The 3 to 2 Nap Transition: A Guide to the 2-Nap Schedule

The 3 to 2 Nap Transition: A Guide to the 2-Nap Schedule

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Nov 17, 2022

Feeling like it’s time to have a set schedule?

Wondering if your baby is ready for the 3 to 2 nap transition?!

If you have a 6-7 month old, and you’re ready for a set schedule, this video is for YOU.  

In this youtube video and post, I’m going to share all you need to know about the 3 to 2 nap transition and how to handle it with success.

If you don’t have a 6 to 7 month old but you still want a daily schedule for your baby, I can help you with that, too! 

Check out my Free Schedule Generator HERE to get an age appropriate schedule for your child. 

My #1 Tip for the 3 to 2 Nap Transition

To be completely honest with you, the 3 to 2 nap transition is one of the HARDEST nap transitions. 

In fact, out of all the nap transitions, there are two that are the most difficult: The 1 to 0 nap transition (no more nap!) and the 3 to 2 nap transition.

When it comes to the 3 to 2 nap transition, here is my #1 tip:

Commit whole-heartedly to the 3 to 2 nap transition and move full-speed ahead.

Don’t look back and don’t second guess yourself.  

You’re likely going to experience some short naps throughout the initial transition period and those short naps might cause you to wonder if you made the right choice. 

You DID make the right choice and you need to TRUST the process.

You need to commit to this transition knowing that it’s not going to be perfect on the first day.

Can I make the 3 to 2 nap transition while sleep training my baby?

Although this transition is a challenging one, it’s very possible to make this transition while sleep training your baby! 

The “sweet spot” for sleep training a baby is 6-12 months old. 

Babies who are this age are ready and craving to sleep independently!

Their bodies want a predictable schedule and they want to sleep through the night.

My 2-nap schedule goes hand-in-hand with my Baby Sleep Course and I highly recommend implementing both of them, simultaneously. 

I recommend this because it will be extremely difficult to try and minimize your baby’s daytime naps and transition them to 2 naps if they aren’t sleeping on their own yet.

If your baby isn’t sleeping independently, and you want to make sleep a thing, I encourage you to implement both the 2-nap schedule and my Baby Sleep Program as soon as you can.

Quick Facts

Okay, before we dive into the details of the 3 to 2 nap transition, here are some quick facts.

3 to 2 Nap Transition Quick Facts

 

Quick Fact #1: The 3 to 2 nap transition usually happens between six to seven months old, give or take a few weeks. Every child is different and there isn’t a hard and fast rule for when you have to make this transition. 

Quick Fact #2: The 2-nap schedule allows for 2 daytime naps with a total of 3 hours of daytime sleep. This means that if your baby is taking two naps, each nap might be 1.5 hours each, or one nap might be shorter (1 hour) while the other nap is longer (2 hours). 

Quick Fact #3: Both naps should be offered in the crib. It’s okay to offer an on-the-go nap every once and a while, but since your child is only on two naps, we want each nap to be a quality, restorative nap in the crib.

The quality of a nap in the crib is going to be much higher than a nap on-the-go! Think about if you were to take a snooze on an airplane or in the car versus your bed. Which nap is going to be better quality?

The nap in your bed will be better because there will inevitably be noises on an airplane or in a car and it’s really bumpy and maybe even crowded!

Quick Fact #4: On the 2-nap schedule you can finally have a set schedule! Yes! You now have set times that your baby will take their 2 naps each day. 

Signs It’s Time to Drop A Nap

 Next, let’s talk about the signs to look for when it’s time for your baby to move to the 2-nap schedule. There are several key signs that you can be looking for when it comes to making the 3 to 2 nap transition. 

Sign #1: Your Baby is between 6-7 months old. 

At 6-7 months old, your little one is ready for longer awake windows and more awake time! This is the perfect time to widen your little one’s wake windows because now you have time to introduce them to solids and practice new skills like rolling, sitting up, and crawling.

