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  • Hailee Schollaardt

Nap Transitions!

Nap transitions can be tricky! When to do them and how to do them are constant questions that I receive. Although every baby is different there are some averages in terms of when babies go through nap transitions.

Going through nap transitions are hard because it is all about finding a balance between reaching total sleep hour goals, keeping baby from becoming overtired and transitioning to the new schedule. It is very common for babies to get cranky during the transition period as their body makes the adjustments.

It is always important to remember that nap transitions are a NORMAL part of development! As your baby gets older they need more awake time to learn and develop their skills. This is why naturally as they age naps continue to drop until eventually you have an older toddler who does not nap anymore. As those naps drop we want to see night sleep consolidating so that they are never missing out on total sleep hours.

Babies also need to stay awake for longer periods of time during the day as they age because this is what helps build up sleep drive/pressure for them to sleep well at night. If we had a 12 month old who was still napping 4 times a day then they would for surely be waking lots in the night because they flat out would not be tired! This is also a balancing act of making sure they get enough daytime sleep without those sleep hours taking away from nighttime sleep.

I will break the information up into the main transitions that will take place! Keep in mind that these are my suggestions but your baby may transition a little sooner or later than what is outlined. You know them best!

4 to 3 Transition

I often find that the 4 to 3 nap transition occurs more naturally than other transitions. Babies 4 months and younger tend to still have unorganized sleep patterns and so parents may not notice any regular rhythm to naps in terms of how many they are having on a day to day basis. It is like we are on survival mode just getting through that newborn phase! Then next thing we know more often than not there are 3 naps happening and we realize that they have transitioned to a 3 nap schedule.

This transition typically occurs around the age of 4.5-5 months and marks the time period when your baby will officially be getting on a more consistent schedule. This does not necessarily mean that they will be sleeping great since they are just on the flip side of the 4 month sleep regression but generally this is when the body’s sleep cycles even out and we see a pattern of 3 naps during the day and more consolidated sleep at night.

During month 5 I suggest beginning the transition from 4 to 3 naps if you have not done so already so that by 6 months your baby is on a solid 3 nap schedule. At 6 months most babies do best on 3 naps as their body is able to stay awake a little longer and they can handle more awake time without it disrupting too much sleep.

Signs Your Baby is Ready:

  • They constantly fight the 4th nap of the day

  • They regularly skip the 4th nap of the day

  • They are happy and in a good mood after skipping the 4th nap

  • They are not showing any tired signs before that 4th nap

  • You notice they are fighting the earlier naps a bit more than usual which could be a sign they are ready for some slight increases in those wake times as well which will naturally push that 4th nap out

How to Transition:

At 4.5 to 5 months babies awake times are still quite short but during the 5th month they are able to stay awake a little bit longer and so we can phase out the 4th nap by increasing the wake times throughout the day.

Approx. 4.5-5 month awake times: 1.25-1.5/1.5/1.5/1.75/1.75-2

  • Start by stretching 1 or 2 awake time at a time by 15 minutes. I usually stretch the morning one last although if your baby is resisting that first nap and taking short naps and waking up happy then they could probably stretch there.

Example of stretching:

  • Step 1: 1.5/1.5/1.75/1.75/2

  • Step 2: 1.5/1.75/1.75/1.75/2

  • Step 3: 1.5/1.75/2/2/2

Approx. 5-5.5 month awake times: 1.75-2/2-2.25/2-2.25/2.25

As you can see we slowly extended awake times to help phase out nap #4. One rule we want to follow after that 4 month sleep regression is to have the last nap of the day ending between 5-5:30 p.m. This allows for an age appropriate bedtime. You will begin to see as you extend awake times that the 4th nap starts to get shorter or if you have a good napper on your hands there simply is not room for the 4th nap to occur and end between that 5-5:30 p.m. mark. This is how the transition occurs.

Once your baby is on that 3 nap schedule I would encourage you to have the last nap ending by 5:15 p.m. latest and aim for two longer naps (1+ hours) and 1 shorter nap (under 1 hour). Waking your baby up at a time in the morning where you can fit in appropriate naps and awake times all before 5:15 p.m. Usually 7-8 a.m. depending on your baby and the length of their naps.

3 To 2 Nap Transition

The 3 to 2 nap transition I find is trickier than the 4 to 3 transition because babies sometimes get stuck in a pattern of what seems like them needing 3 naps or else they are super cranky but they usually only take 2 which causes the awake time between the end of the second nap and bedtime to be very long!

On average babies go through this transition between 7 and 9 months. I most often see the transition between 7 and 8 months. I recommend that if by 8 months your baby has not started the transition to gradually begin increasing their awake time in between naps to give the transition a push. This way by 8.5-9 months your baby can be on a solid 2 nap schedule!

