newborn in swaddle sleeves pod

Around three months of age, your baby can begin to have a discernible pattern in their sleep. Days should still be flexible and accommodate a wake window that is typically about 90 minutes long. At three months of age, four naps are common. However, sometime in the 3 to 5 month range, changes occur that make the transition to 3 naps common and ideal!

For moms that do well with a framework, this is what you can expect regarding naps during the 4-3 transition period:
  • A range of 14-16 hours of total sleep (day and night) is typical
  • 4 hours of daytime sleep is average

This can be split in different ways! For most babies, their first nap is longest, but it doesn’t have to be!

Here are some signs that it’s time to drop the fourth nap:
  • Your baby is 3-5 months old
  • Naps are continuing to consolidate and the first three naps alone can get you to a solid bedtime
  • Your wake times are between 2 to 2.25 hours long
  • Your baby is fighting the fourth nap no matter what you try, despite being tired (this last nap is usually the shortest, at only one sleep-cycle long.)
  • The fourth nap is regularly causing bedtime to be pushed too late (later than 8:30pm.) OR
  • You feel like you are often considering skipping the third nap and opting for an early bedtime
  • They are having very early morning wakings, which could be a sign that they are under-tired and getting too much sleep during the daytime!

If this sounds like you right now, it is very likely that your baby is ready to transition to three naps a day!

Here are my best tips for a smooth 4-3 nap transition:
  1. Until your baby’s wake times and naps lengthen some, dropping a nap can make bedtime earlier, as early as 6:00pm. You read that right, 6:00! I know this makes some parents cringe, but don’t worry, it isn’t forever! And early bedtime does not necessarily mean an early morning wake up. 
  2. Working on independent sleep habits can help you get through the four month sleep regression in good shape, as well as help you with this transition and lengthening naps. Keep practicing putting baby down awake at at least bedtime and one nap, if not for all sleep! If baby is still not comfortable with this and cries, comfort and then try again!
  3. If you are struggling with short naps, first of all know that this can still be normal at this age (and up to 6 months!) I recommend helping to extend one nap per day. This means trying to rock or nurse or walk baby back to sleep and then holding after waking up from a short nap.
  4. If you really need to and your short naps/wake windows make it impossible for you to get to a 6:00 PM bedtime, that’s okay! Throw a fourth catnap in there! It’s not the end of the world and can happen sometimes when you’re making this transition.

Remember, your baby is still little! You and your baby may still be getting the hang of this sleep thing and to give your baby and yourself flexibility and grace.

To read Part I in our "Nap Transition Series," click here

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AUTHOR: Katelyn Thompson is a certified pediatric sleep consultant, owner of Sweet Pea Sleep. She lives in Georgia with her two little boys and her realtor husband. She believes that a well-rested family is a happier and healthier family, and is on a mission to help families get the rest they need in a way that fits their personal family dynamics.

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