After receiving several calls from anxious parents regarding troublesome daytime naps, Sleep Coach Cheryl Fingelson knew she had to provide some guidelines and suggestions to deal with this common parenting challenge! Here’s her advice.
Every tired parent will agree baby’s “nap-time” is their favourite period of the day. As soon as bub nods off, mum or dad get a much-needed chance to take a break or get some pressing tasks done! And of course, naps are fundamental in healthy infant growth and development.
But in some cases (and at certain times of the day) day sleep may become problematic. Some babies and toddlers resist napping during daylight hours, and the specific reasons for this will vary with the age and temperament of the child.
Parents need to be vigilant, creative and consistent when attempting to achieve a solution.
Why does my baby resist napping?
Needs for naps and length of napping time vary from toddler to toddler, but from around 18 months to about 3 years nap patterns begin to alter and fluctuate. Parents must be aware of their bub’s changing needs, and be prepared to shift with the child.
Developmental issues may be the reason that older babies and toddlers resist the urge to sleep. As they grow, children become far more alert and interested in their surroundings. These exciting “new adventures” can make napping a seem like deprivation. In addition, toddlers are also beginning to assert their independence and refusing to nap is one way of taking control.
Combining two naps, or a gradual decreasing of nap-time length, could signal that the child is now getting sufficient sleep at night and needs less day sleep. Eg, at 18 months it is likely that your toddler won’t be needing a sleep in the morning, and it may be time to move the afternoon nap earlier-perhaps just after lunch. Any later would push bedtime further into the night.
Reasons why your baby may be fighting naps:
Missing baby’s “sleep window” (drowsy enough but not crying from tiredness) will mean that it is more difficult for baby to fall asleep and stay asleep. A missed nap, disrupted night sleep, delayed bedtime or early rising can all contribute to over tiredness. Solving this requires the establishment of a good, regular schedule.
2. Not tired enough
Younger babies need only brief wake times but perhaps the sleep, feeding routine and morning wake-up times need to be examined. As the baby grows wake time, awareness and alertness increase.
3. The environment is not conducive to sleep
Where is the baby being put down to nap?
Is it in a stroller in a noisy shopping mall, the backseat of a car or in bright sunlight in the park?
Your baby will be primed for a better nap sleep if the area is quiet, dim and calm.
4. Baby is not aware that it is time to sleep
The implementation of a consistent soothing, calming routine, similar to bedtime, will signal to the baby that nap-time is approaching. The nap-time routine should be shorter than the sleep-time routine but must be soothing and calming enough to settle the infant down.
5. Too hungry
Baby may be too hungry to sleep. This could transcend all other sleep issues and therefore it is advisable to examine how the nap schedule lines up with feeding time. Is the nap falling in the middle of a feeding time? Ideally your baby should be fed shortly before a nap allowing enough time for burping and digestion in order to avoid reflux.
Stay firm and strong, but remember nap time should not be a contest or a battleground!
If you have any “nap” questions or need extra tips or assistance, or your baby requires sleep training, contact Cheryl the Sleep Coach.