Giving up Naps

How to know when your toddler is ready to give up his daytime nap


 

Naptime is often the highlight of the day for new parents: a chance to catch up on a little housework, make that phone call without a baby fussing in the background, or get some much-needed rest. Eventually, though, those daytime naps disappear. 

The range is very broad: a few babies will stop napping by the time they are a year old, and some will continue until they are four or five. (Your child’s night-time sleep schedule can be a factor, too.) Most often, though, naps end sometime between your child’s second and third birthdays.

How do you know when it’s time? Here are some clues: 

  • Your child’s nap has gradually shifted later and later. Perhaps he used to be tired and ready to sleep right after lunch, but then he started wanting to play for a while before he slept. Now he’s napping at around three p.m., and that means he’s not ready to sleep at night until quite late.
  • If you try to force him to nap at an earlier time, you get lots of tears and protests. It’s hard to get him to sleep. Even the old reliable “take him for a drive” may not work.
  • Perhaps he still naps, but you’re noticing that his night-time sleep is getting to be more of a problem. A two-hour sleep in the afternoon means two hours less sleep at night.
  • His naps are getting shorter. You used to be able to count on at least 90 minutes, but now he’s calling from his room after just an hour. Next week it may be 45 minutes. 

The transition to a nap-free life isn’t always easy. What often happens is that the child resists having a nap after lunch, but eventually falls asleep late in the afternoon and then isn’t at all tired when his usual bedtime comes around. To avoid that, try encouraging a rest period (perhaps cuddling together to read a book) after lunch, even if he doesn’t go to sleep, and then be prepared with a nutritious snack later in the afternoon to help him keep going through that tired phase. Avoid car rides in the late afternoon as well! (If your schedule is flexible, there’s no harm in just going along with this – eventually the day will come when he doesn’t take that nap and just reverts to an earlier bedtime.)

If you want to consolidate more of his sleep at night, you can try waking him up earlier from his nap. If you can, watch for a time when he is sleeping more lightly rather than trying to get him up from a deeper sleep. Have a snack ready for him once he’s awake.

If your child is in daycare, talk to your care provider about how they handle these transitions so that you can take a consistent approach.

Giving up naps can be tough – parents really miss that little break in the middle of the day! But it’s a sign that your baby is growing up, and you’ll soon find a new rhythm to your daily life.

 

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