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Nap transitions from 3 naps to 2 naps

Around 7 to 9 months most babies drop their 3rd cat nap and transition from three to two naps. The sign for this change may come in many different cues from your baby.  Some baby's will continue to take the 3rd nap but it will last only 10-30 minutes and then it will stop completely.  Other's will take the 3rd nap some days but not consistency.  The last group will suddenly one day refuse the 3rd nap altogether.

When any of the above happens consistently for more than 3 or 4 days, it's time to drop that nap and begin transitioning baby's schedule from a 3 nap routine to a two nap schedule.  
This can be a little bit of a bumpy road and most babies go through a yucky phase where three naps is too much but two naps is not enough.  You may need to be patient and some days you will need to try for that 3rd nap in the car, stroller or arms if that's what will get even just a little catnap and help baby make it to bedtime before she is running on fumes eg: over tired!  The transition to a 2 nap schedule can take as much as two weeks and it's important to follow your baby's lead until she adjusts to the new schedule.
During this three to two nap transition baby can become overtired so the occasional early bedtime by up to 30 to 60 minutes, is appropriate and recommended.  But don't move bedtime up so early that baby starts to wake up earlier in the morning.  I recommend, at this age, a bedtime no earlier than 6:30 PM and a morning wake up no earlier than 6:00 AM.

Sample Schedule for 3 Naps:

  • Bedtime: 7 or 7:30 PM
  • Wake time: 6:00 AM
  • 1st nap: 8:00 AM (sleeps 1  to 1 1/2 hrs till 9/9:30 AM)
  • 2nd nap: 12:00 PM (sleeps 1 to 1 1/2 hrs till 1/1:30 PM)
  • 3rd nap: 4:00 PM (sleeps approximately 45 min till 4:45)
*Adjust the times and schedule to when your baby wakes up in the morning.

Gradually increase the awake windows -

When making the transition from the 3 naps to the 2 naps, you will need to adjust the wake windows by at least 30 minutes each.  It's always best to adjust wake windows gradually and I recommend that you do this schedule adjustment in the following manner. 

For the first awake window, increase baby's awake time by 5 to 10 minutes, so delaying the usual nap time by 5 or 10 minutes than you normally would. Do this for 3 days in a row and evaluate if baby seems to be able to handle the longer awake time. If she does, repeat the process and increase the awake window another 5 to 10 minutes and hold for 3 days. 
Repeat this process until the awake window for the morning nap is two and a half to three hours from when baby started their day. 
Next, we need to adjust the awake window for the second nap.  We will repeat the same process of gradually increasing be awake window 5 to 10 minutes every few days and only increasing it an additional 5 to 10 minutes once the baby has adjusted for the extra time.
We continue the above process until the afternoon nap awake window is 3 to 3 1/2 hours from when baby wakes from the first nap.  

Awake windows chart -

Follow your child's sleep cues but also use this awake windows chart below to help time your child's naps to an age-appropriate schedule.  If your child is a champ at hiding their sleep cues, try taking them to a dark room near when you think it's nap time, sometimes that will bring out the tired signs you were looking for to know when is the best time to put them down for sleep. 

Sample Schedule for NEW 2 Naps:

  • Bedtime: 7 or 7:30 PM
  • Wake time: 6:30 AM
  • 1st nap: 9:00 AM (sleeps 1 to 1 1/2 hrs till 10:30 AM)
  • 2nd nap: 1:30 PM (sleeps 1 1/2 to 2 hrs till 3/3:30 PM)
*Adjust the times to when your baby wakes up in the morning.
The goal is to get baby on a schedule where the first nap starts about 2 1/2 to 3 hrs after morning wake up time, the second nap starts about 3 to 3 1/2 hours after the end of the first nap and bedtime is about 3 to 3 1/2 hours after the end of the second nap.

Most babies stay on this new two nap schedule until 15 to 18 months when they transition to the one nap.  Here's the link for assistance with that transition, when your baby is ready.  Nap Transitions from 2 nap to 1 nap

Sweet Dreams,

Written By: Michelle S. Donaghy


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