Dr. Sarah Mitchell
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The 4-3 Nap Transition at 5 Months of Age

The 4-3 nap transition is an exciting time!  If this is happening it means that your child is starting to take some longer naps and connecting sleep cycles.  For this  transition to occur you’ll need to have at least one nap longer than 45 minutes.  With these longer naps you are slowly getting more time between naps to get out of the house!

Struggling with 45 minute naps?

If you’re stuck struggling with only 45 minute naps or naps less than 45 minutes, you’ll want to read more about that in my blog post, Blissful Baby Naps… And Why You’re Not Having Them.

While I don’t teach  a “fixed schedule” where 9 am means nap time, once you’ve passed through the 4-3 nap transition and stabilized on 3 naps, your child will have a more predictability to their day, meaning you’ll know first nap will be sometime around 9 am, 2nd nap somewhere around 12:30 and third nap sometime near 4 pm.

Flexible Schedule

I teach a flexible schedule because I feel that a fixed schedule, where 9 am means nap time, sets a gal up to fail.

What do you do when she wakes early in the am due to a poopy diaper or teething, do you keep your tired cranky gal up until your fixed nap time?  I don’t think so.

A flexible schedule, working with awake times rather than set nap times, accommodates your child’s needs based on what’s happening in her world that day.  And gosh knows things can change day to do.

When I’m working with a client, I always say “We take sleep training day by day.”   Days can be drastically different. I’ve had days where nothing is going my way – cranky baby, short naps, feeling frustrated, and yet the next day my child gives me textbook naps and is happy as a clam.  *Ah parenting!* FYI – this trend continues into preschool and school-aged years.

When does the 4-3 nap transition occur?

This occurs generally at 5 months of age.

2 Things Need to Happen for this to Occur:

  1. Nap longer than 45 minutes
    Your child has to take at least 1 nap that is longer than 45 minutes during the day
  2. She needs 3-4 hours of naps per day
  3. At 6 months that reduces to 2-3 hours of naps per day
  4. Awake Time of 2 Hours
    Your child has to be able to comfortably be able to stay awake 2 hours between sleep period

These two conditions together will push our “room” in the day for that 4th nap, and when that happens, that means your bedtime will be earlier than it has been when she was on 4 naps.

4 to 3 nap transition

5 month old schedule

Atypical 5 month old taking 3 naps might have this schedule:

Potentially 1 to 2 night feeds at this age overnight depending on formula, breastmilk, fattiness of moms milk and sleep training history.

Remember this is a general guideline.

A 5 month old taking 4 naps might have a schedule that looks something like this:

Does your baby fight that nap around 4 pm to 5 pm?

This causes anxiety for most parents but I want you to know this is so common.

Whether it’s the 4th nap when you’re on 4 naps, or the 3rd nap when you’re on 3 naps, this nap happening around 4 or 5 pm,  is the hardest nap to get your child to settle for.

Many parents often mistake this resistance for being ready to drop that nap.   She’ll still need this 3rd nap until she transitions to 2 nap sometime around 8- 10 months.

Nap transitions are never black and white.

Your child won’t wake up and one day be on 3 naps.  You may go back and forth between 4 and 3 naps during a few days to a week until she’s settled into a more predictable schedule.

By 6 months the 4 to 3 nap transition will be complete, and most babies will be on 3 naps.  If your child isn’t yet comfortably on 3 naps, it is likely she’s not taking long enough naps, and then you have to ask yourself, does my child know how to relax herself into sleep without any external help?  Does she need some sleep training to help her do that?

The Helping Babies Sleep Method: The Art and Science of Teaching Your Baby to Sleep

A quick summary of why the 4-3 nap transition happens:

  • She’s taking naps 45 minutes or longer
  • Which means she’s connecting sleep cycles
  • She’s comfortably staying awake 2 hours between naps
  • No more room in the day for that 4th nap

Upcoming nap transitions:

Take home tips to help with all nap transitions

  • Don’t let your child get overtired
  • Move bedtime earlier to accommodate for the loss of daytime nap hour

If your child isn’t connecting sleep cycles, you’ll want to read my blog post on Self Soothing Skills and Why Your Child Needs Them.

I’ve got this topic covered on my You Tube Channel and you can watch it here.

From there you might ask yourself if it’s time to do some sleep training.   Sleep training does not mean closing the door and not going back in.  Your child deserves to be acknowledged and heard.

Sleep training, or sleep teaching as I prefer it, means setting you and your child up for success by knowing what is age appropriate and how to gently and compassionately communicate change to your child.  In my online class I can teach you how to help your baby sleep and manage sleep regressions that are inevitable!

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