We’re going to be addressing the change to two naps a day, three to two naps a day. When does this happen? How do you know your little one’s ready and how do you actually go about it?
First and foremost, when exactly is a little one ready to drop from three naps a day down to two naps a day?
Typically this is going to happen around eight to 10 months. Now that’s typically, of course, you will always get little ones that fall outside of this. Of course, you get little ones that are premature and might be working to an adjusted age and some are just not ready until a bit later, but it will usually, more often than not fall in the eight to 10 month area. What signs might you see that confirm that your little one is ready to drop from three naps to two?
Well, assuming you’ve got three naps established, it’s going to be a lot easier to see because you’ll know what normally happens and how you normally do your two core naps and probably your third shorter nap because that’s often how three naps look. If naps are already a complete and utter shambles and you’re like my little one’s nine months and still only cat naps for 30 minutes at a time, all over the place anyway, then it is going to be a little harder to see and you might have to go a little bit by age and developmental stage. But if you’re lucky enough to see the signs, here’s what you may see.
If you have three naps in place already, you might find the third nap, it becomes a little more difficult for your baby to settle for the third nap. So you find that the first two naps are fine, third one, more fussing, suddenly more fussing. And we’re eight to 10 months, good chance that they’re ready to get rid of that third nap. It could be that the first or second nap actually becomes a bit challenging too. Maybe they are struggling to settle for it or waking up a bit sooner from it than they usually do. And that could be a sign that they are ready to stretch that wakeful window. They’re ready to be awake for a bit longer in between sleeps, again, it’s telling us that their timings are shifting, the body clock you’re shifting and their needs around sleep are shifting, quite possibly to drop from three naps down to two.
What is not a sign is being cranky at bedtime. So if you are thinking, “Oh yeah, my baby’s become really cranky at bedtime. And bedtime feels like a real battle, maybe we need to drop one of the naps.” That on its own, isn’t a sign. And just be really careful because actually that bedtime crankiness could be over tiredness. And by taking a nap out of the equation, you may make that worse. So just be careful and look for other signs and cues along with that, because exclusively just being cranky at bedtime is not a reason to drop a nap.
Moving to a two nap routine, how do you do that? What does it even look like?
When we go down to two naps, we are ideally looking for 90 minutes each, about an hour and a half times two naps. But what we do want is three hours a day. So if we can get three hours total daytime sleep and the spread is roughly even, you are okay, just if one’s a little bit longer, the other’s a little bit shorter, that’s fine but we want them reasonably balanced. What we don’t want is one being really short and one being really long, but reasonably balanced would be good. When you’re making this transition and know the wakeful window, the wakeful window is around about three hours.
So about three hours awake, then nap one. If we have a full nap one, about three more hours awake, then nap two. If we don’t have a full nap one and nap one ends up going wrong or being a bit short, don’t go the full wakeful window before nap two, you want to shorten the wakeful window a bit, to make up for the fact that the first nap wasn’t long enough.
Whilst you’re making this move down to two naps and getting into a nice two nap schedule, you may find your little one is a little bit tired and you might find just because naps don’t always go perfectly, and because they don’t always take the two naps that equate to three hours a day and you are left with a chunk of afternoon before bedtime. And you’re there thinking we’re just not going to get through from here to bedtime without being really tired. So backup plan, either put in a third little catnap, power nap, which you could do by motion, you could do a push chair walk or whatever, or bring bedtime earlier. One of those two makes for a really good backup plan at any stage, really, but particularly when you’re making this nap transition.
If you bring bedtime earlier, only bring it earlier by up to one hour earlier at the most, any more than an hour earlier and you are really shifting their nighttime completely. They can tack on some of that day sleep to the front end of the night sleep. But if that’s just not really going to fit, then I would recommend a power nap, a motion nap, a little top up catch up nap. It doesn’t have to be really long, 20, 30 minutes can be fine just to bridge the gap between the last sleep and bedtime sleep if things haven’t quite gone to plan. So have that up your sleeve as a backup plan.
Things don’t go to plan with babies. There will always be that element of hoping that today is a good day, filled with the right amount of sleep. But when you know how much sleep your little one actually needs, and whether you are falling on par or below par of that, you can adjust. Knowing that you’ve got the tools to adjust, I can add in an extra catnap here, I can bring bedtime a bit earlier there, that awareness that you know if your little one is undernourished in the sleep department, then you can take those actions to top them up. And this nap transition from three naps down to two, doesn’t take too long, it’s usually only a couple of weeks, unlike the next one.
So I hope this has helped you. If you are going through the nap transition, then get in touch and let us know how it’s going, any challenges you have with it or book in for a free discovery call with one of our coaches to get a plan in place.