8 Months to 15 Months
At this point naps are regular and the duration is consistent. Your child might still need three naps a day because the duration of the first two naps are not sufficient to get your child through till bedtime without becoming overtired. However, there will come a point where either the first two naps will lengthen or in particular the second nap thus making the third nap more difficult to implement. This is essentially transition from 3 to 2 naps a day.
Now that the third nap no longer exists, we hopefully have two solid naps a day which are restorative and long enough to keep your child rested until bedtime. As we get closer to months 13-15 we start seeing changes occur in the nap schedule (this can vary from child to child, some start transition at as early as a year and others might not transition until 18 months). There are different indications of when transition is starting. The first scenario is that your child begins playing during the morning nap and never sleeps or you leave your child and she falls asleep later into the nap (too late to start a morning nap). The second scenario is that your child is able to stay awake longer in the morning so you put her down a little bit later and she does sleep, however, again it falls too late in the morning thus messing up the schedule for the day. The third scenario is that your child sleeps fine for the morning nap, around the same time as she always has but is refusing to take the afternoon nap, leaving you with a very overtired child at bedtime.
So, what do we do? For a child whose scenario is much like the first two you will want to push her wakeful period as close to 12pm for that one nap. If it's too difficult to push it that far then you could try 11am, either way she will be tired if not overtired, but that is to be expected. The duration of the nap will vary for the first couple of weeks. She might only sleep and hour or she might sleep two but being that the nap is starting so early in the day it will definitely not cover her until bedtime. Note: it is so important during this time to let your baby go back to sleep should she wake prematurely from this only nap of the day, which is expected. Transitions always mean some period of overtiredness but this is why implementing an early bedtime is so important (which will be explained further, below). For the third scenario you will want to limit the morning nap to about an hour so that the afternoon nap can occur. Eventually the third scenario will turn into the first or second scenario and at that point you would implement the procedures explained above.
Once you have made the transition into one nap a day you will then have to work on pushing that one nap closers to the middle of the day. If the one nap is occurring late morning then over a period of weeks you will slowly push that nap closer to 12:30-1pm. It takes time so be patient! Some babies can be pushed harder than others. Some just go to the 1pm nap right away and can tolerate the overtiredness from the long wakeful period in the morning. Most babies take some time to get to that point. It can take a couple of weeks, to a couple of months depending on the child. When all is said and done and you have finally pushed that nap to midday the duration will become longer over time. Those long afternoon naps we hear about tend to occur some months after transition is complete.
Early bedtimes during these months is the most important element to a successful and easier transition. At the beginning of transition when the morning nap is not consistently occurring but the afternoon nap is still in tact you want to shoot for a bedtime anywhere from 6-7pm depending on how the afternoon nap went. This is considered an early bedtime because even though a good nap occurred in the afternoon, there is still a loss of sleep from the morning nap. In another scenario, if the morning nap is taken but cut short or there is no morning nap but the afternoon nap is taken in late morning you have to make an extra early bedtime. For example, if there was no morning nap and you put your child down for the only nap of the day at about 11am-12pm and sleeps between 1-2 hours, there is a long period of wakefulness before bedtime. We have to somewhat shorten that gap by implementing the extra early bedtime. Don't be afraid to put your child down to sleep earlier than 6pm if you have to, and it doesn't mean that your child will wake for the day earlier.
As with making any change you must be consistent for a period of time. You can't analyze the results of making changes over one or two days, you really need 5-7 days to give it a fair shake. It is important at this time especially to keep track of sleeping to get a sense of how transition is going so please use the sleep chart below. Please remember that these extra early bedtimes are specifically needed during transition where there is a loss of sleep. This is temporary and it doesn't mean that your child will always need this extra early bedtime. It's a matter of balancing what is lost. You are just doing what is necessary for the phase you are in. You are being flexible according to your child's needs.
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See also: Soothing Routine