Sign #2: Your child is sleeping less than 11-12 hours at night.

It comes down to a simple math equation. If your child is getting too much daytime sleep during the day, then they are going to subtract that from their night sleep. In order to get your child back to sleeping 11-12 hours a night, it’s necessary to decrease their amount of daytime sleep and increase their amount of wake time during the day. 

Sign #3: Your child’s third nap has become the most frustrating nap of the day.

You are trying to get your baby to sleep in their carrier or in their crib and they are protesting it with their entire being, disrupting your family’s daily rhythm. If this is happening, it’s a good sign that you may need to make a schedule change and drop your little one’s third nap. 

Sign #4: Your baby’s naps are getting shorter.

All of a sudden, your baby’s naps are not as long and luxurious as they have been in the past. These short naps indicate that your baby needs more awake time in order to take longer, more restorative naps. They need to build more sleep pressure so that they can sleep more soundly.

*** Want to learn more about short naps? Check out my video on How to Solve Short Naps HERE, or search “naps” on my youtube channel.

The 3-2 Nap Transition Explained

So now that you’ve checked off which signs your baby is experiencing, let’s dive into how to make this schedule change from 3 to 2 naps per day. 

 We are building your baby’s 2-nap schedule around awake windows that will lead to set nap times. 

Remember, an awake window is the amount of time your baby can be awake before they need another nap. 

As your baby becomes accustomed to longer wake windows, your 2-nap schedule will emerge and solidify. You’ve arrived at a set, predictable schedule and it’s time to celebrate that! 

This 2-nap schedule is here to stay for a while and you can use this schedule from 6-12+ months.

Below is a snapshot of my 2-nap schedule:

2 nap schedule explained

Your baby will wake up in the morning, have 2.5 hours of awake time, and then go down for nap 1 which will be 1-1.5 hours in length.

After nap 1 your baby will wake up, have 3 hours of awake time, and then go down for nap 2 which will also be 1-2 hours in length.

When your little one wakes up from nap 2, they will have a final wake window of 3.5 hours and then they will go down for the night!

If your baby isn’t on a 7-7 schedule due to work schedules or life circumstances, you can simply use the above schedule and to shift the times accordingly.

Whether your baby wakes at 6:00AM, 7:00AM, or 8:00AM, you can rest assured that your little one’s schedule will look the same every day on the 2-nap schedule.

How to Push Awake Windows

You might be thinking, “Are you crazy, Becca? Those are huge wake windows!”

The 2-nap schedule is a big change when it comes to awake windows and I want to acknowledge that right off. 

It’s okay if your baby can’t handle the 2.5/3/3.5 hour wake windows on the first day, or even first few days of the transition.

The important thing to know is that 2.5/3/3.5 hour wake windows are the goal for the 2 nap schedule.

So how are you going to get to these goal awake windows for the 2 nap schedule?

Simply put, you are going to push your baby.

Don’t respond immediately to your baby’s sleepy cues. 

Yes, your baby may show you sleepy cues at that 2 hour 10 minute mark, and they may even start to yawn. 

They may even start to rub their eyes and fuss!

At this age, sleepy cues are no longer accurate. If you offer a nap based upon sleepy cues, your baby may respond in one of the following ways: 

  • Your baby might fall asleep really quickly, but then wake up 20 to 30 minutes later resulting in a short nap, or 
  • Your baby is laid in their crib and then they begin to fight their nap because they’re actually not ready for their nap yet.

Pushing your baby to 3-3.5 hours is a huge adjustment!  

Since this is a big adjustment for your baby, it’s going to take some effort on your part to push them through their new awake windows. 

Use music, toys, sunshine, or distractions to get your baby as close to the awake window length as possible. 

In order to help your baby stay awake for these wider wake windows, I want you to pull out all the stops to keep them awake!

Use things like music, sunshine, fresh air, snacks, siblings, floor time, and even pets to distract and stimulate them through their new wake window length.

Many of the families we have worked with have found that their child does much better with longer wake windows at daycare than they do at home!

This makes sense because at daycare there are other children around to distract and entertain your child.

When you are at home, you might find that you’re running out of ideas of what to do when it comes to your baby’s new, longer wake windows.

So be creative and remember to use any kind of distraction you can think of to stimulate your baby through the full awake window.

Commit to the wider, 2-nap schedule awake windows and don’t shorten them.

If you commit to your baby’s new awake windows, you will see results.

In the morning, aim for 2.5 hours of awake time before nap 1.

In between naps, aim for 3 hours of awake time before nap 2. 

In between nap 2 and bedtime, aim for 3.5 hours before your little one goes down for the night. 

Whatever you do, commit to your baby’s new wake windows during the 3 to 2 nap transition and don’t rely on your baby’s sleepy cues. 

A set schedule based upon times instead of awake windows is the final goal for this transition.

If you try and shave the awake windows down to what you’re “comfortable” with or what seems like the baby is “comfortable” with, I can’t guarantee that the 2-nap schedule is going to work. 

If you commit to this exact routine and the awake window schedule, then a consistent, 2-nap daytime schedule will emerge for you. 

Your 2-nap schedule might shift a little here and there, but what I want you to know is that this is a schedule based upon the clock. 

You can finally say to the babysitter or the other caregivers, “Hey, baby goes down for a nap at 9:30AM and 2:00PM.”

The 3 to 2 Nap Transition Takes Time 

Remember this is one of the most difficult nap transitions, and it will likely take your baby 4-6 weeks to become acclimated to these longer awake windows and new schedule.

After the 4-6 week transition period is over, you will have reached your clock-based schedule.

Every baby is different, so yours may take right to the new wake windows or they may take a full six weeks before the new schedule starts to click!

No matter what, you have to remember that a nap transition like this takes time.

Sometimes, you may have to pull out the 3 to 2 nap transition “lifeline” and offer a third cat-nap.

You’re probably thinking, “But aren’t we talking about the 2-nap schedule, Becca?”

Yes, we are.

But sometimes, during the beginning of the transition, you will need to bridge the gap between the long stretch of time (3.5 hours) between nap 2 and bedtime with a very short, third cat-nap. 

I personally have vivid memories of doing this with my youngest, Hattie.

I would put her in a baby carrier or stroller and go for a walk around the block around 4:45/5:00PM. 

She would doze for about 10-15 minutes.

Offering a short cat-nap, or even a time of drowsiness, might be exactly what your baby needs to make the 3.5 hour long wake window before bedtime.

Drowsiness is the first stage of sleep so even if your baby doesn’t fully fall asleep during this time it still counts for something because drowsiness can re-energize your little one for up to one hour.

When it comes to offering a very short, third cat-nap, simply find the sweet spot for your family rhythm and offer the nap roughly 2.5-3 hours before bedtime. 

Be sure to offer this third “micro-nap” on-the-go and not in the crib.

Give your baby a little time and space to snooze on-the-go in a carrier, stroller, or car.  

Since this nap is offered on-the-go, your little one might sleep or they might only become drowsy – both of these results are helpful during the transition.   

The important thing is that we don’t want to have an overtired, “monster” baby at bedtime.

If your baby is clearly running into over-tiredness during their last wake window, and they didn’t take a third cat-nap, you can always offer a 15-20 minute early bedtime.

Conclusion 

The 3 to 2 nap transition finally provides you and your baby with a set schedule (based on the clock) somewhere between 6 to 7 months old. 

  • Before committing to the 3 to 2 nap transition, watch for signs to ensure that it’s the right time to transition your little one from 3 to 2 naps. 
  • Follow 2.5/3/3.5h wake windows
  • Aim for 3 hours of daytime sleep dispersed across 2 naps. 
  • During the 3 to 2 nap transition it can take your baby 4-6 weeks to acclimate to the new schedule.

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