Nap Transitions
By Mary Foster

Nap Transitions

By Mary Foster

Nap Transitions

By Mary Foster

Nap Transitions

By Mary Foster

Nap Transitions

During the first year of his life, your baby will go through a few nap transitions, from over four naps per day down to just two by the end of the first year, which will decrease again to just one nap by the time he is 18 months. That’s a lot of changes!

Nap transitions can be a massive headache for parents who struggle to figure out when it’s the right time for their little one to drop one of his daily naps and, if they make the change too early, their baby might end up overtired. Learn more about these transitions and how you can ease the transition.

When Is The Right Time?

There are usually two significant transitions within the first year of your baby’s life, the 4 to 3 naps transition, which typically occurs at about five months, and the 3 to 2 naps, which generally take between 7-10 months. 

Sometimes babies can go on little nap strikes for a few days, but if you notice that it happens consistently for at least 1 to 3 weeks, it is a sign that it’s the right time for a transition. If they have a great sleep schedule that suddenly changes for no apparent reason (such as travel, illness or teething) or if it takes more than 25 minutes for your baby to fall asleep, it could be an indication of a change in his sleeping needs. Overall, if you start noticing an inconsistency in nap length and a general deterioration of sleep, both day and night, it’s probably time to make changes.

Don’t Transition Too Early…  

Transitioning too early is a mistake that many parents make, as they think their baby is ready to drop a nap, but they instead end up with a tired and unhappy baby, and NO ONE wants that! 

To avoid dropping naps too early, consider the possibilities before deciding that a nap change is needed. Sickness or teething are two of the main reasons your baby might experience a change in his sleeping routine, so make sure your baby is not coming down with something that might briefly affect his naps. Moreover, when babies are about to experience a developmental milestone (such as rolling, crawling, standing, talking or walking), it can have a massive impact on your baby’s sleep. Their brain is focusing on new skills, but that doesn’t mean they need less sleep. It’s just a temporary change. Overall, take a look at the baby’s 24-hour sleep to check if there are any changes in the various phases of his sleep cycle to determine if it’s the right time to make some adjustments. 

From 4 Naps To 3

The 4 to 3 nap transition typically occurs between 3 and 5 months, as babies start sleeping a little longer and can stay awake some more between naps, so they run out of time for the 4th nap. When this happens, bring bedtime forward to accommodate the new wake window and keep the third nap to just 20 to 40 minutes. The third nap should be a catnap, just a light-sleep bridge to get from the afternoon nap to bedtime, so your baby is not way too overtired. As a general rule of thumb, the third nap should be over by 4 pm, but you should see what works best for your little one and pick the right timing, so it doesn’t throw bedtime off. 

From 3 Naps To 2

The transition from 3 naps down to 2 occurs between 7 to 10 months, and it can be a bit of a challenge because it usually happens when the first two naps have lengthened and, by the time you are ready for a third nap, is too late and too close to bedtime. When this happens, and your baby has two good naps per day, you want to push bedtime earlier to prevent him from becoming too overtired. It might mean moving bedtime at around 6 pm, or even slightly earlier in some cases, but keeping them up later than that isn’t going to help you or the baby – he will be cranky, and you will be frustrated because he is exhausted. Instead, you can push bedtime earlier by 20 minutes at a time to see how he responds and how it affects his night sleep, and then gradually keep moving it as early as you can. 

From 2 Naps To 1

The transition from 2 to just one nap typically happens between 15 and 18 months, and you should wait as long as possible before making this change because it will be a very long wake window for your baby. A few signs that your little one is ready to move down to just one nap include not being ready for the afternoon nap until later. In addition, a shorter morning nap or the bedtime routine becomes a real struggle because they are still wide awake following the afternoon nap. 

Instead of transitioning to one nap right away, you could have two 1-hour naps per day instead of just one long nap. However, if you switch right away to a 2-hour nap per day, his wake window will be so long that by the end of the day, your baby will be so tired that he will be cranky and irritable. You may need to play with the timing of the naps and move bedtime earlier to accommodate the new wake window. On average, the wake window at this age is typically between 4 and 5.5 hours for the midday nap, and bedtime should be 6.5 hours after waking up for the nap. This transition is never super smooth, and for a few months, they might fluctuate between 1 and 2 naps per day, which often results in cranky little toddlers from late afternoon onwards, so make sure you have an early bedtime planned to get them to sleep as soon as you can.

A Few Last Tips To Make Nap Transitions Go Smoothly

  • Your little one should get as much sleep as possible overnight 
  • Have a lot of patience during the transition, as having an overtired baby can be a challenge for the whole family
  • Prepare for earlier bedtimes
  • Keep a sleep log to track how things are going over time
  • Be consistent with your routines

Like any other transition, it takes time to get used to it, but with some planning and a lot of patience, it will work out, and you will be settled into a new routine very soon.

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