the best baby sleep tips as well as some encouragement!

Article By Jessica Pierce, RN

Jessica Pierce is Registered Nurse, Nationally Registered Paramedic, writer, and contemporary dance artist based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She holds two undergraduate degrees from Oral Roberts University – a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (2018) and a Bachelor’s of Art in Dance Performance (2019).

The purpose of this article is informative. It’s not a substitute for professional medical advice or medical care. Remember: safety first! Consult your doctor/pediatrician in case of any doubts. The author of this article does not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here.






About Me - Zooey BarnettHello Moms! I am Zooey. I am a wife and a mother of three amazing kids: almost 5-year-old Haley and 2-year-old twins Jesse and Matthew. I am a jogger, cooker and blogger.

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