18 09, 2018

The 3-2 Nap Transition; When and How To Do It

September 18th, 2018|Categories: Nap Transitions|

3-2 Nap Transition

It should come as no surprise that infants and children sleep a lot more than adults. This is because sleep plays a vital role in growth, development and cognitive functions. Children are undergoing these things at a more intense rate than adults so it stands to reason that they require more sleep to be able to grow and develop properly. This is one of the reasons that children nap during the day. Naps are important for helping children form overall healthy sleep habits and patterns.

Sleep Debts

When naps are missed, something called a sleep debt, forms. This debt is the cumulative difference between sleep needed and sleep actually attained. Overtime, if this debt grows larger, or isn’t recovered, children become overtired. This leads to a whole host of problems that can include night wakings, early morning risings, short naps, plus more. You can read more about overtiredness and sleep debts here.

You can think of a sleep debt like a financial debt. If you have withdrawn one hundred dollars from your overdraft account, you are in debt. You owe your account one hundred dollars. If this isn’t repaid, interest is accrued, increasing the debt.

Repaying the sleep debt, or not having one to begin with, involves having an age-appropriate nap routine. Most children under three years of age will need a nap in some form while they’re still rapidly developing.  However, it’s not unusual for many kids to continue napping until they start full day school in Kindergarten or Grade One.

What is the 3-2 nap transition?

Before we get to that stage where naps are cut out all together though, we have to overcome the first “official” nap transition. The first nap transition that many parents encounter is the 3-2 nap transition. This is when the child no longer needs their third nap of the day. This third nap is often referred to as the catnap because it’s usually shorter than the other two naps. The third nap usually only lasts one sleep cycle (30-45 mins).

When does the 3-2 nap transition occur?

Knowing when to drop a nap can be confusing for parents. On average, a child will be ready to drop their third nap between 6-9 months of age. However, if the child has developed independent sleep skills and is taking long naps of about 1.5-2 hours, they may lose this nap earlier.

How do we know they are ready?

There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ for nap transitions. Usually by 6-9 months most children will be ready for the 3-2 nap transition. You’ll also be able to tell if your child is ready if their routine starts to shift slightly. If they have two longer naps that have become well established this shows that they are aligned with the child’s biological sleep circadian rhythms.

Another sign that your child is ready to drop their third nap is when no matter what you do, regardless of the tricks you pull out of your sleep bag, they just won’t sleep! I distinctly remember driving my daughter around in the car to get her to sleep for the third nap and eventually even this stopped working. She just stayed awake the whole time.

Other signs your child no longer needs the third nap:

  • Your child is 6-12 months old
  • Your child might appear tired but still refuses the nap no matter what you do
  • All of your usual go-to “tricks” stop working. Things like nursing, feeding, rocking, bouncing and driving rarely work or stop working all together
  • The other two naps become long and well established in their routine
  • Because of two prolonged naps, it seems too late into the afternoon to introduce a third nap. You might find yourself wondering “should I try another nap or just do an early bedtime?”
  • As your baby lengthens naps one and two, the third nap may push bedtime too late. 
  • The other two naps might stay short but become well established. This is common around 7-8 months of age

Signs that they still need the third nap

  • Throughout the week, there are more days than not that they are taking the catnap
  • Your child is going through a big development like trying to sit up, stand or crawl. A surge in brain development often coincides with another part of development regressing, like sleep
  • If you offer more awake time between nap two and the catnap, they start to take it again.

How to transition from 3-2 naps

In order to make this transition successful, naps one and two must be at least an hour and a half long. For babies younger than six months, short naps are common as their sleep/wake cycles fully mature which makes transitioning to a two nap routine at this point, rare. However, if your child is taking a morning and an afternoon nap that are closer to two hours in length, then they may be ready to drop nap three.

Once you decide to drop the third nap, you need to move bedtime earlier so your child isn’t awake for too long. Most babies napping twice per day settle into a bedtime of 5-7 pm. Yes, I said 5pm. No, that’s not a typo. 😉 

Early Bedtimes During the 3-2 Nap Transition

When moving your baby’s bedtime, it needs to reflect the dropped nap. We want to avoid creating a sleep debt, so we need to replace the missing day time sleep with night sleep until the child can handle longer wake periods. Depending on their age when they drop the catnap, they still may only be able to handle a two hour wake period.

This is how we end up getting to a 5pm bedtime.

