At around 5-6 months of age, you may start noticing some changes in your baby’s nap patterns. These changes could be a sign that it’s time to transition from three naps to two per day. But proceed with caution! Overtiredness is no fun (which is common when dropping a nap), so to make this transition as smooth as possible make sure the signs are there and you follow the recommendations below!
Is your baby ready to transition from 3 naps to 2?
Most babies will start to show signs that they are ready to transition beginning around 5-6 months of age and up to 7 months for some babies. These signs will often be subtle and may lead you to believe that your baby is overtired. So, make sure that your baby is doing at least 2 of these behaviors and has continued to show them for at least 2 weeks before deciding to make the change.
1) Baby’s nap length is decreasing. This could be any of naps but most likely the second or third nap of the day. This often looks like going from taking a 1.5-2 hour 2nd nap of the day to only 45 minutes. Alternatively, the last nap of the day could go from 45 minutes-1 hour to 20-30 minutes. Either way, you are seeing a significant shift in the length of time that your baby is sleeping.
2) Nighttime sleep seems to have improved and baby is getting more consolidated sleep during the night. Often this happens within the first 2-3 weeks of implementing a sleep plan because baby is finally sleeping more hours during the night and not requiring as much daytime sleep. This is good!
3) Baby takes longer to fall asleep during naps and either is crying or playing for 30 minutes or more once put down in their crib. This is a huge sign that baby doesn’t have enough sleep pressure built up and they are not ready for a nap!
How do you make the transition from 3 naps to 2?
When dropping a nap, we want to push baby a little to help them extend their wake windows…but not too much where they become overtired. I know you are asking, “How do I do that?!”
With small steps every few days.
For the first nap of the day, push it later by 30 minutes. For example, if baby normally takes a nap at 8:30 am, put baby down for a nap at 9:00 am. For the second nap of the day, if baby normally takes a nap at 12:30 pm, put baby down for their nap at 1:30 pm. Follow this schedule for 3-4 days before transitioning another 30 minutes later. A 2 nap per day schedule often looks like waking up at 6:30 am, first nap of the day at 9:30 am, sleep for 1.5 hours, second nap of the day at 2:00 pm for 1.5 – 2 hours, and bedtime at 7-7:30 pm.
What do I do if my baby is acting tired before it’s time to put them down for their nap?
This will happen and will continue to happen for a few weeks as their body clock adjusts to the new naptimes. One of the easiest things to do to help buy a little extra time before their nap is to take them outside for a quick walk or change the scenery in your house by moving to a different room and begin playing with something new. Another option is to offer baby a small snack if they are taking solids. Natural sugars such as fruits are an excellent way to buy a bit of time to their wake window all the while they enjoy a little snack and a change in their sensory input.
I am noticing my baby’s naps are getting even shorter since we started the transition, what can I do?
First, don’t take this as a sign that you transitioned too early. Most likely this is due to a change happening with their biological clock and we need to give them some time to adjust. So, if you are finding that naps are shorter during this transition, there are two options.
1) Offer a short cat nap in the afternoon for 30 minutes. Often the stroller or the car ride is effective in preventing overtiredness in the last wake window of the day.
2) Plan for an earlier bedtime. If your baby woke up from their second nap at 3:00 pm but making it to 7-7:30 pm bedtime seems impossible; put them to bed early! Even as early as 6:00 pm is ok. Keeping them well-rested during this transition is important for making this change as easy as possible for them.
Transitioning from three naps to two naps a day can be a challenging adjustment for both you and your baby. However, by watching for cues of overtiredness, offering a small snack or change of scenery, and staying flexible with nap times and bedtimes during this transition, you can help ease your baby into their new schedule. Remember, each baby is unique and will adjust in their own time. Maintaining patience and consistency will go a long way in ensuring a successful transition.