They hates nap, they won’t nap, they refuse to nap – but is it possible that Baby can’t nap? Parents and caregivers know that naptime can’t last forever, but figuring out whether it’s actually time to let go of this part of the daily routine can be tricky.
The truth is that about half of all toddlers stop napping by the time they’re four years old, and by age five, 70% of toddlers will be as done with napping as they are with their very first pair of baby socks – the ones that might not fit over their toes by the time they hit five years old. This doesn’t necessarily mean that toddlers are ready to stop napping as soon as they say they are – most toddlers hit the point when they don’t want to nap a lot sooner than the point where they’re actually ready to stop.
How do you know if they're actually ready?
One of the best ways to figure out whether a toddler is ready to drop a nap – if they seem like they really might be and is rather happy and energetic when naptime rolls around – is just to let them try it. There’s no rule that says that once you get started helping Baby readjust their sleep-schedule, you have to see it through. If they seem pretty fine and only starts to get over-tired close to bedtime, then they may be right – they may actually be ready to drop their nap.
On the other hand, if they are a cranky, exhausted mess by mid-afternoon, they should probably get their siesta back the next day. Even if they hold it together pretty well and won’t admit that they're tired, if they're showing other signs of tiredness – like rubbing their eyes or acting irritable – they may still need a little daytime sleep.
It may take a few days for you to figure out what Baby’s sleep needs are at this point, and keeping wake-up and bedtime schedules consistent can help you know if they truly still need naps and isn’t just reacting to variety in their sleep schedule. This will be easier if the rest of their life follows a predictable schedule too, including meals, snacks, possibly outside versus inside time, as well as sleeping and waking up.
If, in the end, you decide that they do still need to nap even though they&;s still resisting, you may find that they respond better to a long wind-down, like a mid-day version of their bedtime routine.
How to handle dropping a nap
One important thing to keep in mind when Baby waves goodbye to their regular naptime is that it isn’t all-or-nothing. A toddler who’s ready to stop having regular naps still might need one after a big day, or even once or twice a week on days that feel busy or overwhelming. And if it starts to seem like dropping their nap isn’t working for they, they can always get back into the nap-habit.
If Baby stops napping, they need to make up some of the lost sleep-time at some point – getting the right amount of sleep for their age-range is important for all toddlers and children, and it’s been shown to improve their attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health. One easy way to make up a little of that sleep is to move their bedtime a little earlier, especially if they have to get up at a specific time every morning.
Giving up naptime doesn’t have to mean a full day of non-stop action either. Making the time that used to be for their nap into a regular “rest” time can be a great way for both of you to slow down and collect yourselves in the middle of the day. And if they do happen to be tired enough to take a nap on some days, quiet time or rest time is a great built-in time for it.
When not wanting to becomes being ready to stop
At a certain point, if your toddler is resistant enough to napping, it doesn’t matter if they could still benefit from a couple more hours of shut-eye in the afternoon – the struggle to get them to take naps stops being worth it. In these cases, it can be helpful to – much like when a toddler is ready to stop napping – go ahead and move their bedtime earlier to make up the difference. Not only could they still use the extra sleep, but who knows? If you present that to them as their option, they could decide that dropping their naptime before they're ready isn’t worth the trade-off. It’s a long-shot, but you never know.
- “American Academy of Pediatrics Supports Childhood Sleep Guidelines.” American Academy of Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics, June 13 2016. Retrieved September 29 2017. https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Supports-Childhood-Sleep-Guidelines.aspx.
- “Healthy Sleep Habits: How Many Hours Does Your Child Need?” Healthy Children. American Academy of Pediatrics, March 23 2017. Retrieved September 29 2017. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/sleep/Pages/Healthy-Sleep-Habits-How-Many-Hours-Does-Your-Child-Need.aspx.
- “Is your child ready to stop napping?” Sleep.Org. National Sleep Foundation. Retrieved September 29 2017. https://sleep.org/articles/child-ready-stop-napping/.
- “When should kids stop napping?” Sleep.Org. National Sleep Foundation. Retrieved September 29 2017. https://sleep.org/articles/kids-stop-napping/.