For instance, if the child is 6 months old and nap two lasts from 1-3pm, even after that great nap, they can only sustain a two hour wake period, given their age. If you’ve tried for a catnap and it’s not happening, they need an early bedtime of around 5pm.

Once your child is ready to drop the third nap, or is refusing to take it, then stop offering it and move bedtime up earlier.  

The early bedtime won’t last forever, it’s just while they are adjusting to the two nap routine. Put your baby down for the night when they need it, and put up your feet and enjoy.

Nap Transitions Summary

Nap transitions can often be tricky and sometimes, they can be downright awful. Deciding when the right time is for your baby to drop a nap can be confusing for the best of us. Listen to the signs that your child is giving you. If they don’t want that third nap and their other two naps get longer, that could be a sign that they’re ready to transition.

Need more help with your baby’s sleep? Pick up your free copy of Baby Sleep Basic’s: Tips To Encourage Better Sleep.
16 12, 2014

The 2-1 Nap Transition: How to Handle It Successfully

December 16th, 2014|Categories: Nap Transitions, Naps, Toddler Sleep|Tags: , , , , , |

2-1 Nap Transitions; Signs, Tips and Advice

There comes a time in a toddler’s life when it’s time to transition from two naps to one. I frequently get asked about this transition, even from clients whose baby is only 4 or 6 months old. The 2-1 nap transition has a well-deserved reputation for being difficult as children adjust to the longer activity times.  Here are my tips to help make this nap transition go smoothly.

2-1 Nap Transition Tip #1 : Wait Until It’s Time

Is your child really ready to transition to one nap? Although many people believe that as soon as a child turns one, they can handle being on one nap, this just isn’t the case. The vast majority of children naturally transition somewhere between 15-18 months of age. Forcing the 2-1 nap transition before the child is ready can result in a child becoming very overtired.

2-1 Nap Transition Tip #2: Determine If It’s a Milestone or Transition Time

When toddlers are learning how to pull up, cruise and walk, the new physical skills can lead to overtiredness and nap resistance. Since these milestones tend to happen around the one year mark, it can easily be misinterpreted as a sign to transition to one nap. Review what skills your little one has been practicing lately. If there has been new developments, then don’t rush to transition just yet. What your child needs is more sleep right now as they recover from all the new exercises ;), and bringing the bedtime up earlier will be more beneficial than switching to one nap.

2-1 Nap Transition Tip #3: Know the Signs

If your child is between 15-18 months and they’re not going through a milestone, the next step is to determine if they’re showing the signs to transition. Very often, we will see one or more of the following…

  • The child starts taking a long time to fall asleep for the morning nap which then pushes the afternoon nap too late
  • The child easily takes a long morning nap, but then refuses the afternoon nap
  • The child plays right through either the morning or afternoon nap and doesn’t sleep
  • Early morning wakings star to occur that are not related to being overtired, discomfort or outside disruptions.
2-1 Nap Transition Tip #4: Hang on to Two Naps as Long As Possible

This nap transition tends to be the hardest of all for children to handle, so if you can hang onto the two naps for even a few more weeks, do it. The older your child is, the easier the move will be on their bodies. Even though they may seem to handle the transition well for a few days, it doesn’t mean that after a few weeks it will be the same story. Adjusting to extended wake periods after the transition can be very tiring for children and over time,  a sleep debt can begin to accumulate and rear its head. After a few weeks, night wakings and early morning risings can start to occur.

2-1 Nap Transition Tip#5: When Ready, Move Quickly

If your child is ready to move to one nap, move them to a mid day nap as soon as possible. Yes, it will be a stretch and they will be grumpy, but moving the nap this far right away helps twofold:

  • It will help to close the gap to bedtime, even if the nap is short, thus helping to prevent early morning wakings from a too-late bedtime.
  • The nap is appropriately timed with the body’s circadian rhythms and helps to ensure the most restorative nap possible.
2-1 Nap Transition Tip #6:  Keep Bedtime Early!

It’s really important that bedtime is early, super early in fact for the first few weeks. Even if your child consistently takes a solid 2+ hour nap as soon as they transition; adjusting to the longer wake periods takes some time, so respecting their need to go to sleep early for the night is essential.

By following these tips, you will help to keep your toddler well-rested as they transition from 2-1 naps and adjust to the longer days. If you find that you need more help with your toddler’s sleep than this article provides, purchase a consultation to have private, one-on-one help to resolve the issues quickly!

Has your toddler transitioned yet? If so, share your experience in the comments below and remember to join our weekly Facebook Q and A sessions to chat with other tired parents!