Emma Pur­due on what to do when your tod­dler goes on nap strike

Little Treasures - - CONTENTS - Emma Pur­due is a cer­ti­fied in­fant and child sleep con­sul­tant, Hap­pi­est Baby on the Block ed­u­ca­tor, di­rec­tor and founder of Baby Sleep Con­sul­tant Ltd and mother of three. Visit trea­ for more of Emma’s col­umns.


your­self fight­ing with a strong-willed tod­dler over whether or not they need to take a nap, you will un­der­stand that the strug­gle is real. They are pro­fi­cient at trick­ing us that they’re not tired and don’t need a nap. When th­ese stages hit, hav­ing some guide­lines will not only help pre­serve your san­ity, but also your sleep. A tod­dler who naps ex­ces­sively will ex­pe­ri­ence de­layed on­set of night sleep and have more frag­mented sleep. The tod­dler who drops their nap pre­ma­turely is likely to be­come up­set and clingy at bed time. They will then start to wake up ear­lier and be­fore you know it… hello 5am! Naps will re­main a sig­nif­i­cant part of your tod­dler’s daily sleep needs, so don’t dis­miss them as an un­nec­es­sary lux­ury. Dur­ing your tod­dler’s nap their emo­tions regulate, which is a huge part of their well­be­ing in th­ese years. Their im­mune sys­tem strength­ens, the skills they learn move from short-term to long-term mem­ory, their lit­tle ap­petites regulate, and they grow. Most 12-month-olds en­ter­ing tod­dler­hood are hav­ing two naps a day and won’t drop their morn­ing nap un­til be­tween 15 to 18 months old. Once you have es­tab­lished this one good nap a day, they will need it un­til they are be­tween two and a half to three-years-old. The fi­nal stage of drop­ping that nap al­to­gether is dif­fer­ent for every child, and not quite as pre­dictable as ba­bies drop­ping their naps. Mov­ing from two naps to one usu­ally oc­curs be­tween 15 to 18 months. Nap pat­terns to look out for in­clude: not­ing the days your tod­dler has a de­cent morn­ing nap, when they refuse their sec­ond nap al­to­gether, or won’t set­tle to sleep un­til close to 2pm, which is too late for a tod­dler nap. If you have fol­lowed a struc­ture of short morn­ing nap, long lunch-time nap, you are more likely to no­tice your tod­dler re­fuses that morn­ing sleep, and happily stays awake un­til af­ter lunch. This is a sign that they are get­ting ready to drop down to just one nap.


While hav­ing a solid 1-2 hour nap, they have started to wake ear­lier in the morn­ing and are over two-years-old The 1-2 hour nap is start­ing to cause a de­layed on­set of evening sleep. Your tod­dler is wide awake, happy and show­ing no signs of sleep un­til 9 or 10pm They refuse to sleep and happily last all af­ter­noon with no nap. They do not lose the plot at din­ner time, and set­tle eas­ily They don’t fall asleep in the car in the late af­ter­noon when they skip their nap Your tod­dler has started to wake in the night, and is burst­ing with en­ergy for an hour or two If your tod­dler is show­ing a few of th­ese signs and is over two and a half years old, they prob­a­bly need to drop their nap, or if it’s longer than one hour, have it trimmed back. If they are two years old, and you feel they are start­ing to show some signs of need­ing less sleep I sug­gest you start with a shorter nap be­fore cut­ting it. Don’t be afraid to re­in­state a nap if you feel you dropped it pre­ma­turely. It might take some work but it is pos­si­ble to get it back.


Af­ter read­ing the signs it may be ob­vi­ous to you that your tod­dler’s nap re­fusal is not a sign they are ready to drop a nap, but more a dif­fi­cult sleep phase. So what can you do to bring back nap­time bliss? Tod­dlers thrive on bound­aries and con­sis­tency. If you are cer­tain your tod­dler’s an­tics at nap­time are just a strike and they’re not ready to drop a nap, pre­pare to do some work for a few days. Cre­ate a con­sis­tent nap rou­tine that tran­si­tions your tod­dler from play to sleep time while avoid­ing FOMO (fear of miss­ing out). Set up bound­aries, both phys­i­cally (a cot or baby gate) and metaphor­i­cally. De­cide that 12.30-2.00pm is nap­time, and in that time your tod­dler will re­main in bed. Tod­dlers can scream and shout dur­ing nap strikes – it’s our job as par­ents to ac­knowl­edge those dif­fi­cult, emo­tional out­bursts, but not fuel them with stim­u­la­tion and in­con­sis­tency. Sit by your tod­dler’s bed or cot if you want to be sup­port­ive and lie them down when they

