Transitioning Out of Naps (The Peaceful Way)
Happy news: Most little ones stick with their nap habit for a while (phew!).
“Approximately 85 percent of 2-year-olds and 65 percent of 3-year-olds take a nap every day, or almost every day,” says Elizabeth Pantley, a mom of four in Seattle, Washington, and author of The No-Cry Nap Solution. At some point, however, that regular nap becomes a little less regular, leaving energy slumps, mood swings, and meltdowns in its wake (we’re talking about your kid, not you). Don’t panic: there are ways to help everyone through the transition. Keep this sleep pro’s pointers in mind!
Let Sleeping Children Lie (As if you needed convincing)
There is no timetable for when a child should give up naps. “Regardless of statistics, if your child needs a nap, he falls into the 100 percent category: 100 percent of the children who need a nap should take a nap,” says Pantley. Signs your child is in the “must-have-nap” category: If she has an afternoon slump in coordination, patience, energy, or mood, as well as more disrupted night sleep following days without adequate naps. By all means, let your sweet-pea snooze.
Signs That Weaning Is Underway
If your child naps well one day, and hardly at all the next, he may be falling out of the habit. “There will likely be a transition period of several months—even as much as half a year—when your child clearly needs a nap some days, but is fine without one on others,” notes Pantley. Other signs that naptime may be going bye-bye:
- Your child often lies in bed a long time before dozing off.
- Your child seems to do fine missing one day’s nap, but after a few days of missing naps starts to become more whiny or cranky.
- Your child goes to bed at a reasonable time and sleeps well all night long.
Best Ways To Handle The Transition
Take her cues. “Watch for your child’s sleepy signs,” Pantley says, “and arrange naps when necessary from day to day.” If this disrupts bedtime, or complicates activity planning, continue to stick with your child’s regular nap schedule. “But don’t require that she sleep,” Pantley says. “Communicate that quiet resting is also allowed, and let her decide whether she snoozes.”
Bump up bedtime. On days when a nap is missed and you notice your tot slowing down sooner than she normally would, get dinner going thirty minutes earlier than usual; ditto for bedtime. “There’s no need to narrate what you are doing,” says Pantley. “Since your child can’t tell time, he’ll just assume that it’s dinner time and bedtime as usual!” He’ll also get a longer night’s sleep, “and you’ll get a much-needed chance to unwind after the long day” Pantley adds. To prevent an early rising the next morning, make sure the shades are down so light doesn’t pour in come morning.
Get creative. “If your child resists a midday rest, you can trick him into being still and resting for an hour,” Pantley promises. “Visit your local library once a week and get plenty of books—they are free, you know! In the afternoon, when your child seems to be sagging a bit, take a stack of books to the sofa, give her a sippy cup of milk, and read for a while.” Or head out for a walk in the stroller; she can sight-see or doze, depending on her sleep needs that day.
There’s always quiet time. When naps are a thing of the past, don’t despair. Quiet times still benefit kids—so by all means, have a daily downtime routine. Books and walks will never get old, and alone time with favorite low-key toys (puzzles, dolls, paper and crayons) in her room may be a welcome daily respite for your busy tot. You might even get a chance to snag some shuteye in a rocking chair—because the mom nap will always be in style.
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