The Toddler Nap Regression

The Toddler Nap Regression

17+ months

Jan 24, 2023

You’re likely reading this post because the dreaded toddler nap regression has reared it’s ugly head!

If you have a 1-3 year old who all of a sudden is not enjoying their nap anymore, then this post is for you.

Believe it or not, it’s actually extremely common to have a toddler who sleeps great at night but takes disastrous or non-existent naps!

In this video and podcast, I’m going to walk you through each important nap check that you should do as well as how to improve your toddler’s nap so that your toddler can go back to taking a blissful, midday nap again!

Make Sleep A Thing for Your Toddler

The toddler nap regression is very real and it can affect any toddler, even those who have been “angel sleepers” from the very start! 

Maybe your child has always slept 11-12 hours all night long and their naps have always been amazing.

Or, maybe you’ve had a little one who has never slept well and when they became a toddler everything became worse! 

Here at Little Z’s, we have a Toddler Sleep Program just for you that is designed specifically for children who are 17 months-3 year of age. 

If your toddler is sleeping in a crib but is waking all throughout the night, or waking early in the morning, or protesting and skipping their naps, then I want to point you to our Toddler Sleep Training Course HERE.

This program will give you a step by step plan to help your toddler learn to successfully sleep 11-12 hours through the night and take a midday nap. 

This is a “no fluff” plan and you will always know what you should be doing and when you should be doing it. 

The plan comes complete with a personal video consultation from me, a printable PDF workbook and 3-weeks of daily voice memos sent directly to your email.

 The daily voice memos are truly the “secret sauce” of my program. 

As a trained pediatric sleep consultant, I know exactly what’s going to happen as you sleep train your child. 

Each voice memo you receive is going to guide you through the detailed methods and strategies that you will be using throughout the entirety of the program. 

In my toddler course, we use the “Stay in the Room” method. 

By the end of the program, your toddler will learn to successfully sleep in their crib the entire night (11-12 hours), without you in the room. 

I can confidently tell you that when you implement this program with fidelity you are going to see a drastic difference in your child’s sleeping habits within the first five days of the program.

If you’re ready to make sleep a thing with your toddler then take the plunge today and commit to our Toddler Sleep Training Course NOW. 

The Toddler Nap Regression Explained

Before we solve the toddler nap regression, it’s important to understand that your child’s schedule and nap length is going to fluctuate and change significantly between the ages of 1-3. 

Because your child’s sleep needs and schedule are constantly evolving, I decided to create our Complete Schedule Guide. 

Our Complete Schedule Guide gives you every single schedule you will ever need for your child from birth to age 3.

More specifically, when it comes to a toddler’s schedule and the toddler nap regression, we are talking about children between the ages of 1-3 years old. 

Between the ages of 1-3, we are looking at one, mid-day nap that should be 1.5-2.5 hours long. 

For younger toddlers, between the ages of 1-2, we’re looking at a max nap length of 2.5 hours.

As your child transitions closer to 3 years old, you’ll likely find that their nap length needs to decrease down to 1.5 hours. 

>>> Do you have an 18 month old who recently started protesting their nap? Check out my 18 Month Old Sleep Regression Video HERE. 

Until your child is 3 years old, your child will have a nap.

The current misery that your child’s nap has brought you does not need to continue and shouldn’t!

Rather, your 1-3 year old can and SHOULD be taking a nap, and we are here to help.

Check the Timing of Your Toddler’s Nap

When it comes to the success and quality of your toddler’s nap, timing is everything. 

First, I want you to evaluate the timing surrounding your toddler’s midday nap.

1. Offer the nap immediately following lunch

Your toddler’s nap should happen immediately after they finish their lunch. 

There should not be a gap of time between when your toddler finishes their lunch and when they go down for their nap. 

I understand that sometimes you can’t control this if they’re at daycare, but if you’re at home with your toddler I want you to ensure that their nap is offered as soon as they are cleaned up from eating their lunch. 

When your toddler finishes eating after a full morning of activity and play, they are going to feel very sleepy and satisfied. 

If you let them play for 15-20 minutes between lunch and nap, it’s very likely they will catch a false second wind from both the food and from being overtired and that will cause them to have a harder time falling asleep for their midday nap.

In order to prevent this second wind after lunch time, immediately clean your child up once they are finished eating, change their diaper, put them in a clean set of pajamas, read them a book and put them down for their nap!

As hard as it is to do, leave the dirty lunch dishes in the sink and clean them up after your child is in their crib. 

Offering your toddler’s nap immediately after lunch will allow your child to more readily and easily fall asleep for their midday nap.

