Is your child ready to drop their day time nap?
If bedtime is a battle with your toddler, they may well be ready to drop their day nap. Annette Faamausilli from Serene Sleep shares why, how and when.
The idea of ditching the day nap probably sends a little shudder down your spine. Giving up those precious few hours of rejuvenation during the day can seem daunting! But what if I told you that ditching the day nap could bring you a better night's sleep? Your toddler will most likely fall asleep quicker and sleep through the night as a result if it’s timed right.
And to be honest, dropping the nap can be quite liberating for your routine. This is especially true if your child has to be at home to nap, because you are no longer tied to that sleep period. As I just mentioned, you'll also notice that your child's nighttime sleep will most likely be longer and deeper, which means you'll have a less disrupted evening and night.
So, when is the right time to ditch the day nap, and how do you go about doing it?
WHY DROP THE DAY NAP?
When your child is small, they need a lot of sleep. You'll remember as a baby they probably slept a lot. This need for sleep continues as they grow. Until they are about two and half years old (this can vary) your child needs around 11-12 hours of sleep at night and up to 1-1½ hours during the day. But after this point, as they mature, their need for a day sleep decreases and their body shifts towards sleeping more at night. At this point, if they have too much sleep during the day, their nighttime sleep may be negatively affected. Unfortunately, this will then make them want to sleep more during the day to compensate, and you'll end up stuck in a vicious cycle.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOUR CHILD IS READY?
Most toddlers are ready to ditch their last daytime sleep somewhere between the age of two and three. But for most, it's around two and a half years old.
SIGNS YOUR TODDLER IS READY TO DROP THEIR DAY TIME NAP INCLUDE:
+ Taking a long time to fall asleep when you put them down at night. Children who are not tired at bedtime can take up to one to two hours to fall asleep and may be very lively during that time
+ Taking a long time to settle down for the day nap or not sleeping well during the nap (or even not at all). By taking a long time to settle before eventually falling asleep it can also make the nap later than usual, which affects bedtime even more
+ Waking earlier in the morning and refusing to settle back to sleep
+ Waking up in the middle of the night (often between 1am and 4am) and being hard to resettle
+ Needing a long day nap but still seeming tired or grumpy afterwards. This is a sign that your toddler isn't getting enough sleep at night and is trying to compensate during their daytime nap
+ You might also find that if you accidentally miss a nap because you are out or busy, your toddler sleeps much better that night
If you start to notice these signs, then it could be time to consider dropping the day nap. Just make sure that you wait until you see the signs consistently for more than two weeks before you make any changes to your schedule.
HOW TO DROP THE NAP
Firstly, let me say that dropping the day nap can be a hard transition and may take some time for both you and your little one to master. So, my best advice is to choose a time when you have the energy to tackle the change and, as always, take it slowly and be kind on yourself and your child.
Don't start the transition if your daily routine is likely to be disrupted during the next few weeks. You also don’t want to try to drop the day nap if your child is about to start daycare or kindy as they will most likely be extra tired. Simply choose a time when you can both be relaxed and can ride the wave of transition.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
Initially, your child might be a bit grumpy and need to go to bed early. Ensure their bedroom is dark enough to encourage sleep. When you first drop the nap, avoid taking any late afternoon car trips or buggy walks that could bring on a disaster nap! Good luck, you’ve got this!
SUGGESTED SCHEDULE FOR DROPPING THE DAY NAP
Annette Faamausili is a baby and child sleep expert and has been advising and supporting parents since 2001. She trained and qualified in the NHS, UK, and moved to New Zealand with her Samoan husband and family in 2011. Annette has three children (Matilda 15, Oscar 12, and Lola 6) and lives on the beautiful Whangaparaoa Peninsula in Auckland. Find her at serenesleep.co.nz.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 60 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW