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How to Smoothly Make the 4 to 3 Nap Transition

Wondering when and how to make the 4 to 3 nap transition with your baby? Check out this step-by-step post to see how to make this transition smooth for all!

baby girl smiling

I always enjoyed making nap transitions when my daughter was a baby!

Sure, the idea of messing with my baby’s sleep schedule brought on a bit of anxiety, but I also enjoyed having her awake for longer periods of time!

Longer wake windows meant we could do more activities together and be out and about a bit more without her getting overtired so easily!

As a new mom I muddled through Babywise sleep schedules utterly confused at the various merges and how to make them happen. It just didn’t make sense to me in my postpartum brain fog.

Since then, I’ve become a baby sleep consultant and have much more knowledge on baby sleep schedules, wake windows and when and how to make nap transitions happen smoothly!

Let me walk you through the 4 to 3 nap transition with your babe!

interior of baby schedule cheat sheets

Baby Schedule Cheat Sheets

If you want an easy-to-follow guide that has sample schedules and baby wake windows for each age and stage, check out my Baby Schedule Cheat Sheets. It is full of sample schedules for ages Newborn through 4 years old and is the exact guide I wish I had when my baby was young! Check it out here.

baby girl smiling and playing with feet

When to Transition from 4 to 3 Naps

Wondering when it’s the right time to make the 4 to 3 nap transition?

Most babies are ready for it when they are between 4 and 5 months of age.

At 3 months old, babies are able to have about 90 minutes of awake time and are typically on a 4-nap schedule. (See what a 3-month old schedule looks like here including the 3-month old wake window.)

As your baby reaches the four-month mark, you’ll gradually increase that 90 minutes of awake time to 120 minutes, which is typically a great wake window for a 4-month old.

Some babies may be ready for this right as they turn 4 months old, and others may be ready for it closer to 4.5 months old. It can take time for the transition to happen, so even as you begin to stretch your baby’s wake windows, some days may be 4 nap days and other days only 3 naps.

Babies who sleep well at night and have positive sleep associations tend to be able to make the transition closer to the 4-month mark, while babies who are chronically overtired may not be able to handle the longer wake windows until closer to 5 months old.

Remember that there is always an age range with nap transitions!

Signs Your Baby is Ready to Drop the Fourth Nap

In addition to their age, your baby may show you signs that she’s ready to drop a nap!

Those signs may include:

  • Taking more than 20 minutes to fall asleep for a nap
  • Waking up early from nap time
  • Fighting bedtime
  • Waking up early in the morning / Early morning wakings
  • Increased night wakings
mom holding baby girl

How to Transition from 4 to 3 Naps

First off, the good news is that this is one of the easier nap transitions to make!

It’s very forgiving since there is so much opportunity for daytime sleep and your baby’s wake windows are still on the lower end.

If you have days where your baby only naps 30 minutes, you can always squeeze in a cat nap or do an early bedtime during the transition period.

In order to transition your baby from 4 naps to 3 naps, you’ll gradually add awake time to their day in small increments before the next nap.

As you continue to add wake time throughout the day, you eventually get to the point where there isn’t time for a 4th nap.

I always recommend adding 15 minutes to one or two wake times of the day (usually the second and third wake window) and staying there for several days before changing things again.

We want to avoid an overtired baby, which is why I make the transition gradually over time instead of just jumping right in!

For example, if your 3-month old was doing 90 minutes of awake time with four solid naps, their nap schedule may have looked like this:

Sample 4-Nap Schedule Before Transitioning

7:00 am — Wake up for the day

8:30 to 9:30 — First Nap

11:00 to 12:30 pm — Second Nap

2:00 to 3:00 pm — Third Nap

4:30 to 5:30 — Fourth Nap

7:00 pm — Bedtime

To start dropping the fourth nap, add 15 minutes to your baby’s second or third wake window of the day for about 3 to 5 days to allow their body to adjust. A new nap schedule may look like this:

graphic of 4 to 3 nap transitional schedule

Transitional Nap Schedule

7:00 am — Wake up for the day

8:30 to 10:00 am — Nap

11:45 to 1:15 pm — Nap

2:45 to 3:45 pm — Nap

5:00 to 5:30 — Nap

7:00 pm — Bedtime

You still have four naps but are slowly pushing back the time of the last nap and pretty soon, you won’t have time for it at all.

As your baby adjusts to the longer awake times and is ready to extend more, you can add wake time again.

The last wake time of the day is sometimes shorter, because that last nap shortens and is less restorative for your baby. Remember that wake time doesn’t have to be evenly distributed throughout the day and is not an exact science.

Sometimes the wake time before the catnap is also shorter (like in the example above), because you don’t want that catnap happening too late.

You may have to play around with it to find your sweet spot and what works best for your baby!

The first wake window of the day is also typically shorter. It sounds so counterintuitive, but after sleeping all night long, babies usually can’t stay awake as long in the morning before their first nap!

I usually increase the first wake window of the day last, after baby has adjusted to the longer times throughout the rest of the day.

baby holding pacifier

3-Nap Schedule for 4 Month Old

As you continue to add wake time, your 4-month old may be able to stay awake for up to 2 hours at a time! Eventually you’ll get to a point where your baby’s new schedule looks like this:

7:00 am — Wake up for the day

8:30 to 10:00 — Morning Nap

12:00 to 1:30 pm — Afternoon Nap

3:30 to 5:00 pm — Last Nap

7:00 pm — Bedtime

4 to 3 nap transition schedule

Note that nap times may vary. If your baby takes nice long naps, you’re right on track! But if your baby is taking consistently short naps, you’ll likely offer a fourth nap or do an earlier bedtime.

That may look like this.

7:00 am — Wake up for the day

8:30 to 9:15 — Nap

11:15 to 12:00 pm — Nap

2:00 to 2:30 pm

4:30 to 5:15 pm

7:00 pm — Bedtime

Short naps can still be developmental at this age, and it can just take time for your baby to take longer naps. Or there may be something else going on that is perpetuating the short naps.

Triple check your baby’s sleep environment! If you’re still having short naps, you can use a sleep training technique or crib hour to help lengthen those naps to help your baby connect sleep cycles!

Keep in mind that many babies experience the 4-month sleep regression at this age as well, which can interfere with sleep.

Amy Motroni