Naps create magical moments in the middle of the day when tired moms the world over finally get a moment to themselves. They're a chance for over-worked parents to tidy up the house, think about what to make for dinner, throw a load of laundry in, start work and answer emails, or simply take a few moments to catch their breath. All good things must come to an end, though, and that includes nap time. So, when should you transition a baby out of naps? The answer might be, unfortunately, a little sooner than you'd think (or like).
Sleep is vital to human bodily and cognitive function. According to The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institution (NIH), as soon as any of us start to endure a lack of quality sleep, we can start to experience physical and mental symptoms, like irritability and trouble concentrating. For babies who are growing at such a fast rate, their sleep needs are even more important.
The National Sleep Foundation provides parents with a set of guidelines as to how how much sleep babies need each day. For example, newborn to 3 month olds should receive between 14-17 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. Babies 4 months to 11 months of age need 12-15 hours in a 24 hour period, while toddlers need around 11-14 hours of sleep in a day.
Most babies will sleep for around 12 hours per night, although that sleep will be interrupted. The rest of the quota needs to be made up with daytime naps.
According to The Baby Sleep Site, newborns to 3 month olds should take four to six naps per day. That number steadily decreases the older your baby gets. For example, babies 4 to 5 months of age need three or four naps a day, 6 and 7 month olds need three naps a day, 8 and 9 month olds need two or three naps a day, 10 to 12 month olds need one or two naps a day, and 13 to 14 month olds, up until a baby hits about 36 months of age, require only one nap a day.
The Baby Sleep Site goes on to suggest parents look out for a few signs that their baby is ready to drop a nap, pointing out that if, "Your baby or toddler beings consistently refusing a nap, the timing of your baby's or toddler's naps begin to change, the length of your baby's or toddler's naps being to change," it might be time to cut down on the number of daytime sleep hours.
The best way to tell if your baby is ready to drop a nap either from three naps to two, or from two naps to one, is to watch carefully for the aforementioned signs and then just give it a try. If you find your baby is too tired as the result of a missed or dropped nap, you can always move back to their old napping routine.
If you end up shedding a tear or two as your baby gives up their regular nap times, know that you're not alone. Milestones, while a big deal to your baby and a necessary part of their development, are rarely easy on the parents. So keep your head up, and enjoy those naps while you still can!