You finally got your baby's sleep figured out and have a bit of predictability with your little ones 3 naps but then suddenly everything changes. Naps start getting shorter, your little one starts to fight falling asleep and in general sleep just becomes a struggle. What happened?! You my friend, might have a baby that's ready to drop a nap!
Now before you go making any rash moves, make sure that your baby actually needs to drop the third nap. Going from three naps to two naps is a big change because they're not only dropping a third nap they're also dropping that extra wake window!
Keeping that in mind, if it's just been a day or two, there might be something else bugging your little one like teething pain or they might be getting sick. It's also important to keep in mind that if they've been learning something new, this can temporary affect sleep as well. Check out my blog on sleep progressions to assess if that's a factor.
Look for some of these:
- They are around 6 to 7 months (I've also seen babies start to drop at the end 5 months though so remember these are averages!)
- Naps that used to be easy, suddenly get shorter
- The third nap has become a struggle!!
- Your little one can handle a 2hr45 wake window
- Having an overnight span of sleep of at least 11 hours can't happen because of either too late of bedtime due to naps or sudden early wakings due to too much day sleep and/or late bedtimes.
The best way to start helping your baby drop from 3 to 2 naps is to start stretching all of their weight windows slowly. Adding 5 minutes to 1 wake window per day until they're able to handle wake windows of 2hr45-3 hours and throwing in an early bedtime if needed are good ways to make sure that your little one isn't getting overtired during this transition period.
Also remember that it's totally fine if your little one switches back and forth between 2 and 3 naps for a while. Often what happens is that it takes a little bit of time for those first naps to lengthen and for your little one to get you still the longer wake windows so your little one might need that extra 3rd nap some days. It's important to remember that when your little one is taking that third nap that it's just a cat nap, you want it to be short [sometime between 10 to 20 minutes] just to relieve a little bit of sleep pressure and give them a tiny boost of energy to get through till bedtime. After their little cat nap they won't be able to handle a full wake window but remember to aim for a bedtime between 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. to get their body working with them for sleep rather than against them.
In total you're looking for your child's two nap days to have about a maximum 3 hours of sleep for the day divided between the two naps however they naturally do, whether it be one nap that's longer or divided equally. Ideally, this would be with at least a 10.5hr overnight stretch, check out my free Month-to-Month sleep guide [here] for averages on how much babies need to sleep based on their age.
And lastly, an important thing to remember is that transitions don't happen overnight! Just because you try two naps one day and it doesn't work well, doesn't mean that your little one isn't ready for it. It can take some time to adjust because your little one gets so used to going to sleep after a certain amount of time, that it can just become a habit for them.
Even though it might seem daunting, the 3 to 2 nap transition is really freeing. The reason I feel this way is because after your little one is solidly transitioned onto two naps, their days become so predictable that you can set naps based on the clock rather than wake windows. This makes things much easier on babysitters or anyone that's helping like grandparents or daycares!
Best of luck on your little one's sleep journey!
Your Sleep Coach
Helping you make memories, not meltdowns.