One of the biggest indications that you have left behind the newborn days and are going into full babyhood is when you are ready to transition to 2 naps. Finally, you can leave behind the irregular schedule, and start to mold consistency into your day to day. Once your baby is ready for 2 naps, you will be able to switch to a set schedule. This means you will know exactly when to schedule doctor appointments, baby gym classes, or any other outings, without interfering with nap time and with the added assurance that your baby will be rested and in a good mood for whatever you decide to do during their awake window.
So here we go. The 3 to 2 nap transition.
When does this usually happen?
This transition can occur as early as 6 months, and it is one that I usually want to see fully transitioned to by 7 months. I personally could not wait for the certainty that a 2 nap schedule provided so I switched my kids as soon as they turned 6 months.
How do you know they are ready?
You will start to notice one or several of the following:
- Your baby doesn’t seem too tired for their morning nap so you start to push their awake window closer to 2.5 hours
- The afternoon nap is taking a hit in quality (back to 45 minute naps)
- Your baby starts to refuse the catnap leaving you in a bind as to when you should be doing bedtime
- Prolonged periods of crying or playing in the crib before naps or bedtime followed by a short nap.
- Baby is 6 months or older and YOU would prefer a 2 nap schedule
This transition is actually fairly easy compared to the 1 nap transition since the catnap is just a little extra boost to get to bedtime.
So how do you start?
Start by pushing every wake window by 15 minutes every three days. Follow these sample schedules (Note: adjust the timing for when your little one wakes in the morning):
Nap transitions are roller coasters. You might have two good days progressing but the third day your baby wakes up super tired and can barely make it to nap one. That’s ok. If your baby is clearly beyond fussy and needs to go to sleep, put him/her down earlier then intended. It is better to take a little bit longer with this transition than to enter into a cycle of over-tiredness.
Initially you will notice bedtime will be later as you continue to keep that 3rd nap but still push awake times. Once the catnap is cut, bedtime comes super early until your baby acclimates to the new awake times and you can start inching back to a 7pm bedtime.
Once you have made it to the two naps, you can start to guide yourself on those set nap times every day and leave behind the days of guiding yourself around awake times.
You are aiming for 90 minutes at each nap. This is going to vary depending on the child so try not to stress about it. It is totally fine if your little one likes to take a longer 2 hour morning nap and a shorter 1 hour afternoon nap.
Be patient. Nap changes take about 3-4 weeks to really solidify. Before then, it may feel like you are really pushing your baby to reach every wake window. That is normal, and it will start to get easier every week.
Great ways to keep your baby from getting drowsy between naps are :
- Playing outside
- Exciting toys that only come out 30 minutes before naptime
- Trying exciting new solid food (yay 6 months!)
- Playing with water
** While making the transition, avoid car rides and stroller walks 30-60 minutes before their scheduled naptime**
As always, if your baby does not have independent sleep skills, they will likely not connect the 2 sleep cycles that happen during naps and therefore it will be almost impossible to follow any sort of nap schedule. If this is the case, focus first on night sleep and teaching your baby to sleep independently at night before you worry about naps. Great sleep starts with nights.