Toddlers are constantly changing, learning new words and new skills at a rate us parents can hardly keep up with. While 1 and 2-year-old kids are fun, they're also exhausting, so when they finally stop moving long enough to fall asleep us adults breathe a sigh of relief. How much reprieve you receive, of course, depends on how long your little one sleeps. So, if you're asking yourself "Are my toddler's nap times normal?" when they're waking up a little too early for your liking, know that you're not alone. In fact, I'd go so far as to say there isn't a toddler parent in the world who isn't wondering whether or not his or her kid is sleeping enough.
Harvard's Healthy Sleep site says toddlers are experiencing a huge change in their sleep patterns at this stage, stating, "As we go from infants to toddlers, sleep becomes more consolidated and naps less frequent." According to the National Sleep Foundation, most toddlers need two solid daytime nap sessions a day; one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Then, around 15 to 18 months of age, parents should start phasing out the morning nap, so that your toddler only takes one nap a day.
While the length of one or two naps can very depending on your child's schedule and developmental age, the National Sleep Foundation has a set of suggestions based on your toddler's age:
If the child is getting a solid amount of sleep at night, the naps should add up to a total of two to two-and-a-half hours when the toddler is 12 months old, one-and-a-half to two hours at 18 months, and one-and-a-quarter to one-and-a-half hours when the kid reaches 2 years of age.
Nap transitions can be difficult for both children and parents. As toddlers need less daytime sleep and, eventually, drop their second nap, they can become grouchy and irritable. That irritability, of course, leads to more of those dreaded toddler tantrums us parents are forever trying to avoid.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes that toddler tantrums are common, stating, "Tantrums are a normal part of development. Before kids are fully verbal, they're frustrated, and in that sense of frustration or hunger or dissatisfaction, tantrums can be an easy way for kids to try to get what they need."
So, while tantrums are frustrating and could be a byproduct of sleep regressions or a change in sleep schedule, as long as your toddler is getting the recommended amount of sleep per day, their tantrums are less about a lack of sleep and more about the hardship of, well, being a 2 year old. According to WebMD, 1 to 3 years old require 12-14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. Stick to that recommendation, and your toddler will be getting the necessary amount of sleep to thrive.
Baby Center looked at a range of sleep expert views and philosophies and concluded that toddler nap patterns vary from family to family. The range of "normal" toddler napping behavior can include taking two short naps per day, one longer nap, or no naps at all.
All of the experts do agree, however, that children shouldn't be allowed to nap late in the afternoon, past 3:00, 4:00, or 5:00 p.m., otherwise it may interfere with their ability to sleep at nighttime.
If you're asking if your toddlers sleep times are normal, know that if they're well-rested, happy, and hitting their developmental milestones accordingly, "normal" doesn't really matter.