3-2 nap transition

The 3 – 2 nap transition: 7 – 10 months of age

3-2 nap transitionThis blog post is my most popular blog post which goes to show that many parents struggle with this 3-2 nap transition sometime between 7 and 10 months of age.

There are 3 nap transitions that occur before the age of 2.

In chronological order they are:

1.  The 4 – 3 nap transition that occurs around 5 months

2. The 3 – 2 nap transition that occurs between 7 and 10 months

3.  The 2 – 1 nap transition that occurs around 15 months.

These are listed in order from easiest to hardest.

What makes a nap transition hard?

The challenge is balancing the reduction in daytime sleep while keeping baby rested enough that he does not become overtired.

You want to avoid an overtired baby because being overtired leads to:

  • an increased risk of increased night waking
  • early morning wake ups
  • short naps and difficulty falling asleep

 

The 3 – 2 nap transition

This article talks about the 3 – 2 nap transition as this is the transition that I find most parents need a little nudge to achieve.

It can also be a tough transition plagued by early wake-ups while little bodies are adjusting to new schedules.

How do you know when a baby is ready to move down to two naps?

In a perfect world, this would happen naturally as the baby’s awake time would gradually increase, thus pushing the two naps farther apart and squeezing out room in the day for a third nap, but sometimes it needs a little help.

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Sample schedule of a 3 nap day for a 7 month old:

7 am WU

9:00 – 10:00 am nap 1

12:15 – 2:00 pm nap2

4:30 – 5:00 pm Cat nap3

7:30 Bedtime asleep

 

A baby at 7 months might have this schedule. They can generally stay awake about 2 – 2.5 – 2.75 hours between naps.

As baby moves into the 8 -10 months, or at 7 months starts taking two naps longer than 1.5 hour, the awake time between naps will start to lengthen.

Baby will be able to push to about 2 hrs 45 min to 3 hours of being awake before getting tired. The result is no room at the end of the day for a cat nap.

 

Sample schedule of  2 nap day for a baby of 8-9 months of age

 MAX awake time is 3.5 hours at 10 months.

7 am WU

(2.5 hrs of awake time)

9:30 – 11:00 am nap

(3 hours of awake time)

2:00 pm – 3:30 pm nap

(3 hr 15 of awake time)

6:45 Bedtime, asleep

How do you know if your baby is ready to drop a nap?

At this stage the nap transition may happen naturally as there is no room for a 3rd nap in the day. 

If you’re starting a 3rd nap past 5:30 pm, that is bedtime rather than a nap. 

Your baby is getting older and her capacity to stay awake is lengthening. This is often where Mom needs a little nudge to test out the longer awake times.

When a baby is on 3 naps, the parents often complain that the last nap is the hardest to put down for and can mistakenly interpret this as a sign that the baby is ready to drop the nap.

This is NOT the case.

The 3rd nap is almost always the hardest to put down for in the day from about 6 months on. This is because your child is more tired by the end of the day and the timing of this nap can be tricky. Often parents need to shorten the awake time before this last nap and put baby down a little earlier for this nap, giving him/her more time to fall asleep.

Recap:  it is no room in the day for a 3rd nap rather than 3rd nap resistance that is the most likely sign that your child is ready to drop to 2 naps. 

 

What can I do to help my baby move from these 3 short naps into 2 longer naps?

While we always advise not to keep your baby up too long, during the nap transition you may have to “test” your baby’s awake time by pushing her in 15-minute increments of staying up longer before her usual nap time.

This is especially true for the first morning put down.

This morning put down can set for the tone for the entire day.

If you put down too early, your baby will cry for a while and then wake up 30 minutes later. (This can also be a sign that your put down was too late! Confusing I know but timing is everything).

This will shift all the naps in the day earlier and probably force you to have a 3rd nap, but you’ll be stuck with 3 x 30 min naps. If she woke up before or around 2pm it would be a stretch for her to make it until 6 pm bedtime at 7- 9 months of age.

Dr. Weissbluth, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child”, suggests keeping baby up until 9:00 am for the first nap.

If your baby is waking up in the 6:00 range, he might not make it up past 8:30 am, which is fine too. If you can test your baby by a few minutes each day to find the “sweet spot” where she’s tired but not overtired, you can achieve a morning nap that is in the 1 hr to 1.5 hour range. She’ll wake up happy and then be able to push well into the afternoon before the next nap, thus squeezing out the 3rd nap.

