Normally, you love it when your baby naps.
In fact, you post notes all over your door warning the neighbors not to ring the bell or knock loudly just so your baby can nap. One false move and your baby wakes up and you’ll be the one to answer to it.
Idyllic as it may seem, napping is not always the best thing for your baby. In time, napping starts to interfere with your baby’s regular sleep and makes it harder for him or her to go to bed at night, but how will you know when the time is right and what should you do when it is? Are you going to trust your kid to tell you when it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee? Here are some ways you can tell whether it’s time for your child to stop napping.
Believe it or not, growing takes a lot of energy, and so when your child is napping, there’s a reason to put up the “Do Not Disturb” sign. Napping helps to save energy. When children are growing, they need an enormous amount of energy, (and calories, God bless them) but as they get older they eat and sleep less. Some of this sleeping occur at night, some of it occurs during naps.
Newborn – 18 months
When babies are born, they usually sleep - well - like babies. However, at about 3 months, they sort of start to pick up on the night-day/sleep-wake patterns and most of their sleep will occur at night. Infants can sleep 16-20 hours a day, but as time goes on they usually grow out of this pattern and begin to take 2 naps a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
18 months – 4 years
At 18 months, the morning nap may start to drop off. If this happens, don’t be alarmed, it just means your baby needs less sleep. Most kids stick to the afternoon nap until they are anywhere from 2 ½ to four, but six-year-olds don’t do naps. Ask them and they will tell you, “I’m a big kid now - I don’t do naps.” Case closed.
So, What If My Kid Starts Dropping Naps Early?
Again, don’t fret. There is no evidence that dropping baby naps early leads to any deviant behavior later in life. There is no one size fits all rule about the age your child stops napping. If you see your child waking up from naps early or refusing to take one, it may simply be a sign that he or she doesn’t need one.
Also, keep in mind that nap refusal for a 3-year-old may not mean the same thing as it does for an 18-month-old. If a younger child is protesting against taking a nap, it may just be a sign that the child is overtired. If the protests continue for a day or two, don’t give up on the naps just yet. If the protests continue for a week or more, your child is probably trying to tell you their napping days are over.
Signs that Your Child is Ready to Stop Naps
The fact is that you really don’t need to know when your child needs to stop napping. Chances are, they’ll let you know all by themselves through their lack of interest in napping or their expressed energy levels in their behavior.
Not Tired at Nap Time
Children often claim to be tired, but Mommy knows best. If there are no red, droopy eyes, excessive yawning, and low energy, chances are your child is actually not tired. If your toddler’s energy levels seem high, let them skip the nap, it may be a sign they really don’t need one!
Trouble Sleeping at Night
Napping during the day always has the potential to take away from your nighttime rest - and with toddlers, it’s no different. If your toddler is showing signs of sleep delay at night, it may be a signal that you need to start limiting their naps. Start by cutting back on nap time by 15-minute increments. If that doesn’t work, it may be time to put nap time to bed.
Is your child a nap skipper? If they’re not going to sleep when you put them down for their nap, they’re skipping out on his nap time. Keep in mind that nap skipping does not necessarily indicate the end of nap time. Sometimes, it’s just a phase and you can expect your child to return to regular napping when it’s over. But if it becomes consistent, (skipping 4 or more naps a week), they may be ready to begin skipping the whole nap thing completely.
Waking Up Early
Extra sleep doesn’t only mean that your child is going to have trouble getting to sleep, it can also mean he has problems staying asleep. If your child is becoming an early riser, it could be due to the fact that they’ve already met their sleep quota for the day. And when that continually impacts mom & dad sleep periods, it may be a glaring indicator that you need to limit day time naps to foster later sleep patterns.
Making the Change
The main thing to remember when it’s time to wean your child off naps is not to sweat it. When getting your child to nap becomes the main focus of your day, it can turn into a problem.
When your child is making the transition to nap free, some days they may need to nap, other days, they may not. Be flexible. If they’re showing signs they needs to nap, let them nap. On the days that they skips naps, expects them to want to go to bed earlier than usual. If it takes months until they are ready to stop napping, go with the flow. Sometimes it takes baby steps to stop baby naps seamlessly.