Is there anything more peaceful than nap time? Well, depending on how your toddler feels about naps these days, a monster truck rally might be. The second half of the second year might turn out to be a peaceful progression towards an eventual tapering-off of naps in the future, but it can also be the time when naps become a battleground.
In the second half of Baby’s second year of life, he is probably sleeping roughly 10 to 12 hours a night, give or take a little depending on his particular sleep needs. The amount of sleep he needs during the day will probably drop a little bit over the course of these months though – possibly by as much as 30 minutes or so.
Naps at around this age can last as long as 2 hours, or much less than that, depending on whether a baby is taking one nap per day or two, whether he is sleeping for longer or shorter periods during the night, and whether he needs more or less sleep than average in general. According to the National Sleep Foundation, though, a nap of about an hour and a quarter to an hour and a half is pretty average.
Unfortunately for the people putting him down for his nap, Baby is entering the point in his life where, even if he has always been a big sleeper, he might start to resist naps. This resistance can make nap time less of the rest-and-regroup time it is for parents, and more of a stressful part of the day, but there are a few specific types of nap-resistance that parents may be able to avoid:
- Keep the crib: Parents and children alike might be excited for the switch over to the big kid bed at this point, but for reluctant nappers, a toddler bed or twin might provide too much temptation to wander off. If you can, holding onto the crib a little longer could help you out. Toddlers who have already shown themselves willing to break out of cribs can sometimes be held off a little longer by lowering the height of the crib mattress as far as it will go. If Baby likes to wander, and is too tall for even the lowest setting of the crib, it may not be safe for him in the crib, so installing a toddler gate to the bedroom, and making sure the bedroom is fully climbing-toddler-proof can also help to avoid any major accidents.
- Bring a taste of home: If you have a toddler who is so invested in their nap- and bedtime routines that they just can’t get to sleep on the road, or at daycare, or at a relative’s house, letting him pick out a nap buddy ahead of time, like a soft toy or blanket, can serve a couple of purposes at once. First, of course, bringing something from home with him can feel comforting, but second, giving him the choice of what that comfort object should be both gives him some control over the situation, and gives him some warning time to adjust to the idea before it happens.
- The sound of silence: If Baby simply refuses to nap, it can be tempting to just try to give up and move on with your day, but transitioning nap time to “quiet time” can give both you and Baby the time you need to calm down and regroup in the middle of the day, even if no actual sleep happens. If Baby refuses to nap, that doesn’t mean you can’t tell him that he gets to pick a few books or quiet toys to sit in bed with and enjoy there while relaxing for a little while. It’s good for Baby to practice taking some time to quietly amuse themselves, and if he is sleepy enough, quiet time might just turn into a nap when your back is turned.
The end of the nap?
While the majority of toddlers can benefit from napping until at least their second birthdays, and plenty can get a lot out of napping all they way up to school age, there are children who are ready to leave naps behind around this time. Children who are ready to give up napping might resist naps in the same way that children who don’t want to stop playing, or don’t want to be away from their families, do, which can make it tricky to tell the difference.
Figuring out when it’s time for Baby to say goodbye to naps is similar to figuring out if it’s time to consolidate down to fewer naps. If Baby seems to be getting tired later and later in the day, or has trouble sleeping at a reasonable time at night after taking an afternoon nap, and is resisting naps, it may be time for him to move on from naps. This is especially true if he stays happy and alert through the day, even on a bit less sleep.
If, on the other hand, missing or shortening a nap leaves him drowsy or cranky, or if he falls asleep easily any time he is in a stroller or car seat around nap time, he should probably stick with napping a little while longer, even if he resists being put down to sleep during the day.
If you do decide it’s time for Baby to say goodbye to naps, it can be helpful to transition to an earlier bedtime to offset a little bit of the lack of sleep. It can also be helpful not to think of the end of napping as absolute – even toddlers who are mostly ready to stop taking naps can benefit from the occasional cat-nap on an especially busy, exciting, or stressful day.
National Sleep Foundation. “National Sleep Foundation Recommends New Sleep Times.” Sleep Foundation. National Sleep Foundation, February 2 2015. Web.
M. Weissbluth. “Naps in children: 6 months-7 years.” Sleep. 18(2): 82-7. Web. February 1995.
“Infant Sleep.” Stanford Children’s. Stanford Children’s Health, 2016. Web.
“Naps.” Kids Health. Nemours Foundation, April 2016. Web.
“Toddlers and Napping: How Much is Normal?” Sleep. National Sleep Foundation. Web.