Your morning awake time is also influenced by nighttime sleep.  If your child has dropped all night feeds, then he/she may have a slightly longer awake time before first nap.

 

Earlier Bedtime

The other important way to help your baby stay rested during any nap transition is to put them to bed earlier than they were previously.

This is a temporary measure to ensure baby stays well rested. Babies need to make up a little bit of that those lost sleep hours by an earlier bedtime.

You don’t want to have a very long stretch of greater than 3 – 3.5 hours before bed at this age of 10 months.

This will leave your baby overtired before bedtime and at an increased risk of having difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep and frequent night wakings.

These two factors, testing the awake times and an earlier bedtime, will help your baby make the leap to 2 naps.

This nap transition isn’t a black and white phenomenon.

The transition won’t happen overnight but rather over the course of a couple of weeks where you may find yourself switching between 3 and 2 nap days and some days suffering early wake ups. Most nap transitions take a few weeks to achieve.

The key is to be in tune with your baby’s signs, and have the courage to test the envelope a little and be prepared for a little trial and error.

Once your child is consistently on 2 naps, she’ll stay on 2 naps for many months until approximately 15 months of age when she will drop from 2-1 naps. 

 

Being on two naps makes life as a parent so much easier.  The time between naps gets longer and you’re more able to get out of the house between naps to get things done.

The next obstacle that you may face will be early wake-ups, likely related to teething.  Around 9-11 months your child’s mouth is going to erupt with teeth!  One of the major signs of teething is early wake ups before 5:30 am. 


Sarah Mitchell

As a sleep consultant, I’ve empowered hundreds of tired parents to teach their babies and toddlers to sleep by educating parents on age-appropriate sleep needs and sleep training options.

 

 

Comments 26

  1. My 8 month old still takes 3 naps each about 1.5 hours long. Sometimes even one nap will be 2 hours long. She goes to bed around 730pm and wakes up around 545am (just started night waking at least twice and is teething). I’ve heard not to let babies sleep too much during the day and she gets up sooo early are these two things related?

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      You are a rare case! Your 8 month old is sleeping for 4.5 hours during the day and then 10:15 hrs at night, for a total of 14:45. Generally we’re looking for 14-14.5 hours in 24 hrs at this age. So yes, in your case, it does look like your daughter has shifted some of her night time sleep to the daytime.

  2. My 7 month old son has 3 naps in the day. He usually wakes between 6-6.30 then goes down for his first nap at about 8.30-9 usually for 1.45 sometimes 2 hours. He then naps about 1.30-2 sometimes for 1 hour sometimes 2. If he wakes at 2.30-3 I try and squeeze a cat nap in about 4.30 until 5. I dont let him nap past 5. I put him down in his cot for 7 and he is usually asleep for 7.30. My problem is frequent night wakings at the minute with a real struggle to get him to go back to sleep. I have to help him get back to sleep even though he goes to sleep on his own at bedtime.

    Is he having too much daytime sleep? Is his bedtime too late? Is he trying to transition from 3 to 2 naps?

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      Hard to say but my question would be does he really go to bed on his own? He isn’t rocked, have a bottle or nurse in his bedtime routine? If he’s drowsy at bedtime, he’ll need that same feeling when he wakes in the night. Pretty tough to have too much daytime sleep. You could try limiting the first nap to 1 hour and see if that helps.

  3. Thank you for this informative blog!

    I have a question, well more like I need some clarity. My son is 8.5 months old, we started transitioning to 2 naps because he kept resosting his 3rd nap consistently. The first 2 days he slept his naps (total of 3-3.5 hrs together and he was catnapping before that!!) But now he is waking up early around 5:20-5:30am and he will not sleep more than 30 mins for his 2nd and last nap. We have a 6am wake up (I study at Uni) and I give him 3 hours of wake time between naps and bedtime is 6:30pm, with 1-2 wakings. What is happening with his early wae up and short 2nd nap? Am I doing something wrong?

    TIA!

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      Waking up early and cat napping are a sign of being overtired. Don’t forget that his bedtime needs to be earlier when you drop a nap and he can’t stay awake any longer than 3 hours.

