So you’ve come to that time in every parent’s life when around a certain time of day, your child is normally face-planted and drooling, asleep in bed, on the couch, in the car-seat– but definitely asleep, napping. A mid-day nap most parents depend on until your baby moves from toddler to young child, and you think– Crap. What now? How do I transition my child out of naps? Because it’s not as easy as spit-spot, off to play, as Mary Poppins would say. And it’s hard to give up the time you depend on to work, clean, create, or sleep yourself. Every parent knows naptime is often just as much for moms and dads as it is for the kiddos. It’s a built-in daytime break from the non-stop go-go-go of parenthood.
Naptime is important for children’s health, too, so as parents, we want to be sure that we’re giving them all the sleep they need. Still, there comes a time when– because your child is frequently skipping naps, or naptime has become a battleground– you’re ready to knock out that last nap all together.
So what’s a parent to do? In order to make the transition out of naps easier for you and your child, there are a few things you should consider and a few tips to implement.
1. Make Sure Your Kiddo Is Ready For No Nap
A research article in The Brazilian Medical Journal concluded that children over 2 years old may be better off without daily naps, as those naps can interfere with the quality of their nighttime sleep. Others, like Jennifer Waldburger, co-creator of the Sleepeasy Solution, disagree. In an interview with Slate, Waldburger said that it is the individual quality of your child’s sleep experience that really matters, not the quanitity. So observe your child, and keep in mind that there isn’t a golden age where your child suddenly needs to stop napping. If you think your child really needs that nap, keep on keepih’ on.
2. Ease Into It
If your child is having a hard time with no nap, you can incrementally reduce the amount of time they are napping; keeping a schedule that makes sense is important for this to be effective. If you decide your child is going to to sleep from 2 to 3 p.m. every day instead of 2 to 4 p.m., stick to it. After this transition has become smooth and is working, you can decrease the naptime as you feel comfortable. This gives you a lot of flexibility, so you don’t feel that it’s ‘all or nothing’ with naps, and lose your sanity trying to manage an impossible cranky child. Sometimes a slow transition just works best for everyone.
3. Do Parent-Involved Quiet Time
Expecting a tired child to play nicely and quietly by themselves instead of napping isn’t a total fantasy, but I wouldn’t expect it. Baby sleep coach and founder of The Sleep Lady Kim West said, "if you find that your little one is struggling to stay engaged for more than a few minutes without your help, you may want to help them exercise their imagination by practicing the activities that you have available for quiet time." This can reduce or eliminate the very stressful power struggle you can find yourself in with a child who won’t ‘stay in their room and be quiet’. Easier for you, and for them.
4. Take A Look At What They’re Eating
We all know that caffeine or sugar can ruin a night’s sleep, and children are no exception. If you increase the quality of their night-time sleep, giving up napping will be easier. Nutrition greatly impacts how easily a child falls asleep, as well as the quality of their sleep. Sugar, juice, and salty foods should especially be avoided before bedtime. Cherries havemelatonin, which promotes sleepiness, so take advantage if your child likes to eat cherries.