Is your 7-month-old baby suddenly refusing to nap? Is your 8-month-old baby having trouble falling asleep at their normal bedtime? If you answered yes to either of those questions, it may be time for the 3 to 2 nap transition.
Now you may be wondering, “What is the 3 to 2 nap transition?” Or “How do I do the 3 to 2 nap transition?” We're here to answer those and many more questions about the 3 to 2 nap transition.
As you learn more about naps and their role in your baby's sleep, we suggest downloading the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™. Developed by baby sleep experts, this easy-to-use app offers a comprehensive look at your baby's entire sleep cycle, and can help you with nap transitions.
When Should I Transition from 3 to 2 Naps?
While every baby is unique, typically the 3 to 2 nap transition happens around 7 or 8 months (age adjusted). By then two things have happened: your baby has grown enough to reduce night feedings and, two, your baby's circadian rhythm is naturally consolidating their sleep at night .
How Do I Know My Baby's Ready for a Nap Transition?
Here are some common signs your baby is ready for a nap transition, it is important to note that you need to observe these signs over time, if your baby skips a nap one day that doesn't mean they are ready to nap transition.
- Your Baby Can't Fall Asleep at Nap Time: If your baby has been napping like a champ but then tosses and turns, they may be ready to drop a nap. Note: This resistance typically happens in their last nap of the day. This is because their sleep naturally wants to consolidate at night.
- Your Baby Resists a Nap: Similarly, if your baby flat-out refuses to nap or go down for nap, they may be ready for the 3 to 2 nap transition.
- Your Baby Misses a Nap and Is Fine: A great - and we mean really great—sign your baby is ready for a 3 to 2 nap transition is if they miss a nap and are totally fine. They're not cranky, they're not fussy. They're just their normal, beautiful self. This means that while they missed the nap, their body isn't missing the sleep - definitely time for the 3 to 2 nap transition.
- Your Baby Won't Fall Asleep at Night: Your baby's natural sleep patterns are starting to favor night sleeps. Too much napping, however, can make it hard for them to fall asleep at night. If your baby had a consistent bedtime but suddenly is wide awake at that bedtime, it's probably time to consider a nap transition.
- Your Baby is Crankier Between Naps: If your baby is crankier than usual between their 2 nd and 3 rd nap, it may be time to drop that third nap.
Monitoring your baby's sleep patterns is incredibly easy with the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ . You simply enter your baby's wake up and sleep times and the app's algorithm automatically updates their sleep schedule. It will then alert you when your baby is approaching the end of their wake window - the perfect time to put them down for a nap! The insights section let's you see patterns so you can see when naps are shifting.
How Do I Do the 3 to 2 Nap Transition?
Nap transitioning is more than just eliminating your baby's 3 rd nap. In addition to cutting out that nap, you should move your baby's bedtime up about 20-30 minutes for a few days to avoid your baby from becoming overtired, which can throw their entire sleep cycle off.
What If I'm Not Ready to Nap Transition:
There are many reasons a parent or caretaker may not be ready to nap transition, from having another baby that also naps to needing more “me time.” If you're not ready to lose that nap time yet, try moving it up an hour. This gives you that time and extend your baby's afternoon wake window, increasing their sleepiness at night.
Are There Early Wakeups with the 3 to 2 Nap Transition?
Yes, sometimes the 3 to 2 nap transition leads to early wakeups. Luckily, these are temporary blips that will correct themselves as your baby's sleep patterns realign. You can help prevent early wake ups by temporarily pushing your baby's bedtime back 10-20 minutes.
Why Do Babies Nap So Often?
Babies nap often for a few reasons. First, biologically speaking, is because of adenosine.
Adenosine is one of four sleep-regulating hormones. This one is released the moment your baby wakes up. When adenosine reaches its upper limit, your baby's body releases melatonin, and they begin to show sleepy cues - the sign it's time for a nap or bedtime.
When your baby sleeps, the adenosine recedes. When it reaches its lowest level, “wake up” hormones cortisol and serotonin are released, and the cycle begins again.