  4. My baby just turned 7 months. We always had the issue of putting her down for her naps. She will not go to sleep unless we rock her to sleep or in the car. She started sleeping through the night around 6.5 months. Goes to sleep between 8:00-9:00pm most days and wakes up at between 7-7:30am. I know her first nap should be within 3 hrs of her wake time but its hard to sleep her. If she sleeps she will do so for an hour and then fights her second and third nap. For example yesterday she woke up at 6:45am (went to bed at 8:45pm). 1st nap from 10:05-11:30am. Took a cat nap on the drive home from 3:10-3:30pm. Woke up. Tried putting her back to sleep and she was resistant. Tried again at 4:15pm and nothing. Finally was able to put her down at 6:30pm and woke up at 4:30am for her night feed and was up at 6:30am today. I need help teaching her how to sleep. What should I do?

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      Hi there Mayra, my online class A to Zzzsss will teach you all about teaching her to fall asleep for naps and staying asleep for naps. Naps are always tied to night time sleep as well, so my class covers to sleep teaching techniques as well as how to set her up for the right timing. For example, she took a cat nap at 3:10 pm, I’d teach you how to make that nap longer, and then have bedtime. So trying to get her sleep again at 4:15 was frusterating for both of you. That cat nap took the edge off but still left her tired. Cat naps are killer like that. I also offer 1:1 coaching which is multiple touch points throughout the day to make you successful at your nap training and overnight training. It sounds like you are struggling with timing of sleep and a sleep crutch. She likes/knows being rocked to sleep, so anything else seems foreign and unknown to her. My online class can teach you all about how to teach her to sleep and set both of you up for success to see fast results. https://www.helpingbabiessleep.com/sleep-class. Feel free to email me if you have questions about the class sarah@helpingbabiessleep.com but if you read the testimonials you’ll see this class has helped many parents in the same situation as you. Sarah

  5. My 7 month baby is the complete opposite! From 6months he has transitioned from 2-1 naps. His daily routine is slightly different to the usual babies as he wakes up at 9.30am stays awake for 5-6 hours, has a mid day nap usually around 2oclock which lasts between 1-1.5 hours and then stays awake for another 5-6 hours before his wash/bath, bottle and bed. His sleep is restless as he wakes up, crawls around and sits up in his cot and I have to lay him back down and give him his dummy to fall back sleep! Aswell as waking up every 2-3 hours for a feed. Moving his bedtime routine isn’t an option as his father works til the evening and wouldn’t get to spend time with him until the weekends! How can I get my baby to sleep without the constant fidgeting?

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      Hi Shona, A 7 month old doesn’t need to eat every 2-3 hours during the night. He’s waking up every sleep cycle and then needs help to fall back asleep. You’ve manipulated his sleep so that he sleeps in until 9:30 am by breastfeeding him back to sleep. He’s shifted some of his nap hours into the night. His sleep is restless because he’s awake for 5-6 hours in a row which is more appropriate for a toddler rather than a 7 month old. Stop nursing him back to sleep after 4 am and let him get up for the day at 6-7 am which is a natural time for a child to wake up for the day, then get him back to sleep after being awake for 2 hrs and 45 minutes, then he’ll take more naps during the day and have amore regular schedule and likely not wake up as much at night. If you want the full answer on how to get your sleep on track, and have him sleep soundly without waking up every 2-3 hours at night, come take my online sleep class. https://www.helpingbabiessleep.com/sleep-class. I will teach you guidelines for each age and what the most appropriate sleep schedule for your baby is by age.

  6. Hi! I have an 8 months old baby. She takes 2 naps a day. Wakes up for the day around 6-6.30 and goes down for the first nap around 8.30-9.00 for about 1-1.5hrs. Then she used to go down for the second one around 2.30 but only for 45 minutes. I realized its too long awake time, so now she goes down around 12.30-1 o clock for about 1-1.5hrs then her bedtime is about 6-6.30. Usually she goes down on her own i just hold her hand and play her lullaby, goes down in 5min, no cry. But since few weeks ago she wakes up looking for her dummy (4-5times until 11hen nothing until 4am) wich is fine but always wakes up 11pm and 4am and only goes back if we feed her. Sometimes I can drop the 4am one but its really hard work… well I am wondering what should I do. Tried to five her less formula in the feed 4spoons to 5oz… and in the last few weeks she wakes up every hour almost ever night. I am desperate:/ we tried controlled crying but she makes herself sick usually by the time she reaches 5min crying 🙁

