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  • Writer's pictureMary Cantwell

The Third Nap: Signs it's time to drop it

Updated: Jan 10

Daytime sleep plays an important role in our overnight sleep. You may start noticing around six months that the third nap is a moving target and is foreshadowing a nap transition around the corner. There are multiple nap transitions the first few years of our child’s life and the three to two nap transition is one of the first of the “Big 3” nap transitions (three to two naps, two to one nap and one to none nap transitions).

We will chat through when this transition typically happens, signs of the nap transition, the action plan to tackle dropping the nap when all the signs point to it and give a sample schedules when they are oscillating between 3 and 2 naps.

When does the three to two nap transition happen?

This nap transition can range from 7-9 months with the average being 8 months. It can happen as early as 6 months, but we don’t see if often. On the earlier side of the spectrum, would look at stretching and tweaking wake windows a bit to see if we can maintain the three naps for longer. If we drop a nap too early, it can cause other issues that weren’t there prior such as having a harder time falling asleep, night wakings or early morning wakes. .

What are the signs of the upcoming nap transition?

If your child is at the age for the transition, you may be asking what do we see that indicates it is time to transition or it is it a growth spurt? Here are a few signs that your child may be ready for the transition:

1. Taking longer to fall asleep for naps

2. Skips the last nap consistently for a week or two

3. Night wakings that weren’t there prior

4. Awake for long periods of time in the middle of the night

5. Taking all three naps but seeing early morning wakes (EMW)

Child is showing signs and is the appropriate age, now what?

Let’s first look at where your child is now to where they will be heading from a schedule standpoint. Here is a sample schedule before the transition at 6 months with wake windows of 2/2.5 hours:

6 month sample sleep schedule

Now let’s look at after the transition at 9 months with wake windows from 2.5/3.5 hours

9 month sample sleep schedule

Action plan on making the transition from three to two naps

Now that our child is showing all the signs of the transitions, let’s get the action plan in place to make it happen.

1. Adjust bedtime earlier during the initial phase of dropping the nap.

Bedtime range prior to this transition on a solid 3-nap schedule (first 2 naps at least 1 hour each) is typically from 7:00/7:30pm. When dropping a nap, we have to consider they are missing a chunk of sleep and need to be mindful that bedtime will temporarily move up closer to 6:30/7:00pm so they don’t get overtired. Use age-appropriate wake windows to gauge the amount of time to stretch from afternoon nap to bedtime (6:00pm is possible during the first week of the transition).

2. Cap morning nap

Typically, the morning nap is the longest of all the naps and recommend during the transition to cap the nap (play with 1 to 1.5 hours) so that we can help the afternoon nap be longer. The reason for this is that it will help close the gap from being awake from afternoon nap to bedtime which helps not going into bedtime overtired.

3. Adjust Wake Windows Gradually

We will want to build in more awake time between sleeps to help move them to a more consistent 2 nap schedule (9:00/9:30am and 1:00/1:30pm). Build in 10/15 minute extra stretch of time to their wake windows to help their sleep clocks adjust to more awake time.

4. Stay Consistent

Consistency when approaching sleep patterns changes is key to moving to our new sleep schedule. It can take up to two weeks for a child to adjust to this nap transition. Stay consistent on our routines, responses if wakes occur, maintain their nap schedules and it will help this transition run more smoothly. You got this!

If you would like support during this transition, lets schedule a Discovery Call so that you can ask questions on how I serve families and I can get more information on what is happening sleep wise.

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