The 3 to 2 Nap Transition: How to Do It Right

3 to 2 Nap Transition

Parents agree: The 3 to 2 nap transition is the most challenging transition. Luckily, there are some tips and tricks you can try to make it less stressful and uncomfortable for your little one. Read on and find out how! 

Is your baby continually refusing her third nap? Is she waking up super early in the morning?

If yes, she is ready to transition from 3 naps to 2. 

For most babies, the 3 to 2 nap transition happens when they’re between 6 and 9 months of age. Some children who have developed independent sleep skills and are taking long naps of about 1.5-2 hours may lose this nap earlier.

Generally, if your child is sleeping too much throughout the day, she’ll have a hard time sleeping at night, and vice versa. The trick is to make sure her sleep and awake time is perfectly balanced. 

Here’s how!

Before you start, make sure your child knows how to self-soothe

If your little one doesn’t know how to self-soothe — maybe she depends on the pacifier or being nursed to sleep — she’ll never be able to take a nice long nap.

When your little one is unable to self-soothe and relies on you to fall asleep, she will communicate in the only way she knows how and that is through crying. 

This is the perfect age for her to learn she’s in charge of putting herself to sleep. To teach her how to self-soothe:

  1. Follow a consistent bedtime routine that will let your baby know that it’s time to sleep.
  2. If you’re feeding your child before sleep, move the bedtime feeding session to a slightly earlier part of the bedtime routine.
  3. If your child is younger, try giving her a pacifier to help with the self-soothing process, or if she’s older, a soft toy or blanket that she’s created an attachment to will do the trick.

Tip: Don’t forget to put her in her crib while she’s drowsy but awake or fully awake if she’s older.

3 to 2 Nap Transition

Pay attention to her sleep/awake times

When making the 3 to 2 nap transition, you have to be mindful of your child’s awake time. Your little one should get sufficient awake time during the day so that she’s tired enough to go to sleep and stay asleep during the night. If she’s taking long naps or naps too close to bedtime, she may be tired to go to sleep but not to stay asleep for longer hours. 

Here’s a general overview of how her sleep/awake schedule should look like:

  • Three hours of awake time between waking up and nap #1
  • Nap #1 (1.5 hours) 
  • Three hours of awake time between nap #1 and nap #2
  • Nap #2 (1.5 hours) 
  • Three to four hours of awake time before bedtime
  • Bedtime 

This is a general schedule that you can follow to ensure your baby gets a balance of awake time and sleep time. However, keep in mind that all children are different, and there’s no one-fit-all formula that applies to all kids. 

As a general rule of thumb, the two naps should total of three hours. If you find that your baby is an uneven napper, go for the shorter nap to be in the morning, and have a longer and more restful nap in the afternoon as this will help her not be too overtired for bedtime. 

Also, babies aged six to eight months should nap every 2-3 hours, while nine to 12 months old should be napping every 2.5-3.5 hours every day. 

Although it can sometimes become overwhelming to keep your child awake for three hours, remember you’re doing this for her benefit. If you put her down two hours after her first nap, she’ll be up in 30 minutes as she won’t have built enough sleep pressure. 

3 to 2 Nap Transition

If you have to, add in a third catnap

Let’s say that your baby wakes up too soon from her second nap. It’s 3:00 pm, and you’re aiming for a 7:00 pm bedtime. That’s a pretty long window of keeping her awake. 

If you find yourself in this position, you can add in a third catnap. This catnap can be as short as 15 minutes or up to 30 minutes. Think of this catnap as a quick energy boost, a tiny little bit of sleep so she can make it to bedtime. Then gradually, start decreasing the length of the third catnap until she no longer needs it.

In case you want to skip adding the third catnap, a good alternative is putting her down at an earlier bedtime at 6:00 or 6:30 pm. 

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