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      Hi there Lucy, it’s not uncommon that what was working.. becomes less effective around 8 months of age as she becomes more interactive with her world. Unfortunately there is no quick answer for this, it involves planning, changes and staying your course. And yes, some tears. Because she is 8 months of age and she has preferences and wants what she wants. This becomes the point where you are forced to analzye the cost benefit ratio of tears vs not enough sleep. Which one has a greater impact on her health. Fractured night time sleep is really hard on kids (and parents) and she is waking up quite a bit for her age. I can help you set yourself and her up for success with knowing what is age appropriate for her, how to manage the night feeding and night waking and the naps, as well as how to comfort tears, in my online class. The class is 2.5 hours of videos and covers all aspects of her day. Or you can work with me 1:1 for personal individual attention where I check in with you a few times a day. Best of luck Sarah

  7. I need to check out your class for help it looks like! I have an 8 month old who really struggles in the evening 🙁
    Typically she’ll wake up around 7:30am. Goes 2-2.5 hrs before each nap and will sleep for about 1.5-2 hrs for the morning and early afternoon naps. We’ve struggled with a late afternoon nap. Even if we’re able to push her timeline a little later so that there are only 2 naps and we lay her down to sleep around 8pm for bedtime, she treats that like a 3rd nap. She wakes up 45 min to an hour later and won’t go back down until almost midnight…super alert and playful. It’s super exhausting! After that, she sometimes sleeps through until morning but otherwise will wake between 3 and 4am to eat approx 3 oz.

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  8. My 7.5 month old slept 11-12 hours a night without waking every night from about 8 weeks until 7 months. She transitioned from 4x 45minute-1hr naps a day to 2x 2 hour naps seemingly overnight. For the first week it was fine, but now for the last two weeks she has woken at 3am every night and is wide awake for 1-1.5hours. She isn’t looking for milk or cuddles, she’s just very awake? Her nap times have been 9-11am and 1.30-3.30pm. Bed time is 7pm.
    Does this sound like the naps are the cause? I wondered about cutting the morning nap to 1 hour so the second nap is at 12.30pm and then maybe a cat nap about 4-4.30pm instead?

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      Try making bedtime earlier. Maximum awake time between sleeps at 7.5 months is about 2 hours 45 minutes and she’s up for 3:15 before bed. Aim to have her asleep for 6:15 pm and that can help. The other possible cause is that she’s going through a motor leap which often manifests as awake and happy in the night. Learning to crawl, hover, pull up could be the cause. Nothing you can do but leave her. Naps aren’t the issue though. Good luck! Hope that helps.

  9. My 7.5 month has just started waking up every hour. She also wakes up at 430am and is wide awake. I usually have to get her to have her first nap at 7- 730am as she is so tired otherwise. Her naps as followed.
    7-8/830, 11/1130- 1230/1 then maybe a nap at 3 for 1 hour or 45mins. She then is tired at 530/ 6 so we put her to bed. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong. She does take a dummy at sleep times. Which she hasn’t learnt to put back in. Had music on and usually a night light. Sleeps in a sleeping bag as well. Any help would be great. This mumma is exchausted!!

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      Hi Katie, It’s no uncommon that was working, stops working as well around 7-8 month of age. Your child is even more engaged in her surrounding and has preferences. You’ll need to do some sleep teaching so she can relax herself into sleep and not need to call for you every hour in the night. You’re falling into a negative feedback cycle where she’s overtired and that causes her to wake up more frequently at night… and then she wakes up more frequently at night and causes her to be overtired. My online sleep class can teach you everything you need to know. In 14 days you can have her sleeping 11+ hours with 0-1 night feed and 2-3 naps. You can learn more here: https://www.helpingbabiessleep.com/sleep-class. All my best, Sarah

  10. Hey! So I’m wondering if my baby is sleeping to much. She is just at 7mo tomorrow. I put her down to bed at 6-730 depending on her qs and she will sleep for a few hours then wake up and just want to play. I feed her, since I’m new to all this I wonder if it’s because she’s hungry, she will eat a tiny bit then want to play but I put her back to bed. She plays/fusses/cries until 11-12 until I go in and feed her and she falls asleep.
    Then she will wake up 2-3x to eat, which I hear is normal for breastfed babies. Her wake time is confusing because she’s just seems so tired from not sleeping until really late so she isn’t really ready to be up until 10-11 and she seems to get tired quick. I want to implement more of a routine with her. She naps well. 1-2 hrs at a time. Maybe her naps run to late? She is at 2 naps usually. She seems tired a lot even tho I think she’s getting enough sleep. I’m new at all of this and feel like I’m screwing it up! Help 🙂

