Handling the 3 to 2 nap transition. 

Following the 4 month sleep regression (which is caused by an internal, biological change), your baby’s sleep ‘regressions’ are caused by external factors such as illness, teething, developmental changes (learning to roll, sit, crawl and walk), and changes in sleep needs. An example of this is the ‘8 month sleep regression’, which is most likely caused by a change of sleep needs, where babies transition from having 3 to 2 naps per day. 

The 3 to 2 nap transition is a phase I help a lot of my clients navigate. As such, I thought it would be useful to share some of my knowledge on this tricky phase to make the transition as easy as possible. 

Most babies drop their third nap between the ages of 6 to 9 months. Just like any developmental phase, however, some little ones transition sooner than this, and others later. 

Signs that the third nap is ready to be dropped include:

  • Resisting naps (especially the third one);
  • Skipping naps entirely;
  • Taking shorter-than-usual naps;
  • Suddenly waking early in the morning and/or having split nights (lengthy times awake during the night);
  • Unusual bedtime battles.

I always point out to my clients that these signs should be present for a good week or so. Don’t rush to drop that third nap if your little one skips their naps just once or twice. 

For some, the transition happens very naturally. The little one gradually extends their wake windows and is able to take lengthier naps, and therefore, are unable to fit three naps a day in without making bedtime very late. 

It is the third nap of the day that typically gets dropped. For me and my clients, this is a shorter (30-45min) Power Nap – or a ‘bridging nap’. Something to tide the little one over between the second nap and bedtime. 

I recommend that once this nap is dropped, you aim to:

  • Extend your little one’s wake windows to closer to 3-3.5 hours;
  • Lengthen naps so they’re closer to 1.5 hours each;
  • Bring bedtime forward to compensate for the lack of a third nap.
  1. Don’t drop a nap too soon:

As mentioned above, don’t rush to drop your little one’s third nap if they refuse to take it a couple of times. A consistent refusal of the third nap is a clear sign of sleep needs changing, not just a one-off skip. Before dropping the third nap…

A. Offer it in motion instead: 

    This means a car or pram nap instead of a cot nap. The third nap is notoriously hard to get in the cot, especially as you near the transition point. It’s much easier to persuade your little one to continue to take their Power Nap if it’s on-the-go. 

    B. Extend wake windows by 15 minutes:

    Trial extending your little one’s wake windows by 15 minutes to see if a small tweak might help. If a longer wake window than this is needed, the transition may need to be made.

    C. Cap naps:

    Don’t be afraid to wake your little one up to protect their next nap(s). If they’re on 3 naps a day, you don’t really want your little one to be taking longer than 1.5 hour naps. 

    1. Move bedtime earlier after a skipped nap:

    When your little one starts skipping the third nap, move bedtime forward to ensure they don’t get overtired. Up to an hour before their usual bedtime is fine. Remember, overtiredness causes all sorts of sleep issues – from frequent night wakings to early risings. 

    1. Be flexible!:

    The 3 to 2 nap transition isn’t linear. Some days your little one may need three naps, and others two may suffice. It depends on their level of activity, how long they have napped, when they woke in the morning, etc. Try to be flexible with your routine during this time. Before you know it, they will consistently be on two naps a day! 

    If there’s any constant in sleep, it’s the unpredictability! However, knowing why these changes are occurring and how to handle them can help keep you positive during challenging times. The 3 to 2 nap transition is caused by changing sleep needs. Once you work out what these new needs are, you can shift to best support your little one, getting them the sleep they (and you) so desperately need. 

    If you are struggling with the 3 to 2 nap transition, or any other sleep challenge, get in touch and set up a free Discovery Call. I’d love to hear from you.