Making sure baby (and everyone else) gets enough sleep is high on every parent's priority list. With a mix of morning naps, afternoon naps, and the desire for baby to sleep through the night, it's not always easy to determine how to improve your baby's sleep habits. This may leave parents asking themselves, and on more than one occasion, "How do I transition a baby out of a nap?" Hey, if it promotes a better, fuller sleep experience without the excess napping, it's a question worth asking.
The Baby Sleep Site provides a wonderful "baby nap chart" for new parents, who are likely to be worried about the amount of sleep their baby is getting every day. According to the site, and in addition to the total number of hours a baby should be sleeping in a 24 hour period, newborns to 3-month-old babies should have four to six naps a day, 4 and 5 month old babies should have three or four naps a day, 6 and 7-month-old babies should have three naps a day, 8 and 9-month-old babies should have two or three naps a day, 10 to 12 month olds should have two naps a day, and after 1 year a baby can slowly start to transition from two naps a day, to one nap in a 24 hour period.
When cutting down on the number of naps your baby takes on any given day, it's important to note this may happen likely closer between the ages of 1-2. According to Dr. Harvey Karp, MD and author of Happiest Baby on the Block, before the age of 1 babies need upwards of 12-14 hours of sleep per day, including naps. Your baby will, naturally and usually on their own, stop napping multiple times a day when they're receiving enough sleep at night. So if you're thinking of transitioning out of naps altogether, it may be best to wait.
Once your baby is napping twice a day, and they've successfully napped through each napping block for 2-3 hours each day (giving them plenty of sleep through the night as well), you'll reach a point where one of their go-to naps is no longer necessary. This typically occurs when your baby is past 1 year of age. The Mayo Clinic suggests moving nap time, and bedtime, up half an hour to help your child adjust into only one nap, which will typically occur in the afternoon. The Mayo Clinic goes on to highlight that most children will continue to nap once a day until they're anywhere between 3 and 5 years old.
When making the jump from one down to no naps at all, your child will probably exhibit telltale signs alerting you it's time. The Baby Sleep Site says if your child is refusing naps, takes longer to fall asleep at night, or the naps have decreased in length, it may be time to transition to only night sleep. Although they caution that regression can happen — and the aforementioned signs could be a temporary phase — so it's important to pay attention to all the signs when considering whether or not to leave naps behind. Regressions fix themselves over a one or two week period, while the need for cutting naps will outlast that timeframe.
So, how do you transition out of a nap exactly? The best answer seems to be with a lot of patience. By making small schedule changes, gradually, you'll increase the odds of success of a new sleep training schedule and without major disruption. Like most things in parenting, there may be a transition for you, too. Where your child may come off as sleepy, grumpy, or tired all day, stay consistent, but flexible. If a nap is needed one day, so be it. Only you can determine when it's time to move your child from one growing phase to the next.