Hey there! In this video and blog post, I’m sharing how to tell if your child has outgrown their nap and what to do next! It’s maybe not the news you wanted, but honestly, it’s for the best and will improve any night-time sleep disruptions too!
As a pediatric sleep consultant, I’m also a mom of two daughters who no longer nap, and I love it. When your child quits napping, you might be discouraged, but I believe it opens up your daytime schedule, and you can have so much fun without worrying about nap time!
In this blog and video, I’m going to walk you through when it’s time to stop napping, what signs you’ll see, and how to make this transition successful for everyone.
There are three signs we look for when it’s time to drop the daytime nap. The first one is that they’re no longer napping, which sounds very simple but let’s explain!
Around 2.5 – 3.5 years old age it’s likely that you’ll get your toddler ready for their nap, only to leave the room and have them just be laying in their dark crib or bed for an hour singing, talking or playing with their stuffed animals.
While it’s normal for this to occasionally happen during toddlerhood (they’re working on so much development that an off day is bound to happen), start marking the trends.
If your toddler is refusing to fall asleep for a nap on an average of 5 days a week for two weeks, it’s time to make a change!
The second sign is that they’re napping just fine, but they’re taking hours to fall asleep at night time. In reality, they are actually getting too much sleep during the day and not tired enough in the evening.
A toddler at this age needs 11-12 hours of sleep within a 24 hour period. So if they are napping for several hours during the day, these are subtracting from the overall totals.
Sleep really is a math equation! Too much sleep during the day equals less sleep at night. Too much sleep at night means less sleep during the day. It just happens that toddlers are now able to handle a full day of being awake, and a full night (11-12 hours) at night.
The third sign is that your child is napping, but they’re waking up to start the day around 3 or 4AM.
Why? Because again, your child only needs a certain amount of sleep in a 24-hour period. If they get too much sleep during their nap, they aren’t tired enough to sleep 11-12 hours in the evening.
If you notice any of these signs happening for two weeks or more, it’s time! Even though it might feel scary, the number one step to removing the nap is to stop offering a nap. I’d propose offering quiet time instead.
Quiet time replaces your child’s nap time and while their nap was in their bedroom, quiet time doesn’t necessarily need there.
If that’s an option, then it can be. But if you have a space in your home like a playroom or safe area in your living room, then you can set a timer for 15-20 minutes and encourage independent play. As they do well with shorter stints, increase the time of their quiet time.
Try to do a quiet time after lunch and build up to an hour, to an hour and a half. This is a great time for everyone to take a deep collective breath and regroup for the rest of the day. If you have a child on a 2 or 1 nap schedule you might also align this with a younger sibling’s nap too!
Check out this podcast all about manipulating your child’s nap time to see if you can get some overlap!
Inevitably taking the nap away can mean a fussy and cranky toddler! Over the years parents have shared with me how fussy their child is without a nap, so how in the world could they go without?!
The answer? Early bedtime!
Once you take your child’s nap away, you’re going to go through a period of 6 to 8 weeks where your child is going to need to go to bed early.
It is a big deal to drop the daytime nap! All of the sudden we are asking your child to be awake and alert for 11-12 hours each day! That’s huge!
To help them adjust we have to get your child to bed early. They will likely need to go to bed anywhere between 1 to 2 hours early, depending on the child.
I always share the story about my oldest daughter. When we dropped her nap, she was having her daytime nap for about an hour and a half. We saw the signs for her—she was having a party in her crib instead of taking a nap. When we saw those behaviors and we stopped offering the nap, the girl COULD NOT hang.
She was so exhausted by 5:15 pm. So, 5:30 pm was her sweet spot for bedtime. She would sleep from 5:30 pm all the way to 7 am!
Then came my second daughter, and she was much more easygoing. She wasn’t as extreme as Ellie, my first. We actually put her to bed about 30 to 45 minutes sooner than usual—anywhere between 6:15 and 6:30 pm.
This is definitely a part of the process you don’t want to miss: When you remove your child’s nap, you will NEED to put them to bed early.
You will know the telltale signs! When your toddler is rubbing their eyes profusely, yawning, acting like a maniac, and not listening to your requests, then you know it’s time for bed.
For bedtime— the sooner, the better! An earlier bedtime will help curb the exhaustion and help them sleep a fuller night. And again, it can actually take six to eight weeks for your child’s body to acclimate to no longer having that daytime rest.
This doesn’t mean that for six to eight weeks you’re putting your child to bed at 5:30 pm. You might hang in that space for a few weeks, and then move to 6 pm, and so on. Patience is the key!
Your child needs that early bedtime so please don’t gloss over or skip that step.
Now for the fun! Want to take a long day trip and not worry about naps? You can explore until bedtime! It’s the transition out of babyhood and the mark of a new beginning for your family. Embrace it!
Thanks for tuning in— as always we want to help make sure that sleep is still a thing as your toddler grows and changes!
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