2. Ensure that nap routine is short and sweet

Your child’s nap routine should be 5-7 minutes in length. 

If your nap routine is 15-20 minutes in length, then that’s too long and you need to shorten it. 

Your child’s nap routine should be short and sweet because it’s meant to cue your child for sleep. If it becomes a longer period of entertainment, then it’s likely going to lead to a false “second wind,” making it harder for your child to settle down and sleep. 

3. Evaluate your toddler’s daily schedule

At this age, your toddler should be able to put themselves to sleep for a nap within 10 to 15 minutes. 

If your toddler is crashing to sleep, in less than 5 minutes, then they are overtired and their nap should have been offered 15-20 minutes earlier. 

If your toddler is taking 30-60 minutes or longer to fall asleep for their nap, then we need to evaluate the following:

  1. Was your toddler active enough during their morning wake window?
  2. Was there a gap between when they ate lunch and when they went down for their nap? 
  3. Was their nap offered too early? 

If your toddler was sedentary during their morning awake window, it’s likely they won’t be ready for their midday nap.

Ensure that your toddler is involved in plenty of active play in the morning, preferably outside. 

If your toddler had a gap of time between lunch and nap, it’s likely they caught a second wind!

If your toddler had plenty of active playtime and went down immediately after their lunch, then it could be that your toddler needs more awake time before lunch and nap time. 

If you are unsure of your toddler’s schedule, check out our Complete Schedule Guide HERE. 

Between ages 1-3, your toddler’s nap is eventually going to fall later during the day, and likely become shorter in length. 

These factors will affect your toddler’s ability to nap and it’s important to know when it’s time to make a change to their wake windows and/or nap length. 

How to Improve Your Toddler’s Nap 

Now that we’ve identified the importance of the timing surrounding your toddler’s nap, let’s dive into how we can improve the quality of your toddler’s nap. 

1. Ensure that their sleep space is dark enough 

I want you to assess your child’s sleeping environment. 

Is the space they are sleeping in dark enough? 

The darker the room, the better the sleep. 

It’s important to ensure that your child’s room is 100% blacked out so that they can have a better quality, midday nap. 

It’s really easy for your toddler to become distracted by the sunlight coming through their window, or the toys and items they can see around their room. 

Blacking out their room ensures that they can fall asleep and stay asleep easily without added distractions. 

2. Implement a toddler clock 

For a child who is 24 months old or older, I encourage you to place a toddler clock in their room during their nap and throughout the night. 

“But wait, Becca, doesn’t a toddler clock prevent the room from being 100% blacked out?” 

Yes, but hear me out. 

I’m talking about using one color in particular, and that color is red.

“Red for Bed” is a clear, simple phrase to use with your toddler when it’s time for them to sleep. 

Using a toddler clock with a red light for both naps and nights will help your child identify and understand the expectations surrounding their sleep. 

Red light is the least intrusive light on the color spectrum, so even in a blacked out room, it’s not going to interrupt your child’s sleep. 

If you’re new to the idea of using toddler clock, you can read more about How to Get the Most out of Your Toddler Clock HERE. 

*My favorite toddler clock is the Hatch Clock. It’s sleek, intuitive to use, and can double as a sound machine!

3. Change your child into pajamas

The next thing we can do to set up for success on a nap is to change your child into pajamas during their nap routine. 

Below is a simple nap routine: 

  • Bring your child to their room 
  • Change their diaper and/or have them use the potty
  • Change into pajamas (not optional!)
  • Read a book together
  • Put them in their crib
  • Turn their white noise on, “lights out”

I want to reiterate that changing your child into pajamas is NOT optional!

I know it may mean that you have a few more clothes to wash, but it’s a crucial piece to your child’s nap time success.

Think about it for a moment. 

 If you were going to go take a nap after a busy day or morning, wouldn’t you want to take off your jeans, put some sweatpants on, get cozy, and go lay on your bed or the couch? 

The same is true for your toddler. 

If they have been active, on the go, or playing outside, they aren’t going to want to nap in their sweaty, dirty clothes.

And let’s face it, toddlers are messy when they play and when they eat!

Changing your child into fresh, clean pajamas for their nap not only helps them feel cozy but it cues their body for sleep! 

If your child wears a sleep sack still, you can use that for nap as well.

The zipping motion of the sleep sack also cues them for sleep. 

4. Acknowledge the Cuddle Moment

Lastly, I want to acknowledge something that I have already talked about previously before.

Let’s talk about the “cuddle moment.” 

When I shared about the cuddle moment in my 18 Month Sleep Regression Video HERE, it was a lightbulb moment for so many of you. 

