January 31, 2024

When and How to Transition from Four Naps to Three


The transition from four naps to three naps isn’t super straightforward – it’s a lot more fluid than other nap transitions, and it often just kind of happens. But for some families, it doesn’t “just happen” and it’s tough to know when and how to transition to three naps.

So in this blog post, I’ll be breaking it all down. We will cover:

  • What age babies are usually ready to transition from four naps to three naps
  • Signs your baby is ready to transition from four naps to three
  • How to transition from four naps to three naps
  • The best three-nap schedule

And so much more!

What age are babies usually ready to transition from four naps to three naps?

I have found that most babies are ready to transition to three naps somewhere between four and five months old. When I work with newly turned four-month-olds, I tell the parents they will likely transition to three naps soon, either while we’re working together or shortly after.

Similarly, when I work with newly turned five-month-olds, I tell the parents that while their baby may still be taking four naps now, my goal is that they transition to a three-nap schedule during our time together.

In a similar vein, when I work with babies who are still three months old, if they are somehow already on a three-nap schedule, we almost always scale back to a four-nap schedule, as overtiredness so quickly creeps in and wreaks havoc on sleep.

Signs babies show when they are ready to transition to three naps

The transition from four naps to three naps is usually more fluid than other nap transitions – it’s probably not going to happen overnight and it might not be super obvious that it’s happening. Your baby might even go back and forth between four naps and three for a couple of weeks before really settling into a consistent three-nap schedule.

Because this is a more fluid transition, the signs it’s time to transition aren’t always straightforward. However, three signs you might notice include:

  1. If your baby is between 4-5 months old and their first two naps of the day are both over an hour long, there’s a chance they are either ready to transition to three naps or are close to transitioning.
  2. If your baby is still on a four-nap schedule but bedtime doesn’t fall until after 8 pm because you have to squeeze in four naps, it’s time to transition. (This is for people aiming for a “7-7 schedule”. Aiming for a 7-7 schedule doesn’t mean your baby always wakes up at 7 and goes to bed at 7, there’s certainly going to be some variation. But we need a norm to work around, and this is when we don’t want bedtime to go past 8 pm. I’ll break schedules down more soon.)
  3. No matter what you do, your baby just won’t fall asleep for that fourth and final nap of the day. Crib naps aren’t happening, car naps, carrier naps, stroller naps, etc. – they just won’t take that fourth nap. In that case, it’s likely time to transition to three naps.

How to Transition from Four Naps to Three

I’ve already mentioned this nap transition isn’t as clear or straightforward as others, so there’s honestly not an explicit “how to transition” here. Your baby may go back and forth between four naps and three naps for a bit, and that’s normal! As long as it’s working for them, it’s totally fine.

But here are three different “hows” when it comes to helping your baby transition from four naps to three. You might only have to do one of them, or two, or all three – it just depends on your baby:

  1. Extend awake windows by 15ish minutes each so there’s no longer time for a fourth nap.
  2. Skip that fourth nap and bring bedtime earlier. In any nap transition, an early bedtime is very likely in store, meaning around 6:30. Sometimes as early as 6/6:15 is necessary, but we try to stretch to 6:30. Even stretching to 6:30 might be pushing their awake window 30-45 minutes longer than usual, which yes, means overtiredness might come into play, but when we’re going through a nap transition, sometimes it’s just necessary and worth the push! That early bedtime won’t last forever.
  3. Work on lengthening their naps! If your baby is a chronic 20–40-minute napper, they’re probably going to hang on to those four naps for a while because they just can’t make it to bedtime on three naps. If your baby is a short napper, check out this blog post to learn how to lengthen those short naps.

Now a little story time about this four to three nap transition…

I worked with a family a few months ago and their son had just turned four months old when we started. He became an independent sleeper so quickly and was rocking his naps – it was beautiful! So beautiful, in fact, that it left us in a tricky spot. In order to keep a fourth nap and a decent bedtime, his parents had to wake him from at least two naps, sometimes all of them. And it’s always a bummer to have to wake a sleeping baby, though sometimes necessary!

But like I said, he had just turned four months old, which is on the young end of a three-nap schedule. But mom and dad were hoping a three-nap schedule would work (as was I!), so we decided to see how their son would do on a three-nap day.

Per usual, he took amazing naps, and mom and dad were so thankful to not have to wake him. Rather than his usual 7:45/8 pm bedtime, bedtime fell around 6:45/7 that night, which they were also excited about. Sweet boy fell asleep just fine, but the first few hours of his night were just off. He stirred more than usual and had an extra night waking or two, and his little body clock clearly wasn’t ready for just three naps yet.

We tried extending his awake windows to help, but he was really sensitive to overtiredness and would then have “false starts,” so we went back to his four-nap schedule where his parents had to wake him from most naps, and his nights went back to normal!

We wrapped up together when he was still on four naps, and I told them once he was ready to make that next awake window jump he would very likely be ready for three naps, and they were probably just a week or two away.

I have one more example…

I recently finished working with a family of a 16-week-old – not even exactly four months old yet. Within a few days, this little guy was also rocking his naps, and he naturally did better with slightly longer awake windows. So within just a few days, he was on a three-nap schedule and did great with it!

On the off days, when mom had more errands to run, for example, his naps were shorter. So on those days, he needed a fourth cat nap and still slept just as well overnight. This little guy was clearly ready for a three-nap schedule!

Both babies in those examples were about the same age, both figured sleep out pretty quickly into our plan, but one needed to stick with shorter awake windows and a four-nap schedule a bit longer, and the other was ready to extend awake windows a bit and settled into a three-nap schedule.

So when it comes to sleep, it’s so important to remember that there are “norms” and maybe “rules”, but every kiddo is truly different and we need to lean into their needs and their norms and go from there.

The Best Three Nap Schedule for Babies

First note that when a baby transitions from four naps to three, we are still very much following awake windows – we aren’t yet on a clock-based schedule (that’s not until two naps!). Some babies, however, do seem to fall into a more predictable day-to-day nap schedule, and that’s great! I just don’t expect it.

The three nap schedule we aim for is as follows:

6-7:30 am, wake up

1.5/1.75 hours awake, nap 1

1.75/2.25 hours awake, nap 2

1.75/2.25 hours awake, nap 3

2/2.75 hours awake, bedtime (ideally 6:30-8 pm)

If a baby is closer to four months old, they will be on the lower end of these awake windows but taking at least two solid naps a day, each over an hour long, with a third cat nap. And bedtime will likely be closer to 6:45/7 pm.

If a baby is around five months old, they will be on the longer end of those awake windows, and the length of their naps will determine their bedtime. For babies still working on extending their naps, they’ll have an earlier bedtime, probably around 6:30/6:45. But for babies who regularly connect their sleep cycles at nap time, their bedtime will be closer to 7/7:30.

If all this talk about schedules is a little overwhelming, we’ve got you! We have a free baby schedule guide with all of the schedules your baby will need in the coming months, as well as how to balance their sleep, milk, and eventually solids.


Nap transitions can be overwhelming. They can be scary! And it’s easy to question yourself or feel unsure about what to do next.

And this four to three-nap transition generally happens around the same time as the four-month regression, so you might be extra tired or extra frustrated with sleep, or feeling extra discouraged.

I get it. I’ve been there! And that’s why I’m here. And that’s why we also have blog posts about the other nap transitions, including:

That’s also why we’re here as sleep consultants! At Via Graces, we want to help take the hard and overwhelming and guesswork out of your baby’s sleep for you. That doesn’t mean it’ll be easy, but we will help you navigate your baby’s sleep with a plan and with confidence. If you’d like to learn more, see how we can help.

With Grace,