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Is it possible to drop nap 3 early?

Updated: Jan 17, 2022

One of the most common requests from new clients in the 4-6 month age group is 'Can you help me drop the third nap?'.

Nap 3 is a pain in the backside and here is why:

  1. There is no biological window for sleep in the late afternoon. This means that baby will find it hard to shut off as their is no dip in cortisol or temperature making it harder to fall asleep.

  2. Babies can be wound up by older siblings at this time. This is about the time older siblings are starting to get a little cray cray. The 'witching hour' is approaching and kids are getting hungry and tired which can often mean a lot of noise is made at this time. How is a younger baby supposed to wind down through that?

  3. As your baby's awake time gets longer they can find it difficult to fall asleep if they had a good long sleep for nap 2. For example they may have a 2.5 hour awake window and wake from their nap at 2:30pm, meaning they won't be tired until 5pm but that's too close to bedtime.

So what should you do if nap 3 is a struggle?

  1. Be realistic. If they are not yet 6 months, the chances of them being able to cope with two naps are very slim. A baby who is kept awake too long before bed will resist bedtime, wake shortly after bedtime, wake frequently overnight and/or wake early.

  2. If baby is old enough to drop nap 3 but their awake window before bed ends up being too long, you can move to a medium-medium or medium-long routine. You may have to increase the awake period after nap 1 to ensure baby is tired enough to do another lengthy nap.

  3. Shorten nap 1 to ensure baby has time to fit in a third nap. We want to keep nap 2 the longest so in order to bring nap 3 earlier, I suggest capping nap 1 instead of waking them early from nap 2.

  4. Shorten nap 3. Instead of a 30 minute third nap, 15 minutes is enough if baby is 6 months old and sleeping a good 2 hours at lunch time. It might take a while for baby to fall asleep at this time so pop them in at 4:35pm so they are able to fall asleep by 4:45pm.

  5. Wait for baby to drop it themselves. Do what you can until baby is ready. If this means popping your baby in the carrier and walking around your house, that's a way better option that an overtired baby (in my opinion). Babies will show you they are ready to drop the nap themselves (by not falling asleep) before 9 months of age.

  6. Use it as a time to listen to a podcast and have some 'quiet time' instead of being annoyed that you could be preparing dinner.

Remember that this nap is really important in setting up a good night's sleep so if you can achieve it, stick with it for just a little while longer.

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