Giving Up Naps: A Guide for Parents
Giving up naps altogether is something that no parent wants to do…EVER! Trust me, we get it. However, there does come a time when we just cannot hold onto those naps any longer.
If your child is napping during the day and as a result is not going to bed on time at night despite all efforts on your part, and if they are close to two-and-a-half to three years old, it may very well be time to start making the transition.
When your child is napping and it causes them to stay awake for too long at night it creates a cycle. Your child naps, is up late, tired in the morning, needs a nap and it goes on and on.
There is only one way to stop this cycle and that is by cutting out the nap and pushing them through, for a few days to a week, until they are used to no longer napping.
Don’t forget to adjust bedtime while you are at it! If you try to put them to bed too late or at their regular bedtime when they have not had a nap it will result in a missed sleep window. And we all know what that causes! A hyper child who will have a hard time falling asleep and may wake throughout the night. Definitely not what you want. You will want to make bedtime very early for a minimum of a few weeks until your child’s system has had the chance to adapt.
Make sure everyone is on the same page
You don’t want your daycare provider or grandma giving your child a long nap while you are working on eliminating them. That will result in inconsistencies, which may make it harder for your child to adjust.
It's okay if your child needs a short nap of 45 minutes in the early afternoon every few days while making this adjustment, but try to make sure they still go to bed at around the same time.
When children are making the transition to no longer napping in the afternoon, they may be very tired by 4:00pm. Try to ensure that you and everyone else involved in caring for your child avoid going for long drives at that time as a 4:30-5:00pm catnap will most certainly interfere with bedtime.
Tip: Be extra prepared and organized during this transition. You will want to ensure that dinner is a quick meal or a meal that has been prepared in advance so that it gives your child the opportunity to eat dinner before they reach the point of no return!
Cut it down before cutting it out
When making the decision to eliminate the nap, your first step will be to work on reducing naps. This helps your child make the move gradually rather than a sudden shift. However, if your child is refusing naps all together, you can follow their lead and just go straight to cutting it out. Reducing the nap instead of cutting it out completely may buy you a little extra time and a break for a little while longer! A great starting point would be to begin with a 45 minute nap until that is no longer working, then 30 minutes, then 20 minutes. After that, you would eliminate the nap completely. Finding the right nap duration that will work for your child may take some time and a little bit of trial and error.
Maintain a rest time
When our little ones are no longer getting any sleep during the day, it is still important for them to have a rest time so that they can relax and unwind. It is also crucial for us parents to have a much needed break. We all know how impossible it is to have any time to ourselves during the day when our children are awake.
Set your child up in their room with some books or quiet toys. Keep checking on them so that you know that they are not falling asleep. If you do not have a video monitor, be cautious when checking on them because if they see you that might be the end of quiet time for you and them! If they have the tendency to fall asleep really easily, start with a short quiet time in their room making sure the curtains are open. Have them resume quiet time in another area of the house to avoid having them fall asleep. Perhaps you can set them up in the playroom with a movie or quiet toys. The goal is that they are spending some time to themselves without your full attention.
If your child is not keen on having a rest time, start with a short interval and build upon that as the days and weeks pass.
Give it time
Just like any changes involving your child’s schedule and routine their bodies need time to adjust to this major change of not sleeping during the day. If you have been having bedtime struggles when your child was napping, your struggles may not end in one day. It will take a few days to a week of consistently not napping before you see real progress with bedtime battles and whether or not the naps were playing a role.
Giving up naps is not a transition many parents are overly excited about. However, one huge perk is that it does allow for more flexibility in your day once it no longer revolves around adhering to the nap schedule. With patience, consistency, and a little creativity, you can still find contentment in the new normal!
*Originally published August 22, 2016