Wondering when to drop your baby’s fourth nap? Find out the best age to drop to 3 naps, signs baby is ready for it, how to drop that 4th nap, and get sample 3 nap schedules.
The fourth nap is the first nap your baby will drop. It can be scary to move from 4 naps to 3 naps since you do not have experience in dropping naps with your baby. Baby sleep is important and we do not want to risk messing that up.
Dropping a nap is always exciting because it opens up the family’s schedule. The fewer naps baby needs, the less time you feel the need to be at home for nap time. So while it might make you nervous, you will love it!
The fourth nap is the nap that happens between 4ish and 7ish PM depending on your exact schedule. Any sleep that happens after 7 PM should be considered night sleep for your baby.
This nap is also often a cat nap by the time baby is ready to drop it. That means the nap will typically only be 30-60 minutes long. If you have a high-needs sleeper, they might be taking longer naps at this time, but can still be ready to drop it.
- Best Age to Drop the Fourth Nap
- Signs Baby is Ready to Drop the 4th Nap
- Baby Does Not Sleep Well for 4th Nap
- Baby Struggles Falling Asleep at Bedtime
- Baby Needs Longer Wake Windows (Awake Time)
- Baby’s Starts Having Night Wakings
- Baby is Ready for a 4 Hour Schedule
- How to Drop the 4th Nap and Move to 3 Naps
- Skip the 4th Nap
- Extend Wake Windows During the Day
- Move to 4 Hour Schedule
- You Can Wean From the Nap
- Sample 3 Nap Schedules
- 3 Hour Feeding Schedule
- Mixed Feeding Schedule
- The Babywise Mom Nap Guide
- 4 Hour Feeding Schedule
- Related Posts
Best Age to Drop the Fourth Nap
This nap is one of the easiest to drop, which is nice since it is the first one. Most naps have a wide age range of what is normal to drop it, but the fourth nap is very straightforward.
Most babies are ready to drop this nap at 4 months of age.
Some babies might be ready sometime between 3-4 months old, but definitely no earlier than 3 months old.
Some babies might need to hold on to the nap until 5 months old, but definitely not beyond 5 months old.
Your range will be 3-5 months old with the vast majority dropping the 4th nap as a 4 month old in the 4-5 months range.
Signs Baby is Ready to Drop the 4th Nap
If your baby is in the 3-5 month old age range, look for these signs that your baby might be ready to move from 4 to 3 naps.
Baby Does Not Sleep Well for 4th Nap
One big sign is that your baby does not sleep well for the 4th nap anymore.
Typically a baby who is ready to drop the fourth nap will sleep well for the first three naps but then play during that last nap of the day.
If your baby is just not sleeping well for all naps and is taking short naps all day, it is more likely due to sleep regressions that happen around this age. The 4-month sleep regression is a big one and messes up sleep.
If your baby has never slept well for this nap, you cannot take poor sleep for this nap as a major sign baby is ready to drop it.
If your baby is younger than 3 months old, they are not ready to move to a 3-nap schedule.
Baby Struggles Falling Asleep at Bedtime
Some babies might sleep well for all naps in the day but then struggle with bedtime. If your baby is playing at bedtime instead of going to sleep, it might be time to move to 3 naps a day.
Baby Needs Longer Wake Windows (Awake Time)
If your infant starts to need longer wake windows during the day between naps, then there is a good chance you are ready to drop that fourth nap. Being awake longer between naps will naturally push the schedule.
It might also just be that your baby needs a longer wake window (or wake time length) before bedtime. You might find the other wake windows are holding constant but your baby just is not tired for that fourth nap.
Baby’s Starts Having Night Wakings
You might find that your baby starts to wake in the night or have early morning wakings. The presence of a fourth nap rarely messes up nighttime sleep other than the possibility of disrupting bedtime, which can then lead to night sleep issues. Too much daytime sleep can lead to night sleep issues.
If your baby has no issues with bedtime, do not assume that night sleep issues are because of a 4th nap, but it is worth considering as you troubleshoot.
