I’m not going to lie. I was very excited when both of my kids were ready to make the 3 to 2 nap transition. This gave me more time to be able to get out of the house with them during the daytime. We could go to baby classes and even out for lunch!
But the transition from 3 to 2 naps can be intimidating without any guidance. You may be wondering if it’s really the right time to do it. Or if you should switch cold turkey or gradually transition them.
As the nation’s leading sleep coach, I’ve helped so many babies with this transition and am happy to provide you the tools needed to easily manage the 3 to 2 nap transition.
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When to do the 3 to 2 Nap Transition?
Most babies are ready to transition from 3 to 2 naps a day between the ages of 5 – 8 months. I find the most common age range is between 6 – 7 months.
But how will you know when to do the 3 to 2 nap transition during this age range? It’s not like your baby will turn 5 months old and you’ll immediately start the transition. You’ll want to see your baby showing the signs that they’re ready to actually drop that last nap.
The 3 to 2 nap transition signs that your baby will be showing are any one or more of the following:
- Taking longer to fall asleep for one of their naps (maybe 30 minutes or longer)
- Not sleeping at all for their last nap of the day
- Taking longer to fall asleep at bedtime because they got too much sleep during the day
If your baby does this once or twice but then is back on their regular schedule, they’re not quite ready. You’ll want to see your baby show these signs at least 4 – 5 days over a 2 week period before deciding it’s time to make the big transition.
Let’s talk about how to manage the transition from 3 to 2 naps a day.
How to Manage the 3 to 2 Nap Transition
The transition from 3 to 2 naps can be a challenge because you’re increasing your baby’s awake windows by 50%. They will be going from around 2 hours of awake time to 3 hours.
But don’t worry. We’re not just going to do this overnight. I’ll help guide you through how to manage the 3 to 2 nap transition. There are going to be two things that we’ll be doing to gently transition into their new 2 nap a day schedule:
- Slowly increasing their awake time over the period of two weeks
- Moving bedtime earlier for the next month or so
3 to 2 Nap Transition Schedule
The gentlest way to help your baby with the 3 to 2 nap transition is to do it slowly over the period of about two weeks. Remember that we’re increasing their awake time from around 2 hours to 3 hour now.
I like to shift back their entire schedule 15 minutes every 3 days until you’ve reached their new desired nap times and bedtimes. Let’s talk through what that will look like.
If your baby normally wakes up at 7 a.m. and goes down for their first nap at 9 a.m., here’s how I would slowly bump that schedule out later:
- Days 1 – 3: First nap begins at 9:15 a.m.
- Days 4 – 6: First nap begins at 9:30 a.m.
- Days 7 – 9: First nap begins at 9:45 a.m.
- Days 10 & Beyond: Begin the first nap at 10 a.m.
And you will be adjusting the second nap and bedtime back by 15 minutes accordingly as well.
I recommend avoiding car rides and stroller rides during the times that your baby used to be napping. Between that 9 – 10 a.m. range, you’ll find that your baby will be much more likely to doze off in the car seat or the stroller.
So to keep your baby on their new schedule, try to be at home or daycare for all their naps over the next two weeks as they’re making this transition. After the two weeks, they’ll be better adjusted to stay awake during that time.
2 Nap Schedule
Yay! Your baby is making their way down to a 2 nap a day schedule. The 2 nap schedule for 6 month old and older babies is based on their awake window of about 3 hours.
Keep in mind that each nap should be between 1 ½ – 2 hours long. If your baby’s naps are consistently shorter than that, it may be a good time to begin sleep training.
Let’s say your baby wakes up at 7 a.m. each morning. The 2 nap schedule would begin your baby’s first nap at 10 a.m.
Ideally, they’ll take a good 2 hour long nap and wake up at 12 p.m.
Their second nap would begin around 3:00 p.m. and they will likely wake from that nap around 4:30 p.m.
Sticking with that 3 hour awake window, your baby would be ready for bed around 7:30 p.m.
Download Your Baby’s Nap Schedule by Age
When your baby has transitioned to 2 naps a day, it’s important to make sure they’re not getting overtired and they are eating at the correct times. Once your baby has started solids around the age of 6 months, you’ll want to make sure they’re still filling up on milk first to ensure they’re getting their proper nutrition.
Download our free detailed schedule guide by age to see the proper timing or nursing/bottle feeding and solid feeds throughout the day.
When it’s time to get your baby ready for a nap, you can do a fast nap time routine with them. Nap routines are a really great way to help your baby’s mind and body prepare for upcoming sleep. If you don’t currently do a nap time routine, I would encourage you to implement one.
I like to keep the naptime routine between 5 – 10 minutes. A naptime routine could include:
- Diaper change
- Into their sleep sack
- Read a book or two, my favorite is “Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You” By Nancy Tillman
- Into their crib
3 to 2 Nap Transition Early Bedtime
We’re making a big change to your baby’s schedule, especially as we’re slowly increasing their awake times. The timing of the last nap of the day will likely lead to way more than 3 hours of awake time until your baby’s regular bedtime.
And you really don’t want your baby up for much longer than 3 hours between sleep times. If they are, you’ll likely be getting a very overtired and cranky baby. And no one wants their baby to be fussy and fighting sleep.
As a result, I recommend moving bedtime a full hour earlier for the first 3 – 4 weeks of making the transition from 3 to 2 naps.
This will not only keep your baby in their ideal wake windows. It will also help to prevent them from getting overtired and help to ensure that they’re getting enough sleep within their 24 hour day.
Keep in mind that we’re dropping a 1 ½ – 2 hour nap. So by moving bedtime up an hour for a few weeks, it will help to cut that sleep difference in half slowly rather than going cold turkey.
Need More Support?
I am so excited for your baby to begin their transition from 3 to 2 naps. If you need further help with making this big transition, I’m just a phone call or email away. And if your baby isn’t sleeping through the night or is fighting their naps, I would love to help you get your baby sleeping well through my customized sleep coaching program.