4 To 3 Nap Transition – How To Make It Smoother For Baby & You?

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

Is your baby around 4 months old and you feel like you’re back in the newborn stage all over again – frequent nighttime wakings, early mornings and short naps throughout the day? Are you struggling with feeling overtired, too?

If you think it’s just a sleep regression, think again: it may be time to a new nap schedule for your growing baby.

If your baby has 4 consistent naps a day, but the naps are getting shorter and his bedtime is getting later and later, these are signs that it’s time to drop the fourth nap.

Many parents are unsure of their baby’s sleep needs can feel overwhelmed or anxious about the idea of creating a new nap schedule, shifting from 4 naps down to 3. This article answers common questions about the 4-3 nap transition and offers helpful tips to make the transition easier for everyone.

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

What Age Do Babies Drop To 3 Naps?

Most babies drop to 3 naps per day between 4 and 5 months of age.

This doesn’t happen exactly at 4 months of age, each baby is different. Look for signs that your little one is ready to drop a nap first before you shift away from a 4-nap-a-day routine.

Keep in mind that later on, between 7 and 10 months of age, there will be another nap transition: from 3 to 2 naps.

Which Nap Gets Dropped?

A common nap schedule for 3-4 month olds has 4 naps a day1:

  • First nap: in the morning (usually around 8:30 – 9 am);
  • Second nap: before or after lunch (around 12 noon);
  • Third nap: Late afternoon (2:30 – 3:00 pm);
  • Fourth nap: no later than 5:00 pm.

It is the fourth nap that gets dropped during this sleep transition2. However, the other three naps should also shift a little to accommodate age-appropriate wake times.

What Are The Signs It’s The Right Time To Drop A Nap

What Are The Signs It’s The Right Time To Drop A Nap?

You should look for signs that your baby is ready to drop from 4 naps down to 3 naps per day3. Baby sleep experts suggest that your infant should show some of these signs for days in a row, for 1 – 2 weeks, not just once or twice.

  • Your baby doesn’t seem tired at their normal bedtime

If your infant isn’t tired around their normal bedtime, and can even stay awake an hour longer than before, this means they have been getting too much daytime sleep.

This is a sign you can work on dropping that 4th nap of the day.

You may discover that once you transition to fewer naps, your little one will actually have an earlier bedtime for a month or so, this is normal.

  • Early morning wakings

Another sign that it’s time for the 4 to 3 nap transition is if your infant wakes very early in the morning (before 6 am).

Remember, this sign should be a regular occurrence over weeks – not a one-time event. If your baby wakes at 5:30 am once in a while, it might be frustrating, but it isn’t considered a sign that they are ready for a nap transition.

  • More night wakings than normal

Night wakings at 4 months are a bit tricky, because there is generally a sleep regression around 4 months old, as well. You can expect babies to awake more often than before, as they learn to put themselves to sleep.

However, if your baby was sleeping for 5-6 hour stretches at a time and now is waking every 3 hours at night (most nights), then they might be ready to transition to 3 naps.

  • Takes longer for baby to fall asleep for naps

Another sign for nap transitions is if your baby takes longer than 20 minutes to fall asleep for regular naps. This is a hint that they can handle longer awake time and can probably drop a nap.

Your little one might keep the morning nap at the same time, but you may find that an afternoon nap or that last nap of the day are a struggle. Baby may stay awake in their crib or bed instead of getting in solid naps.

If this is the case, start working on dropping the 4th nap and see if your little one can extend awake time and make the transition down to three naps a day.

  • Short naps

A clear sign its time for a transition is if your baby starts taking short naps.

Generally, these are “cat naps” of 20-30 minutes with longer wake windows between each nap.

Other sign can be the “45 minutes intruder” – which is when baby wakes up after 45 minutes basically from every nap.

If this is the case, you’ll want to stretch that awake time and consolidate the naps for a new sleep schedule.

How To Do The Transition From 4 To 3 Naps

How To Do The Transition From 4 To 3 Naps?

Nap transitions mean fewer, but longer naps with longer wake windows in between.

A 3 month old baby may only be able to stay awake for 90 minutes at a time. However, a 4 or 5 month old baby can extend that wake time to 100 minutes or 120 minutes (2 hrs). Those extra minutes of awake time really do add up!

So, how do you practically do it? Here are a few ways to make the transition from 4 naps down to 3.

1. Gradually Increase Wake Windows

First and foremost – go slowly! Make changes in small incriments.

