If your baby is around six to eight months and you’re seeing changes in sleep (think middle of the night wakings or early morning wakings), it may be time to drop a nap. Let’s talk about the 3 to 2 nap transition.
When do babies drop to 2 naps?
The typical age for the 3 to 2 nap transition is between 6.5-8 months. Some babies may transition on the earlier end of this range (or even slightly before), and some won’t be ready until they’re closer to 8 months (or even a little later).
Before making any major changes to your baby’s routine, we want to see signs they’re ready to drop a nap for at least one, ideally two, weeks.
What are the signs my baby is ready for 2 naps?
Your baby may be ready for the 3 to 2 nap transition if they’re between 6.5-8 months AND begin to:
have trouble falling asleep at nap time and/or bedtime
regularly protest or refuse a nap
struggle with short naps
require a bedtime after 8:00 pm in order to fit the third nap into the day
wake before 6:00 am when this wasn’t happening before
A Note About The 3rd Nap: If your baby is younger than 6 months and struggling with the third nap, here’s what I want you to know: when a baby is taking three (or more) naps, the last nap of the day tends to be short. That’s okay! The purpose of this nap is to help your baby make it to bedtime without being overtired. It’s common for babies to fight this nap. That’s okay too! Keep trying to get that nap however you can- maybe it’s by babywearing, going for a walk, or holding your baby- as long as it’s safe, do whatever works!
If your baby is 6.5 months or older and still struggling with the last nap of the day, it may be time to transition to 2 naps. See my tips below for steps to do this.
If your baby is about 6 months and is showing changes in sleep, it could also be the 6 month sleep regression. Still having trouble knowing whether it’s time? Read more about signs it's time to drop a nap.
Can the 3 to 2 nap transition cause early wakings?
It’s possible! Your baby may start to wake earlier as a sign that they’re ready to move from three naps to two. But, you may also temporarily see early morning wakings as part of the transition to two naps. In order to minimize early morning wakings during this transition, be sure to gradually lengthen wake windows and adjust bedtime when daytime sleep doesn’t go as planned.
Here are some of the reasons I often see early morning wakings around the 3 to 2 nap transition:
Your baby is overtired. If your baby has been refusing naps or taking short naps, they may be overtired heading into bedtime due to getting too little daytime sleep (We want to aim for about 2.5-3.5 hours total.).
Your baby is not tired enough. If your baby is on the lower end of the age-appropriate wake window range, slowly add a bit more time to each wake window. This gradual increase will help with the nap transition and prevent your baby from being overtired while finding the range that works best for them.
Your baby is going to bed too late. Right before the 3 to 2 nap transition, it's common for bedtime to fall between 8:00-8:30pm. However, when your baby transitions to two naps, the last nap of the day will end much earlier than it did when your baby was taking three naps. In order to prevent overtiredness, we’ll need to shift bedtime earlier. (Aim for a 3-3.5 hour wake window between the end of the nap and bedtime.)
Your baby is getting too much daytime sleep. When transitioning to two naps per day, we want to keep daytime sleep under 3.5 hours total (Keep in mind, as babies get older daytime sleep needs decrease. Check out my age-specific sleep schedule blogs for your baby’s age).
Expert Tip: Please know that the 3 to 2 nap transition is usually much smoother when your baby is fully ready for it. What does that mean? Ideally, they are consistently showing signs of being ready to drop a nap for 1-2 weeks (not just a couple of rough days). When we drop a nap too early, we often see other sleep issues arise like night wakings, early morning wakings, and short naps.
What are the wake windows for the 3 to 2 nap transition?
When your baby is consistently taking two naps a day, wake windows are between 2.5-4 hours. Typically, when transitioning to two naps, wake windows are on the shorter end of the range. As babies get older, wake windows tend to increase. Here’s a general guide to wake windows when transitioning from a 3 nap schedule to a 2 nap schedule:
Text version of 3 to 2 nap transition wake windows table
|3 Nap Schedule||2 Nap Schedule|
|About 2 hours||About 2.5–3 hours|
|Nap 1||Nap 1|
|About 2.5 hours||About 3 hours|
|Nap 2||Nap 2|
|About 2.5 hours||About 3-3.5 hours|
|About 2.5 - 3 hours|
Expert Tip: If you’ve been following an Eat-Awake-Sleep routine for your baby, you may find it a bit tricky to continue doing so as your baby’s wake windows lengthen. I’d love to share some guidance on how to handle moving away from an EASY routine.
Which nap gets dropped during the 3 to 2 nap transition?
During the transition from 3 naps to 2, wake windows increase, gradually shifting the naps later in the day. Eventually, there simply isn’t time for the third nap between the end of the second nap and bedtime.
Here are sample schedules for a 6.5-8 month old before and after dropping the 3rd nap. These are just samples, and your baby’s days will likely look different based on their morning wake time, individual wake windows, nap lengths, and hunger cues.
Important Note: After transitioning to two naps, wake windows increase to between 2.5-3.5 hours. Notice that when taking three naps, bedtime was falling at 8:00 pm (and sometimes later) and overnight sleep was only 10.5 hours BUT moving to two naps led to more nighttime sleep while still maintaining consolidated and restorative naps!
How long does it take to transition from 3 naps to 2?
Some little ones transition from three naps to two fairly quickly, while others can go back and forth between 2 and 3 naps for around 2-4 weeks. Much of this depends on how long your little one naps.
How do you transition to 2 naps?
1. Gradually lengthen wake windows
As your baby transitions from 3 naps to 2, we want to gradually add a bit more awake time to each wake window. Aim for 10-15 minutes every few days. In order to do this, you may need to switch activities when you see your baby flashing sleepy cues. If you need some ideas for how to keep your baby awake just a little longer, check out these ideas for stretching wake windows.
2. Provide a wind-down routine.
Just like a bedtime routine helps prepare a baby for a good night’s sleep, a predictable nap time routine sets your little one up for a restorative nap. A nap time routine doesn’t have to be complicated! We just want to allow a few minutes to decompress before a nap.
Here’s one example: remove uncomfortable clothing, change diaper, slip into a sleep sack, read a book, dim the lights, and into the crib awake. All of this sends cues to your little one’s brain that sleep is coming!
3. Adjust bedtime as needed.
Ideally, we want bedtime to fall between 7:00-8:00 pm. At this age, this really is the sweet spot for bedtime. Know that when your baby is dropping a nap, a flexible bedtime can help prevent your baby from being overtired or undertired.
On a 2-nap schedule, the wake window before bed is between 3-4 hours. (Remember, babies typically start at the lower end of this range when transitioning to two naps.) There may be days during this nap transition when your baby may struggle to make it to a bedtime later than 6:00-6:30 pm. That’s okay! An earlier bedtime is common during nap transitions and will help restore lost daytime sleep if a nap was shorter than expected. As your baby becomes more comfortable with expanded wake windows and adjusts to consistently taking two naps, bedtime will become more predictable.
4. Stay consistent.
Consistency is so important as you help shift your baby’s sleep routine. For many babies, this transition can take 2-4 weeks. Be patient and keep moving forward. Give your little one (and yourself) lots of grace. You’ve got this!
If your little one is struggling with sleep or you’d like more guidance with all of your baby’s nap transitions, I have classes for you. The 5–24 Month Collection is a holistic plan that is fully-customizable to meet your family’s goals. I’ll give you a step-by-step plan for consolidated nights, solid naps, and all the bumps along the way while remaining emotionally connected through the whole process.