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      Hey Kyra! First and foremost, you can’t screw it up! It’s a journey and we all have a different one. 7 months and waking up 2-3 times to eat is fine if it’s working for you, but I wouldn’t say it’s “normal”. It sounds like she wakes from a night time sleep cycle and then asks for help falling back to sleep and comfort nurses back to sleep. It’s not uncommon to have 1 night feed over 11 hours at 7 months of age. I can teach you a “flexible” schedule of when the best time for her to eat, sleep and play are, and how to get her down to 1 night feed at this age. It’s all available to you simply and efficiently in my online sleep class. https://www.helpingbabiessleep.com/sleep-class. Your goals for the class would be falling asleep on her own, sleeping 11 hours at night with 1 night feed, 2 or 3 naps for a total of 2-3 nap hours per day. All of this in 14 days of working at it. Feel free to pm me with questions about the class once you’ve taken a look at the class description. Hang in there Momma! You got this. Sarah

  11. Hi Sarah,

    Your post here is very helpful.

    About a month ago we started transitioning my then 7.5 month old baby from 3 to 2 naps. In the beginning he did great, 1.5 hour long morning nap and 50 min long afternoon nap. I know it’s shorter than average but he’s always been a catnapper!!! However from a week ago, he started waking up early at 5:30am and his naps are all 30 minute long! Is it because he’s overtired, he’s not ready to drop the third nap yet, awake time too long (2pm till 6:30pm bed time)? I did go back to 3 naps schedule because he certainly needed a third but all three naps are 30 min long now.

    Thank you.
    Judy

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  12. My baby will be 7 months old next week. I would say she’s a good sleeper and we have taught her healthy sleep habits (though some would argue as we do use the paci for naps and night, but we pull the paci out for night sleep). I have been “coaching” her to lengthen her naps for the past few weeks and it’s worked! She’s now able to connect cycles on her own and not wake at the 30 minute mark anymore. Her first nap is now anywhere from 1 hr 15 mins to 1 hr 30 mins to 2 hrs. Second one is lengthening too. Last one I’ve been cutting off around 4:40/4:45 as to not mess around with bedtime. For our family, a 7:30 bedtime works best and I’m aware not to exceed 3 hrs of wake time before bed. However, EARLY WAKES! They’re frustrating cause she’s waking so close to the desired time of anytime after 6, but she’s short an hour/30mins, waking a little after 5am or 5:30. I leave her till 6 at least, and only go in to replace her paci once if crying escalates and I can see she’s frustrated and wants to go to sleep. Often though she won’t fall back asleep and she just lays there waiting for me. Most of the time it’s not a poo as the reason for waking. Maybe she’s hungry, but we stopped night feeding at 4 months and don’t want to feed her and get into that habit. I know there are more parts to this, but any suggestions to combat early morning wakes?

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  13. I noticed you mentioned in a comment that the goal is 14-14.5 hours of sleep around this age, but the 2 nap schedule has 15 hours. My daughter seems teetering between the two, but the problem is she is not sleeping the full length any of those times, and thus getting overtired. However, when we push to a 3 nap day, her bedtime is either close to 8, or earlier than 6 for the 2 naps. She slept through the night from about 2 weeks, to 6 months, and has been waking up twice a night since, and won’t go back to sleep without a bottle. Any trouble shooting ideas?

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      Hi Jaclyn, naps and nights are so closely tied together. And what you are experiencing isn’t uncommon – where what was working is no longer working as well. I’m referring to your night time sleep where she used to take a bottle before bed and “sleep through the night” but now she needs a bottle to go back down. Your root issue isn’t naps or night waking but a bigger problem of having poor sleep associations. She needs/wants help falling back asleep – she uses the bottle, sucking from the bottle, being held, to help her relax down into sleep. Where do you start first? Naps or nights? I’ts not a quick tip type conversation but more of a teaching her to fall asleep without these sleep crutches conversation, and I can teach you all of that and how to handle regressions in my online sleep class https://www.helpingbabiessleep.com/sleep-class

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