Baby is Ready for a 4 Hour Schedule
If your baby is ready to move to a 4 hour schedule, you will automatically move to 3 naps a day. Read all about When and How to Move Baby to 4 Hour Schedule here.
How to Drop the 4th Nap and Move to 3 Naps
There are a few approaches you can take to moving from a 4-nap schedule to a 3-nap schedule. You can simply skip the 4th nap, you can extend your wake windows during the day, or you can move to a 4 hour schedule.
Skip the 4th Nap
One way to handle the 4-3 nap transition is to simply skip the 4th nap. This is the method you will use if your baby is ready to drop that 4th nap and move to a 3 nap schedule, but is not ready for a 4 hour schedule.
As I said earlier, the fourth nap is often a catnap, which means it is short. Skipping it should be relatively easy to do.
You can drop this nap by just keeping your baby up instead of putting them down for a nap. You then put your baby down at your regular bedtime.
If you use this method, you might need to have an earlier bedtime–at least initially. Whenever you decrease the number of naps your baby is taking in a day, it is common to move bedtime up by about 30 minutes while your baby adjusts. You want to avoid overtiredness.
I always say that babies do not just drop sleep, they rearrange it. Of course they do sleep less as they get older, but when dropping a nap, we need to be careful to avoid an overtired baby as they transition into a new schedule.
As an alternative, you could allow any of the first three naps of the day to be longer. So maybe the afternoon nap was 2 hours long, but now you let baby sleep 2.5 hours instead. Not all babies will take a longer nap, but it is worth trying.
Your baby will also probably be fussy during what was the 4th nap. It is wise to clear your schedule so you can attend to a fussy baby for a few days. Sometimes it helps to get out of the house so your baby is distracted, so this is a great time to run errands or go for a walk.
Your baby will quickly adjust to the new sleep schedule and will not be fussy anymore, but it will take an adjustment period.
Extend Wake Windows During the Day
You will likely extend wake windows (or wake time length) during the day between all other naps when your baby is ready to move to 3 naps a day. This will be true whether you skip that fourth nap or you move to a 4 hour schedule.
Extending wake windows can help you to move that third nap later in the day. That will mean the 3rd nap will end closer to bedtime and your baby will have an easier time making it to bedtime.
Move to 4 Hour Schedule
If your baby is ready to move to a four hour schedule, then you will naturally move to a 3 nap schedule. Signs baby is ready for a 4 hour schedule include:
- Baby is 12 weeks or older.
- Baby is sleeping through the night.
- Baby take take 4-5 feedings a day.
- Baby needs to be woken up from all naps (other than the catnap).
- Baby is not hungry at 3 hours.
If you think your baby might be ready, read about When and How to Move Baby to 4 Hour Schedule here
You Can Wean From the Nap
You always want to follow your own baby’s sleep needs. While many babies can move to 3 naps in more of a “cold turkey” manner, some might do better with a “weaning” approach. This can help babies transition into a 3 nap schedule more easily.
If you wean, you would have 3 naps some days and 4 naps other days.
Also, if your baby is ready to drop this fourth nap but takes a 1.5-2 hour nap, you will want to wean from it before dropping it. So you might do a 60 minute nap for a few days, then 45 minute nap for a few days, then a 30 minute nap for a few days, etc.
Sample 3 Nap Schedules
Here are some sample 3 nap schedules.
3 Hour Feeding Schedule
My first two children went to a 3 nap schedule while still eating every three hours in the day. Here is a basic schedule of what that would look like.
7:00 PM-Eat and then bed
Again, you could do some longer naps in the day to help push those 4 PM and 7 PM feedings closer together.
Mixed Feeding Schedule
Here is a basic schedule you might have if you have some 4 hour feeding intervals and some 3 hour feeding intervals (and in between).
Here is my daughter McKenna’s schedule the first week she went with 3 naps a day every day (she weaned from the nap). She was 23 weeks old. She is my third child.
