As every parent knows, sleep is the holy grail of babyhood. Keeping little ones rested and happy can be a never-ending struggle, especially when it comes to daytime napping. At some point, though, all toddlers will stop napping altogether - but how do you know when that time has come?
The Evolution of Nap Time
Baby sleep patterns are fascinating things indeed; a combination of instinctual behavior and learned habits create an ever-changing landscape for tired mommies and daddies everywhere. Here's how it usually goes:
- At birth: new babies tend to sleep whenever they want - which is quite often! Newborns may nap several times during the day between feeds (which can feel like constantly) as well as throughout the night.
- 3 months: by this time many babies have begun to establish some sort of sleeping schedule. However, daytime naps are still likely frequent occurrences simply because their small bodies need so much rest.
- 6 months: most babies are able to sleep for longer stretches at night now - hallelujah! That said, they'll still likely require some regular snoozing in between bouts of playing or cuddling with mama.
So far so good right? Unfortunately things get slightly trickier from here...
The Great 'To Nap or Not To Nap' Debate
Once your little one hits around 18 months old or so (varies greatly toddler-to-toddler) you'll find yourself pondering one big question more than any other:
Should I force my child to keep taking daytime naps?
The answer depends largely on your own appreciation for parental sanity.
On paper there are arguments within research studies that suggest that children should only give up their daytime nap if they show three consecutive days without needing one anymore. However, in my personal opinion as someone who has raised several toddlers (which basically makes me a parenting expert) it's far more important that everyone involved is happy and healthy.
In practice, there are two main factors that will guide your decision:
Every kid is different - some are blessed with seemingly endless reserves of energy while others can feel tired at the thought of getting out of bed. Generally speaking though, if you've got a toddler who wriggles around all day like a snake on Red Bull then daytime napping may just not be necessary anymore.
Alternatively, if you find yourself with one or both of the following types on your hands:
- A put-a-fork-in-me-I'm-done exhausted baby by lunchtime
- Or/And one who becomes uncontrollably grumpy whenever they're even slightly sleep-deprived...
Then chances are good that nap time should continue for the foreseeable future.
Age old wisdom
Look back through history and across cultures and you'll see pretty clearly that most humans naturally take naps during the afternoon hours... So really this whole argument boils down to whether we believe our Western society knows better than Mother Nature herself... which seems unlikely when phrased like that doesn't it?
Signs It May Be Time To Quit Napping
If after reading all the above sections you're still feeling somewhat undecided - don't worry! Here are seven signs arguing that maybe it's time to transition into an altogether less-restful phase:
- Takes forever to fall asleep
- Fights/negotiates/argues against needing to shut their eyes
- Tantrums ensue when 'Nap Time' rolls around
- Sleep later in mornings (if they get enough rest)
- Conks out easily at night 6.Can skip naps without becoming overtired or cranky
- Can survive the day without falling asleep right when they get home from daycare/school/etc.
By no means are these definitive or comprehensive guidelines, but if you've started to notice any of these behaviors don't be afraid to discuss the possibility of quitting naps with your child's pediatrician ...or just rip off that bandaid and see what happens!
If you do opt for >Napless Life< there will be some changes required of course...
Goodbye Napping - Here's What You Need To Know
Before we dive into tips and tricks for life sans-naps though, it bears mentioning that this transition isn't always smooth sailing. Bedtime itself may need shifting up earlier (to avoid an overtired toddler death spiral), night waking might increase as a result of less overall daytime snoozing time, and evenings can become more challenging due to tired/whiny kiddies...
All that said? There are strategies you can employ which should help everyone involved adapt:
Embrace More Evening Routine Time
Yep, those magical pre-bed hours where everything is calm(er) suddenly elongate... Use them well.
- Bath times: a good soak in a calming bubble bath (use essential oil mixtures like lavender etc ) help soothe little ones even closer towards slumber mode before they hit the pillows.
- Reading Kid Books: spend extra long reading stories together while kids unwind from hectic days.
Classify Night Times Further:
As noted above sleeping habits tend to fluctuate anyway during childhood months -- however removing nap times also reinforces that fluidity definitely! If your child appears ready try limiting bedtime routines down minutely by adding on new bed time rituals -
- Story telling sessions;
- Tuck love notes somewhere under pillow;
- Musical lullaby humming sessions;
Anything works so far as it not only makes pre- dreamland hours more enjoyable for kids but familiarising them gently with changes to routines taking place.
Extend Morning Play-Dates...
Or after-school activities - such as trips to the park or gymnastics / dance classes! Doing so can help keep kiddos happily energised through their day.
Overall? The transition out of nap time is wholly dependent on your little darling and whatever you all can handle as a family unit. Some lucky parents never have to experience any change here, some reveal themselves affected only slightly; other families may be the unlucky ones that encounter multiple routine shift ups in napping over course of childhood (sorry guys).
One thing is most definitely true though... Sleep - whether it's at night, during daytime or both -- will continue being an important consideration until children reach adolescence (at which point you won't physically need to pry them out of bed every morning anymore...)