Just when you finally get into the swing of this parenting thing, the sleep gods throw a little curveball your way. Little angels are taking longer to go down for their much-loved arvo sleep, or they just won’t have a bar of that morning sleep at all. A corner is being turned, and it may be time to readjust your well-worn nap routine.
Mum’s Grapevine sleep expert Tara Mitchell is peeking into the nursery and letting us know exactly how to tell if baby is ready to drop a nap, and what you need to do.
Just like many other transitions throughout one’s life, there is no doubt that your little one’s nap transition phases can be a little daunting, challenging and even stressful. Thankfully though, these periods are often only temporary and don’t have to be too arduous, on anyone.
Here are some things to look out for in terms of your child’s possible nap transitions and my top tips on how you can successfully manage them.
How to know when baby is ready to drop a nap
- Your little one may suddenly take longer to settle for their earlier naps of the day and those earlier naps may become shorter in length, sometimes even catnaps.
- The last nap of the day often becomes harder to achieve. Your little one may start protesting for long periods on going down for this nap, or they may lay in their cot happily chatting away for long periods.Either way, often the final nap gets abandoned because your little one just won’t settle for it and the evening and bedtime is fast approaching.
Tara’s tips for transitioning nap time
Don’t be in a rush to completely drop that nap!
Add more awake time
Instead of dropping the nap altogether, try adding 20-30 minutes more awake time before that final nap of the day to see if your little one will pick it back up. If they do, great! Keep it going for as long as your child is happy to take that nap.
Change it up
If there is a more certain way that your child may take that final nap of the day to keep it in play, absolutely use that! This may mean having that last nap in the car or pram. A carrier is ok to use, though I wouldn’t use it each day, try to change it up for that last nap between the car/pram/carrier.
If your little one absolutely won’t take that final nap of the day and you’re stuck with an extremely long awake time before bed, try offering your child some passive downtime. This could be a walk in the pram or a drive in the car. Often this non- stimulating, passive downtime is enough to somewhat ‘recharge your little one’s batteries’ and allow them to still reach an early, though reasonable bedtime.
Tweak the times
Span out the awake times throughout your little one’s entire daytime to allow you to still reach a reasonable bedtime once that final nap of the day has finally dropped off. This is especially important if the settles have started to lengthen and/or the length of the nap has shortened on the earlier naps of the day. As an example, you could add say 10-15 minutes of extra awake time before the 1 st nap, 20-30 minutes extra before the second nap and so on and so forth. (Keep in mind that it is very common for little ones to only be able to tolerate their shortest amount of awake time before their first nap of the day).
Early to bed
Use an early bedtime once that final nap has finally fallen off the bandwagon. 5:45pm is a completely acceptable bedtime if/when required.
If your child is around 3 – 3.5yrs old and you begin to notice longer settles at the start of the night and/or long periods of wakefulness during the night, it may be time to say goodbye to their day nap – perhaps drop it every other day to begin with before dropping it completely after a period of time.
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Tara has written other great articles for Mum’s Grapevine including:
Tara Mitchell is a Paediatric Nurse, former international nanny, mum and qualified Infant and Toddler Sleep Consultant, she’s also the founder of The Gentle Sleep Specialist – a place for families to get help for sleep issues. Resolving sleep issues, establishing routines, creating healthy sleep habits and managing behaviour at bedtime is what she specialises in.