8:00 AM–wake her up, nurse, eat 2 T oatmeal and 2 T fruit
11:30 AM–wake her up, nurse, eat 2 T veggie and 2 T fruit
3:00 PM–wake her up (sometimes she wakes on her own), nurse
5:30 PM–wake her up or she wakes up, nurse, 2 T fruit, 2-4 T veggie, 2 T oatmeal
7:30 PM–nurse then bed
Here is my daughter Brinley’s schedule the first week she went to 3 naps a day. She went straight to 3 naps a day cold turkey. She was 20 weeks old. She is my fourth child.
7:30–feed with solids
11:30–feed with solids
5:30–feed with solids
7:30–feed, then bedtime
The Babywise Mom Nap Guide
The Babywise Mom Nap Guide eBook helps you establish successful naps from birth through the preschool years. It is a great resource!
Gary Ezzo, author of On Becoming Babywise, said: “Whether it is talking about establishing good nap behavior or offering solutions to sleep disruptions, this is a resource that Dr. Robert Bucknam and I trust. The book is well laid out and answers just about every question a new or seasoned mom might have about babies, toddlers and sleep. We view this as more than a nap guided; it is a resource of encouragement that comes with compassion.”
4 Hour Feeding Schedule
A four hour schedule is usually a little more straightforward. Here is a sample 4 hour feeding schedule with 3 naps in a day. See my Sample 4 Hour Schedules for Your Baby for more.
6:30 PM-Wake. Maybe eat, maybe wait for 7.
7:00 PM-Eat then bedtime
Here is my daughter McKenna’s schedule once she moved to a 4 hour schedule. She still had a dreamfeed, so she still had five feedings a day. She was 25 weeks old.
- 8:00 AM: I wake her. Nurse. 2 T fruit (prunes or peaches) and 3 T oatmeal. This is followed by bath and then independent playtime.
- 9:00 AM: Nap
- 12:00 PM: I wake her (yes, she takes a 3 hour nap). Nurse. 2-4 T peas and 2-4 T of bananas. This is followed by some time with siblings and some tummy time/floor play.
- 1:15-1:30 PM: Nap. Almost every day this week, she took this nap at my parent’s house.
- 4:00 PM: I wake her. Nurse. 4 T yellow veggie, 2 T fruit (usually peaches), and 4 T oatmeal. This is followed by us going to our new house to work on it. I would put her in the front carrier or in the bouncer. Some days, she and I would drive to pick up food for the workers.
- 6:00 PM: Nap. This was taken in my new neighbor’s master bedroom closet in her bassinet.
- 8:00 PM: I wake her. Some nights she woke on her own. She sleeps so well! I never expected her to sleep well there. They have six kids, so you know things just get really loud sometimes. The girl can sleep. Nurse and then back to bed at home.
- 10:20 or 10:30 PM: Dreamfeed.
Here is my daughter Brinley’s “4 hour schedule”. You will see that in the evening, she ate more often than 4 hours. This enabled her to eat dinner more with us as family and also enabled me to keep a 7:30 PM breastfeeding session so I could ensure my milk supply could stay up (I didn’t want to go more than 12 hours between nursing). She was 28 weeks old.
8:00–feed with solids–2-4 T prunes and 2 T of oatmeal mixed in–a few days we did 2 T yogurt here
12:00–feed with solids–4 T of pears OR peaches and 2 T of oatmeal mixed in and 2 T of green beans OR peas with 1 T oatmeal mixed in and some fruit
6:15–solids–half a banana mixed with 2 T oatmeal OR 3-4 T applesauce mixed with 2 T oatmeal and sweet potatoes (1-2 T) OR butternut squash (1-2 T) and some fruit
7:30–feed, then bedtime. In bed by 8:00-8:10
Dropping the 4th nap may seem intimidating, but you will find that once you do, you will love having more awake time with your baby each day. It will free up your evenings and give you more time as a family each night.
If you drop that nap and realize your baby was not ready for it, you can always add that nap back in. Follow your baby’s sleep cues and you will get there!
- Dropping Naps: A Quick Reference
- The Best Ages for Dropping Baby’s Naps
- Everything You Need to Know About Dropping Naps
- Brinley Baby Summary: Week 20
- McKenna Baby Summary: Week 20