Your baby's body is so small that their adenosine builds up very fast, which results in many naps. As your baby grows, the adenosine builds up more slowly, meaning your baby needs fewer naps.
Hormones aside, though, naps perform two important functions for your baby:
- Naps give your baby's body an opportunity to grow and develop.
- Naps provide important NREM sleep.
What is NREM sleep?
Your baby - and all humans - have a sleep cycle that's divided between two types of sleep: REM sleep and Non-REM sleep.
- NREM sleep is a deep, restorative sleep that helps write to long-term memory
- REM is a more active sleep that helps build learning and cognitive skills.
NREM happens earlier in the sleep cycle. And, since naps are shorter, your baby experiences more NREM sleep during the day, which has important benefits…
What is Nap Coaching?
Your baby's sleep cycle unfolds over a 24-hour period, including during the day. Nap coaching is simply the daytime aspect of sleep coaching: it's when you train your baby to go down for a brief, daytime sleep.
Like bedtime sleep coaching, the goal of nap coaching is to put your baby in their crib when they're sleepy but awake. This gives them the opportunity to self-soothe themselves to sleep. If you hold your baby until they fall asleep, they become dependent on your cuddles to sleep.
What are the Benefits of Naps for Babies?
In addition to helping your baby grow and develop, naps improve important mental and motor skills, including:
- Memory Consolidation: the ability to retain knowledge.
- Improved Locomotor Problem Solving, such as solving how to crawl through a tunnel.
- More Flexible Cognition, such as recognizing two identical but different-colored puppets.
Plus, as a bonus, naps give your baby extra sleep coaching practice - and give you time to recharge, too!
Why Do You Nap Transition?
Naps are important, but the goal of sleep training is to help consolidate your baby's sleep at night. While your baby's body naturally wants to do this - that's why they may start resisting their third nap or sleep less during naps - nap transitioning eases your baby into their next sleep milestone.
How Can I Tell My Baby Needs a Nap?
Even as your baby does the 3 to 2 nap transition, they'll still show the classic signs a that they need a nap:
Fussiness: Being fussy or turning away from you is a sign your baby needs a nap.
Glazed Eyes: Is your baby zoned out? That may mean they're ready for some shut eye.
Eye Rubbing: If your baby is rubbing their eyes, they're likely reaching the end of their wake window and in need of sleep.
Should I Have a Routine for Naps?
You can and should have a bedtime routine for naps, but it must be much shorter than your night routine because, unlike at night, when you may have more time. That said, your naptime routine should be super brief - whatever you can do quickly that also guarantees you put your baby down when they're sleepy but awake.
Plus, there are some other considerations, too:
- Your baby produces less melatonin at naptime, meaning they may “breakthrough” their sleep drive faster during naps, which means less time to waste.
- A naptime routine may motivate your baby to stay awake: they see you and want to hang out with you when they should be napping
What if My Baby Won't Sleep During a Nap?
If your baby resists a nap and they are not ready for a nap transition, simply leave them in their room or sleep space for that nap time. First, they may fall asleep despite their protest; and, two, even if your baby doesn't sleep in that time, the quiet alone time still helps them calm, process, and learn to be alone.
If your baby falls asleep in that time, let them sleep until they naturally wake up.
If your baby does not sleep during that period, wait until the end of their traditional nap time and go in with a big, enthusiastic ‘Hello!' and pick them up for a hug. This big “hello” helps reinforce that this is a new “part” of the day.
You can try a nap or bedtime again when your baby shows their sleepy cues close to the next nap window.
If you're struggling with nap transitions, or any other aspect of sleep coaching, check out the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers ™. It was designed by pediatric sleep experts to help any parent teach any baby how to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer - a skill that is more than just more sleep. Sleep coaching now has incredible health benefits later in life, too.
“Babies Need Tummy Time,” National Institute of Child Health and Human Development .
“The effects of napping on cognitive function in preschoolers,” Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics .
“Daytime nap and nighttime breastfeeding are associated with toddlers' nighttime sleep,” Scientific Reports.
How We Wrote This Article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.