3 - 2 Nap transition (Around 6-9 Months of Age)
The 3-2 nap transition is one that some parents need a bit of encouragement to just go for it. Some parents are nervous to extend their baby’s wake time between first and second nap to help them get to an appropriate bedtime. I get it! It can be a tough transition that sometimes is followed with increased night or early morning wakings. The transition can take about 3-6 weeks, but once you are on a beautiful, predictable 2 nap schedule you get to enjoy all the “me time” twice a day to hang out by yourself and enjoy the beautiful weather. Hello iced coffee, sunshine, and quiet mama time!
When does the 3-2 nap transition occur?
On average around 8 Months of age your baby will be on a 2 nap schedule. Just like all the other nap transitions, your baby may bounce back and forth between 2-3 naps - and this is okay!
Around 8 months of age (or sooner or later - every child is different) your baby will start to show some signs that they are ready for the 2 nap life such as:
-Getting over 3.5 hours of day sleep, and having difficulty going to bed at night. Day sleep is stealing from night sleep!
-Early morning wakings. Your child feels like they have slept enough in the 24 hour period with their 3 naps and night sleep, so they are simply ready to start the day….at 4:30 am, no thank you!
-Third nap is getting later and later in the day, closer to 5pm and there just isn’t enough time for a nap before bedtime.-Bedtime is being bumped too late, not giving your child enough night time sleep - goal is 11 hours over night.
- In conjunction with the above mentioned age specific signs, your baby may also experience these signs in this blog - 7 Signs Your Child is Ready to Drop a Nap
At 6-9 months of age your baby needs 3-3.5 hours of naps per day, which will span over 2-3 naps.
What’s super exciting about this age is your child’s nap schedule can become more predictable and based on “clock time”. You can set their naps around 8:30/9 am and 12:30/1pm, where their body naturally starts to wind down. This is easier to stick to than how long they've been awake, where you have to watch the clock or set up timers to calculate their naps based on the last time they woke up. Who likes doing math all day long? Not this girl!
Keep in mind, while you are working through this transition you may need to still keep the “wake times” in the back of your mind, but your goal is to get onto a more predictable nap schedule. Just like our bodies get accustomed to eating breakfast, lunch and dinner around the same time, sleep is the same. You are helping your child predict sleep, and accept sleep at certain parts of the day. This is also why it takes about 3-6 weeks for your child to fully get accustomed to this new schedule, it takes a lot of consistency and patience from everyone involved.
Below is what your 6-9 month old's schedule may look like on 2 naps and 3 naps.
Typical 3 Nap Schedule
(~2 hours 45 minutes - 3 hours between wake periods)
6:30 am - Wake up and feed
9:15 am — Nap #1 (45 minutes)
12:45 pm — Nap #2 (45 minutes)
4:30 pm — Nap #3 (30 minutes)
8 pm — Bedtime
Typical 2 Nap Schedule
(~ 3 - 3.5 Hours of Wake time between sleep periods)
6:30 am — Wake up and feed
9 am — Nap #1 (1.5 hours)
1:30 pm — Nap #2 (1.5 hours)
6:30pm — Bedtime
Bedtime is getting a bit late for a 8 month old on the three nap schedule, and a later bedtime doesn’t necessarily mean that your baby will sleep longer. Due to our circadian rhythm your body becomes pretty adjusted to the same time you wake up every day. As time goes on, your baby will get less sleep during the night and may slowly accumulate a sleep debt which will build up and lead to an overtired baby: early morning and frequent night wakings, protesting bedtime, refusing naps… all the not so fun things! This is why I encourage you to transition to two naps sooner to help your baby get some long restorative sleep, which will lead to beautiful long nights too!
How to navigate the 3-2 nap transition
Two important things that will help you navigate this transition include:
Extend wake times little by little
1. Extend the wake times little by little simply means you will keep your babe up a bit later for their first nap to help set the schedule for the day. In order for this 2 nap schedule to evolve you want your child up no later than 7am. Then you will slowly bump their wake time later by 15 minute increments to get them closer to a nap time around 9am.
What is the reason for this?
You want to build up your baby’s sleep pressure. What I see very often is some children will be showing some sleepy cues, and that will prompt you to put them to sleep. They then take a 30 minute cat nap and they are good to go for the day, this then leads to one or two more cat naps for the day. As previously mentioned we want the nap to be closer to an hour in length. So you want to extend that wake time to help establish a clock schedule for your baby, so naps and bedtime are predictable.
Adjusting from 2-3 naps is a lot of trial and error and finding that wake time for your child that will produce some blissful 1 - 1.5 hour naps. Hang in there!! This is where you get creative and pull out all the tricks to help your sleepy babe be up for a little bit longer. There will be a lot of walking around the house, staring out the window, or something that you can do is get outside for some fresh air to help distract them - just avoid the stroller, that’s where a lot of sleep sometimes happens. Does your baby love snacks? Adding in a snack time before first nap is also a good idea to keep them distracted and not thinking about sleep. Remember, it could take about 3-6 weeks before your baby is fully adjusted to their new schedule.
By pushing the first nap little by little, that will automatically shift your second nap later too, thus not leaving enough room for a third nap. This then leads to my second point of how to navigate this transition… early bedtime!
2. Early bedtime will always make up for lost sleep. If your child had an off day, didn’t nap well, or finished their naps around 3pm - you want to move bedtime earlier. I always tell my clients don’t be afraid of an 5:30pm bedtime!
I do often hear that 5:30pm isn’t ideal because that's dinner time, or sometimes a parent is just coming home from work… and I get it! This early bedtime won’t be forever, it will just help your child adjust to the new schedule, preventing accumulation of a sleep debt. I often see parents push their kiddos to a bedtime closer to 7pm or even 8pm, when they are overtired. You want there to be about 3 - 3.5 hours max wake time between their second nap and bedtime. Overtiredness leads to difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, multiple night wakings and early morning wakings, then it puts you into this vicious cycle of your child being overtired for their naps during the day and then bedtime again. Trust me, sleep debt isn’t something I wish on any child (or parents for that matter!)
This transition, like all the nap transitions won’t magically happen over night. It will take weeks, accompanied with some new night and early morning wakings. Be consistent, it will get better! You may find yourself offering 2 naps one day, and then the next day your child may need 3 due to nap 1 and 2 being short. That is okay, and part of the process.
Every child is different, some adapt to their new schedule over a weekend span while others bounce back and forth all the way up to the 6 week mark. That’s also okay! Just help support your child by adjusting their wake times to be a bit later from the time they woke up for the day to their first nap, then from the time they woke from their first nap to their second nap and always put them to bed earlier to make up for lost sleep.
The good news is by 9 months your child will have mastered the 2 nap schedule, and they will consistently be on two naps until close to 15 months of age when they drop down to one nap! Your family gets a bit of a break from navigating nap transitions. Yahoo!
As always, If what you are doing is working for your family, keep doing it!! I am here to educate, encourage and give you tips on how to navigate the 3-2 nap transition…but I am definitely not here to tell you what’s best for your family, only you know that!
You’ve got this! Sleep is coming!
Wondering about the other nap transitions, and what to do when your child is done napping? I got you covered! To schedule a 15 minute free Discovery Call to find out more about how I can help your family nurture healthy sleep don’t hesitate to reach out: firstname.lastname@example.org
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