Is it getting harder and harder to settle your toddler at nap time? Or if they are still napping, is it a struggle to get them to sleep at night? It might be time to give up the afternoon naps. Heartbreaking, we know, but there are some simple ways to ease the transition.
Look for the signs
So, how do you know when your child is ready to drop their day sleep? Most toddlers do it some time between the ages of two-and-a-half and three, but napping habits vary hugely from one child to the next. Some children drop their sleep as early as 18 months (sigh), and others are still needing that downtime until the age of four.
The more important question is: does your child still want and need to sleep during the day? Nap time should be a quiet oasis for both of you, not a desperate struggle to ‘make them sleep.’ So just take a look at your toddler’s current state of play. If they’re really resisting the nap, or the day sleep is happening much later in the afternoon, it might be time to drop it altogether. On the other hand, if your toddler is still day sleeping, but bed time is inching back later and later, it could be a sign to cut the naps and focus on a more consolidated night sleep.
Adapt and adjust
Where to start? You have a few options. You could try a slow reduction in nap time over a few weeks. That means waking your child after 60 minutes, then gradually winding that down to 40, then 30 minutes. Sounds good in theory, but it can backfire when grumpy toddlers get woken prematurely from their sleep. Not pretty.
The other approach is dropping your child’s naps every other day, so they can still catch up with themselves on particularly hectic days. Alternatively, you can always just go cold turkey – take out the naps altogether, and simply bring bed time forward by half an hour. Most weary, non-napping toddlers are happy to hit the hay by 6.30pm.
Replace the nap with quiet time
Once you’re not having to rush home for naps, you’ll find your days do open up a lot more and you’ll have the flexibility to get out and about on a new, more relaxed schedule. That said, a no-nap day feels a lot longer. Both you and the toddler are going to need some kind of downtime during the day, so try establishing a quiet time, where your little one can rest, play with books, or watch a bit of TV, instead of sleeping. This will help everyone re-charge.
Accept that there’ll be tough days
Dropping the day sleep can be a messy transition. There’ll be days where your toddler falls apart by 4pm and no one’s happy until 6.30 bedtime rolls around. Usually there’s a three- to four-week transition, where your child will slowly adjust to the change in schedule. Ride the wave, find some good distractions to get them through that trying afternoon period, and with any luck, you’ll find that they go down without a peep at night.
We know, giving up the day sleep is hard, considering you spent so long figuring out the nap routine! But this is proof … your little guy is growing up.
Are you trying to drop your toddler’s naps? Tell us how it’s going …