Signs Your Baby is Ready:

  • They constantly fight the 3rd nap of the day

  • They regularly skip the 3rd nap of the day

  • They are happy and in a good mood after skipping the 3rd nap

  • They are not showing any tired signs before that 3rd nap

  • You are at a point where you have to cap the earlier naps at 1 hour to try and fit in the 3rd cat nap that is often being resisted or skipped.

  • Your baby is awake in the middle of the night and seems ready to play. This could mean they woke for a feed and now are babbling, playing, trying to interact with you or when you put them down they stay awake for a long period of time. This could be a sign they need more awake time during the day which will most likely phase out that 3rd nap.

  • Your baby is waking up early (before 6 a.m.) and is super happy and ready to start the day even when bedtime was appropriate (sometimes a bedtime that is too late causes early mornings!)

How to Transition

I find the best way to do this one is to jump into it. Your baby is already fighting that 3rd nap or skipping it all together and so now we need to slowly increase the awake times during the day to even out the first 2 naps and eliminate the 3rd one for good.

As with all transitions babies need to often catch up on the sleep they are permanently losing so don’t be afraid to pull bedtime a little earlier as you transition in fact I encourage you to do this! Pushing bedtime later and making your baby overtired will only make the transitions harder. Once naps even out then you can push that bedtime back to a more regular time!

Step 1: Use awake times of 2.5/2.75/3

Step 2: Use awake times of 2.75/3/3

Step 3: Use awake times of 2.75-3/3.25/3.25

Often times transitions take a week or two to implement but some babies adapt very well and so you can make bigger jumps such as starting at step 2. If your baby is having a hard time adjusting to the longer awake times just be sure to not get stuck for a long time with short awake times and an early bedtime because this may cause that morning to also shift earlier. After a week move to the next step to keep things moving in the right direction.

Once your baby is on 2 naps I recommend having the last nap end by 4:15 p.m. and aim for a total of 2-3 total daytime sleep hours. Ideally, we want both naps to be at least 1 hour. You may find that on 3 naps you were needing to wake your baby up at 7:00 a.m. in order to fit in all 3 naps before 5:15 p.m. but now you can let your baby sleep longer, 7:30-8 a.m., since we are eliminating an entire sleep period. As the awake times lengthen you may need to shift the morning wake up earlier again to fit in 2 good naps before 4:15 p.m.

2 To 1 Nap Transition

This one is always the “scary” one because we move to 1 longer nap in the middle of the afternoon. I also know as a mom that I feel like I am losing my afternoon break but the goal with this transition is to move from 2 shorter naps to 1 longer one so you may actually get more coffee time in the end!

The key to this transition is patience. Remember how every baby is different…same goes for this big transition! Some babies literally fly through this transition in a few days while others take a few weeks. It is so individual and depends a lot on their personality and sensitivity to stimulation. In my personal experience with my own children my oldest son took almost 2 months to fully transition and do well with it where as my second child took 3 days and she was taking 3 hour naps and was happy as a clam. I did the same thing with both but their personalities are complete opposite! We need to respect who they are as individuals to get through it.

On average babies transition to 1 nap anywhere between 12-18 months. Remember that there is a lovely 12 month sleep regression that often appears to be the beginning of the 2 to 1 nap transition but trust me when I say that 2nd nap often does comes back again! I try and recommend holding your baby off until as close to 15 months as you can but if they are showing strong signs that they are ready then they might be!

Signs Your Baby is Ready:

  • They constantly fight the 2nd nap of the day

  • They regularly skip the 2nd nap of the day

  • When the 2nd nap is missed they are happy and go to bed well and sleep well in the night

  • They are not showing any tired signs before that 2nd nap

  • The morning nap is being pushed later and later because they are not tired yet and this is pushing the 2nd nap too late into the afternoon (much later than 3 p.m.)

  • Your baby is awake in the middle of the night and seems ready to play. This could mean they woke for a feed and now are babbling, playing, trying to interact with you or when you put them down they stay awake for a long period of time. This could be a sign they need more awake time.

  • Your baby is waking up early (before 6 a.m.) and is super happy and ready to start the day even when bedtime was appropriate (sometimes a bedtime that is too late causes early mornings!)

  • Your baby is fighting bedtime to the point where it is pushing bedtime back past 8 p.m. Some babies seem to not be tired until 9 p.m. or later! This is because that 2nd nap is occurring too late in the afternoon and they are not getting enough sleep drive buildup to be tired.

How to Transition

First step: Once you are having the 1st nap occurring later in the morning and the 2nd nap is being resisted or is always short then push the 1st nap to 11:15-11:30 a.m. or a 4-4.5 awake time if your baby is sleeping in later in the morning. This will be the first step of the transition and the 2nd nap will be eliminated. Don’t forget to pull bedtime a little earlier to make up for this shift if the nap isn't that long.

  • Bedtimes can often fall between 6-7 p.m. at the beginning of this transition.

  • I use 11:15/11:30 "earliest" asleep time for those babies who are waking up earlier in the morning. But, if your baby is waking up later such as 7:30/8 a.m. then I use the 4-4.5 hour awake time. This way we are still making a larger stretch for that first waking.

Second step: After 5-10 days move the nap to 11:45 a.m. earliest asleep time or a 4-4.5 hour awake time. If your baby is really sensitive and you know they don’t respond to change well then maybe 11:30 a.m. will be a big enough adjustment and you can do an extra step.

Third step: After another 5-10 days move the nap to 11:45-12. From here on you will base the nap time on the time your wakes in the morning but generally you want it to fall between 11:45 & 1:00 depending on when they are waking in the morning. You will start to know their pattern and what intervals work best for them.

Example of 1 nap schedule may look like:

7:00 a.m. wake up

12:00 nap

2:00-2:30 wake up

7-7:30 asleep for the night

It is common during the first parts of the transition for the nap to not be that long because the body isn’t used to having 1 longer sleep period in the day. If the nap is quite short try going into the room and helping your baby back to sleep to teach the body how to extend the sleep cycle.

Once the 1 nap schedule is established it can be beneficial to keep sleep times as consistent as possible. For example, you put your baby down consistently between 12-1 p.m., you wake them at 3 p.m. latest and then you put them down for bedtime consistently between 7-7:30 p.m.. This is just an example as your baby might have different times that seem to be their sweet spot but this is often a good schedule.

Once your baby is on a 1 nap schedule I recommend ending the nap by 3:15 p.m. latest.

1 to NO Naps

I know, I don’t even like to talk about it…. The day where the naps are dropped. Although it seems like a hard time because that afternoon silence is gone it has its perks as well. Your toddler will often go down to bed at night easier and earlier and so instead of the middle of the afternoon rest period you get you can have it in the evening.

I don’t even want to give a range of when toddlers drop their nap because it is so individual. Some resources say between the ages of 2 and 3 while others say between 3 and 5. It is all over the map. I say when your toddler is showing you they don’t need it anymore or you feel it is right then maybe it is!!

Some signs they are ready:

  • The nap is a battle field where it takes them forever to go down and they often wake up just as grumpy as when they went down or don't fall asleep at all.

  • The nap is frequently skipped.

  • Your toddler is happy for the whole day even when the nap is missed.

  • When your toddler does nap bedtime becomes the battle field and they fight sleep for hours past their bedtime.

  • They begin waking up early in the morning ready to play (this sometimes reinforces the nap in the afternoon that only causes the bedtime battles again the next night)

As with all nap transitions it is important to make sure they are ready for the transition. If your child is on the younger side then I would first try and preserve this nap. If they are having a solid 2 hour nap and then fighting bedtime for 2 hours first try a 1.5 hour nap and push bedtime back just a little bit (I do recommend 8 the latest). See how they do with this for a week to see if bedtimes become easier and sleep becomes balanced. Sometimes the signs above just mean they need to reduce daytime sleep a little bit before making the big drop. If this still doesn’t work try a 1 hour nap with the later bedtime and see what happens. If everything is still a huge battle then it might be time to transition!

How to Transition

Cutting out this nap is a big change unless they are resisting it 99% of the time anyway! When doing this transition it is important to note that we all need downtime as individuals and so although we are cutting out the nap some quiet time might still be a good idea!

  • Implement quiet time: Take an hour in the middle of the afternoon where the nap used to be where you play some quiet games, color, make a low stimulating craft, read books, ect. We are basically lowering stimulation to give the body a bit of a break!!

  • Shift bedtime to the earlier side of the range you were using. If on 1 nap they were going to sleep well at 8 (before the battles) then once they consistently drop the nap you might notice bedtime is better at 7-7:30 p.m.

  • If they are really irritable it might be a sign they need a nap catch up day! Let them have a little sleep but maybe only 1-1.5 hours. If they wake up and then it is a huge battle at bedtime again you will know to keep it around the 1 hour mark when a nap is desperately needed. You will know their cues best!

  • If you feel it is not worth it to have that 1 hour nap due to the battles then distract them through those tired hours and move bedtime earlier so they are still getting the sleep they need! You will find their sweet spot.

Transitions can be easy while the next one can be hard. Respect your baby and their ability and readiness to make the changes. It will pass and the next fun regression and/or transition will be fast approaching :) Sleep is always about finding a balance! If you are noticing sleep disruptions with naps or any of the signs above then maybe your baby is just ready for the next nap step!!

Thank you for reading! Please share this blog and others that you find helpful!



#baby #sleep #sleeptraining #motherhood #naps #napschedules #naptransitions

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