Stretch out a single wake window by 10 minutes, then 15. The next day stretch two wake windows by 15 minutes, etc.

A slow transition to change nap time usually results in a smoother transition for babies and will be better for their sleep cycles, too.

How to lengthen wake time with a baby:

  • Change up the activity when you see sleepy cues like vacant stares, yawning or rubbing eyes.
  • Move to a new (bright) room
  • Play with a musical toy or one that makes sounds.
  • Be active: dance with your baby or play with them on their play mat.
  • Get natural light. Sunlight plays a big role in our internal sleep cycles and circadian rhythms, so let baby get some sun to help stay awake in the daytime and improve nighttime sleep, too.
PRO TIP: Extend that wake window, but don’t push it – an overtired baby won’t sleep properly. If you baby really needs to sleep, let them have their nap and try stretching out the next wake window, instead.

2. Encourage Longer Naps

A cat nap is a nap that is 30 minutes or less. These are the nemesis of sleep transitioning. These short naps can also affect nighttime sleep, too, which will create a nasty cycle and ultimately contribute to an overtired baby.

Encourage longer naps with a dark nursery4. Use black-out curtains or safe crib darkeners to make their sleeping space darker.

Try using white noise to block out sounds that could wake your baby, too.

3. Be Flexible

Remember this is a big transition for your little one. It’s okay for sleep training to take time. You may also be dealing with sleep regressions at the same time, so be flexible5.

Try shifting bath time earlier and consider if you should feed your baby before or after a nap as part of this change.

Allow bedtime to be a little earlier if baby needs the sleep (he probably will!), and be okay with a new sleep schedule. You may need to shift morning wake-ups and the timing of the first nap of the day in order to help your baby adjust.How Do You Manage A 4 To 3 Nap Transition

3 Nap Schedule For Your Baby

Here’s a sample 3-nap schedule for babies6. You can switch it up according to your needs, but try to keep the time of wake windows and overall amount of daily sleep the same.

3 Nap Schedule

  • Wake up: 7:30 am
  • 2 hrs wake time
  • First nap: 9:30 am (1 hr nap)
  • 1.5 hrs wake time
  • Second nap: 12 noon (1.5 hr nap)
  • 2 hrs wake time
  • Third nap: 3:30 pm (1.5 hr nap)
  • 2 hrs wake time
  • Bed: 7:00 – 7:30 pm

Remember, be flexible with this – if your baby sleeps 2 hrs for their second nap, don’t sweat it. The aim is to reduce that fourth nap down until it disappears altogether.

The first three naps may be similar to your previous (4-naps a day) schedule. It is likely the final nap that has been dropped and bedtime is usually a bit earlier than before.

How Do You Manage A 4 To 3 Nap Transition? – Extra Tips For Parents

Here are couple more tips that can help you to get through nap transition more smoothly.

1. Change Up Your Routine

Pay attention to what keeps your baby awake longer, or what could help extend a cat nap into a longer nap.

Many babies love playing at the park, or the bright lights of the supermarket. This could be a key to extending wake windows. Be strategic about when you do your shopping or what time of day you go to the park.

On the other hand, when it comes to getting in longer naps, consider if your baby sleeps great during car rides, or if you could you lengthen a nap by pushing him in the stroller at the park.

While sleeping in the carseat or stroller isn’t the preferred long-term approach, it can be really effective for stretching out a nap and helping get in that sleep time while baby adjusts to a 3 nap schedule.

A short-term routine change could be the key to help with the adjustment down to 3 naps a day.

2. Don’t Focus On Daytime Sleep

This might seem silly, considering all the talk about longer wake times and setting a nap schedule. But at this young age, nighttime sleep is more important.

To the parents struggling with a 4 nap or 3 nap a day schedule at this age, remember that nap times are secondary to bedtime. Instead of getting bogged down with anxiety over daytime sleep, focus on getting quality night time sleep, first.

If you can help your baby lengthen their night sleep and get 6 – 8 hrs of sleep a night, you will find their daytime sleep should balance out more easily, too.

How Long Does The 4-3 Nap Transition Take?

It’s okay for the 4 to 3 nap transition to take 2-3 weeks7.

This is probably the first sleep training your baby has ever experienced, and it’s best to be gradual and consistent. Not every nap will go smoothly, that’s just reality, but expect that over the course of a month your baby will adjust to the new nap schedule.

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.

If you have a question or a comment, do not hesitate to write to me! 🙂

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