Babies drop to two naps around 8 months old, on average, though it can happen anytime between 5 and 10 months. Here are a few tips to transition your baby to two naps based on my 15+ years of experience as a baby sleep consultant.
Newborn babies will take 4-5 naps a day but by 5-6 months old, most babies are taking 3 naps a day. However, the third nap is often a 30-45-minute catnap that will go away very soon. Let’s talk about the best time to drop the third nap.
When Do Babies Transition From Three Naps to Two Naps?
Almost all babies drop to two naps by 9 months old when they can handle 2-3-hour wake windows. A “wake window” is the amount of time between sleep periods. In addition, babies on a 2-nap schedule often need to stay awake up to 3 to 4 hours before bedtime. This can make it difficult for some babies to transition to two naps too young.
Signs to Transition Baby to Two Naps
There are a few questions to ask yourself when deciding whether to give your baby two naps or three:
- Has nighttime sleep dropped to below 10 hours?
- Does your baby have a split night several times a week?
- Is your baby skipping one of their three naps at least four times a week?
- Are all 3 naps suddenly short catnaps when they had been over an hour each?
Every situation is different so depending on what specific issues you are having, you may or may not want to drop to two naps but these are good signs it could be time. We do not expect to see ALL of these signs. It is more likely to be just one, maybe two, of them.
In my experience, the most common way to drop the third nap is to simply run out of time before bedtime to fit in another nap. Your baby’s wake windows earlier in the day have likely gotten longer and the naps themselves may be longer. Once that late afternoon nap is at 5:00 or 5:30 PM, or later, it’s usually time to drop it.
How to Switch to Two Naps
The big question is how to successfully switch to two naps that won’t cause other sleep problems!
First, be prepared that all nap transitions can be challenging and take 2-3 weeks, on average. If you’re having a hard time, it does NOT mean it’s not the right thing to do! But, if your baby is still struggling after 2-3 weeks, you might want to make some changes.
5 Tips to Drop Baby to Two Naps:
- Start increasing your baby’s wake windows to 2 to 2 1/2 hours first thing in the morning and then 2 1/2 to 3 hours before the second nap. You can increase their wake window by 15 minutes every day or every other day.
- Keep your baby in bed for at least one hour to help lengthen the nap. Once you transition to two naps, each nap should be at least 1 to 1 1/2 hours long.
- If either nap is shorter than one hour, move bedtime earlier but no earlier than 6:00 or 6:30 PM to guard against early waking.
- Offer three naps once or twice a week. Being on a 2-nap schedule for one day or a few days is one thing but every day is another. Many babies will start to get chronically overtired over a period of several days. Catch up for one day and then get back to the new schedule the next day.
Dropping to two naps can be challenging so don’t expect it to be perfect or smooth. Once your baby has adjusted, they will sleep 11-12 hours at night and 2-3 hours during the day, on average.
What 2-Nap Schedule Should You Use?
The schedule to use with a baby who takes two naps will depend on your baby’s age and how long they can comfortably stay awake between sleep periods. Unless your baby is taking a 2-hour morning nap, they will most likely need to stay awake 2 1/2 hours before the morning nap and 3 hours before the second nap to be on a proper schedule. Be sure to check out information about 8 month old sleep schedules or our 2-nap sleep schedule for ideas.
I hope this post has helped you decide when your baby should drop to two naps. Dropping from 3 naps to 2 naps isn’t always easy but your baby will adjust with time! If you have any questions, we’re here to help!
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