It’s no secret that every parent loves toddler snuggles and cuddles! 

I personally wish we could bottle them up and savor them forever. 

 However, if before your toddler’s nap you have been turning the lights off, turning the sound machine on and singing a song with them in the dark before placing them in their crib, then this is likely leading to their nap time problems! 

This is because when they are snuggling with you and leaning their head on your shoulder, they are becoming drowsy.

And even though drowsiness seems like the “perfect time” to put your child down to sleep, it’s actually the problem! 

Here at Little Z’s we are huge proponents that drowsiness is actually the enemy of sleep. 

Because of this, we do not want your toddler getting drowsy before they are placed into their crib for a nap or for the night. 

Instead, we want you to pick your child up, put them into their crib, give them a hug and a kiss, point them to their stuffed animal or lovey, and then turn the white noise on, the light off, encouraging them to lay down, wishing them “sweet dreams,” as you walk out of the room and close their door. 

Putting your toddler into their crib wide awake with the lights on seems like a small change but can be monumental when it comes to your toddler’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep independently. 

Removing the cuddle moment right before their nap paired with the rest of the above nap checks will be a huge game changer when it comes to helping your toddler fall asleep for their midday nap. 

What if My Child is Climbing Out of The Crib? 

Perhaps crib climbing is part of the reason why your child is experiencing the toddler nap regression! 

Along with not falling asleep, your child might also be climbing out of their crib, resulting in a protested and skipped nap all together! 

If you have a crib climber on your hands, you might be tempted to move them to an open bed for convenience and or safety reasons.

However, the open bed transition should not happen until your child is at least 3 years old. 

>>> Are you hoping to move your 3 year old to a big kid bed soon? Check out our Crib to Bed Transition Blog HERE to make this transition as enjoyable and seamless as possible. <<<

In the meantime, I want you to evaluate what’s going on in your child’s room. 

1. Evaluate your toddler’s room for distractions

These distractions might be toys, books, lights, etc.

Clear your child’s room of any extra items so that it’s essentially just one giant “crib room” where they sleep!

2. Examine the level of your child’s crib mattress

If your child’s crib mattress isn’t already as low as it can go, lower it now.

If your crib is taller in the back, I want you to flip the crib so that the taller, more solid side is now at the front. 

I also recommend placing your crib into a corner so that your child is presented with fewer opportunities to climb out. 

If you are unable to do any of the above options, then I recommend replacing your traditional crib with a toddler-sized travel crib like the Juvie, Guava Lotus, or 4-Moms. Pair it with a SlumberPod and you have a fantastically contained, blacked-out space for your toddler to sleep in. 

3. Consider implementing a small rewards system 

Suggest to your child that if they stay in their crib for their nap time then they will get X, Y, or Z after nap. 

This reward should be something small and tangible.

Do not use food or screen time. 

Instead, offer your toddler special time with you playing outside, reading their favorite book, cooking something special in the kitchen, or playing a game together! 

4. Consider using a sleep sack

 If you are not currently using a sleep sack for your child who is climbing out of their crib, start using one.

If they are trying to take off their sleep sack, simply flip their sleep sack around and fasten it on their back.

If these tips all sound great in theory, but have not stopped your child from climbing out of their crib, and sleep is not a thing for your family, then I want to point you once again to our Toddler Sleep Program HERE.

This course is EXACTLY what you and your toddler need.

If your child is sleeping, but their schedule is a mess and changes every day, then you definitely need to check out our Complete Schedule Guide Ages 0-3 HERE.

We promise you won’t regret committing to our program or resources and making sleep a thing for your whole family.

Conclusion

It’s extremely common to experience the toddler nap regression between the ages of 1-3. Having a toddler who sleeps great at night but takes disastrous or non-existent naps is very normal!

If your toddler is experiencing nap time issues, all hope is not lost!

Help your toddler get back on track with taking a predictable, blissful midday nap by:

Check the timing of your child’s nap 

  1. Offering the nap immediately after lunch (eliminate any gap of time in between)
  2. Ensuring that nap routine is short and sweet (no longer than 5-7 minutes in length)
  3. Evaluating your child’s daily nap schedule (COMPLETE SCHEDULE GUIDE HERE.)

Improve the overall experience of your toddler’s nap 

  1. Ensuring their room is 100% blacked out
  2. Implementing a Toddler Clock (check out my 4-Color Toddler Clock System HERE!)
  3. Changing them in to clean, cozy pajamas
  4. Acknowledging the cuddle moment

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How to handle the toddler nap regression

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