A Mom's Survival Guide to Nap Transitions
Honestly I don't know what is more brutal, up all night with a baby who won't sleep or spending the entire day trying to get a little one to nap to no avail. I know the latter all too well and unfortunately the reason for my endless struggle to get my second son to nap was me having little to no information on sleep.
Poor Kyle was 23 months old and would stand in the crib and scream for 20 minutes when I put him down for his afternoon nap. I would get so frustrated- very much wanting that second nap break of the day- and then go get him feeling like it was just a waste of both of our time and energy. And it was. My sleep consultant self hangs her head in shame to think that I was trying to put a 23 month old down for a second nap after he already had a morning nap. Really?! What was I thinking? This kid obviously wasn't tired (the biggest cause of nap protest) and it was such an inappropriate awake window for his age. I was almost a year, literally, off the mark.
In my defense though, I had no sleep education, no sleep consultant (what is a sleep consultant?). I figured it out as I went and obviously not very well. I did what I now get on my soap box about. And that is getting stuck providing care for an age that your child is now well past.
I think back to the the instructions I left the maternity ward with for eating, sleeping and general infant care. The nurses in the hospital were so wonderful and so helpful, I would have taken one home with me if I could. They gave such specific instructions on bathing, swaddling, cleaning the umbilical cord, when to feed, sleep when the baby sleeps...
I took those instructions home with me which is both great and problematic. It's great to be a good mom student and follow professional advice. The problematic part is that your newborn infant is growing and developing every day! So what was appropriate for sleeping at 1 week old, let's say swaddling, is not appropriate at 3 months old. I now know that I continued with my maternity ward instructions way past their expiration date for my son. Likewise, my two nap a day schedule for Kyle that was appropriate at 10 months old was definitely not so at 23 months old.
Learn from my mistakes for naps and don't get stuck at age inappropriate sleep times for your little one. Before you know it new nap patterns will be emerging for your little one.
So what can you do? Educate yourself. And I am here to help with that. If you experience a lot of crying at nap time that previously did not happen, it's time to take a closer look at the surrounding behaviors and schedules.
Before jumping straight to making changes to your child’s daytime sleep schedule, first rule out other sleep interrupters, such as developmental milestones that may be causing trouble for naps. A developmental milestone is something most children can do by a certain age, indicators of such behaviors are rolling over, crawling, taking a first step, saying a first word.
If your child is experiencing a milestone, don’t fret. Stay true to your routines, schedules, and expectations and the phase will pass. If, however sleep troubles endure for longer than 2 weeks, it’s then time to zoom in on your baby's nap schedule.
Here is a general guide for timing naps based on age and hopefully it will save you from getting stuck too!
Timing the Nap
Newborn: 3 to 4 naps per day (awake 45+ min)
3-6 months old: 2 to 3 naps per day (awake 1.5+ hours)
6-13 months old: 2 naps per day (awake 2.5+ hours)
13 months- 3 yrs old: 1 nap per day (awake 4+ hours)