stand. Shush or sing qui­etly when they are emo­tional, touch them in­ter­mit­tently if they need calm­ing down but don’t fall asleep for them. If they are wind­ing you up or vice versa, leave the room for 10 min­utes, re­turn and lie them down. Check they are safe, con­sole them, re­mind them it’s sleep time, and then leave for an­other 10 min­utes. Re­peat un­til they go to sleep or for a max­i­mum of six 10-minute cy­cles. Hint 1 Sit on the floor by their cot in­stead of a chair and they are more likely to lie down in or­der to be near your head. A chair has your head at cot height, which en­cour­ages stand­ing. Hint 2 If you think they have fallen asleep, close your eyes, en­joy the quiet. Don’t leave too soon as tod­dlers can take 20 min­utes or more to fall asleep, and leav­ing might put you back to square one if they are not fully asleep. Hint 3 Keep your tod­dler in a cot and sleep­ing bag for as close to three years old as pos­si­ble. Both of th­ese items help pre­serve both your nap and night sleep. If your tod­dler is just hav­ing a nap strike and gen­uinely still needs their nap they will likely fall asleep in the car if you go out late in the af­ter­noon. They will strug­gle to play in­de­pen­dently and be­come clingy around din­ner time, of­ten not eat­ing well as they are too tired to fo­cus. This lack of day sleep in a tod­dler who needs it will of­ten re­sult in up­set night wake-ups, cry­ing, dif­fi­cult bed times and scream­ing early ris­ers. SMOOTH TRAN­SI­TIONS Once your tod­dler is ready to drop their day nap, here are a few ideas to smooth the rocky road ahead. It’s com­mon for this tran­si­tion to take a month. Let your tod­dler drop their nap every other day if needed, then slowly work up to two days of no nap and one day hav­ing a short re­cov­ery nap. Give this tran­si­tion time, so they can ad­just to stay­ing awake for 12 hours a day. Con­sider in­stalling ‘quiet time’ in­stead of a nap. This might be read­ing books, draw­ing, colour­ing, some­thing less phys­i­cal for an hour af­ter lunch. This will also give you both some much needed down time. In the first few weeks fol­low­ing your tod­dler drop­ping their nap, don’t be sur­prised if they’re ready for bed 30-60 min­utes ear­lier. Mov­ing bed­time due to a nap be­ing dropped is nor­mal as their lit­tle bod­ies ad­just to the new equi­lib­rium of no nap and 12 hours of night sleep. Al­low a wind down be­fore bed. Don’t push them to stay awake un­til 7pm if they are tired at 6pm.


Most com­mon mis­takes I see when it comes to tod­dler sleep are: 1 Mov­ing to a big bed too soon. This can re­sult in a nap strike and the flow-on ef­fect is huge. Most tod­dlers don’t have the im­pulse con­trol needed to stay in a big bed un­til they are three years old. 2 Mis­tak­ing tears of tem­po­rary frus­tra­tion with tears of de­s­pair and over-stim­u­lat­ing the tod­dler as we as­sist them to sleep. I get it, a tod­dler scream­ing and cry­ing at nap­time is next-level, but they are just tired, frus­trated and need us to be the calm par­ent who knows what’s best. Calmly in­sist that it’s sleep time and be as­sured they haven’t for­got­ten how to. 3 As­sum­ing a nap strike at 12 months or 24 months means your tod­dler needs no nap. Naps are im­por­tant in th­ese tod­dler years when frus­tra­tion is a com­mon emo­tion. Look at the signs and make an in­formed choice around when to drop those naps. 

If you are cer­tain your tod­dler’s an­tics at nap time are ac­tu­ally just a nap strike and they’re not ready to drop a nap, pre­pare to do some work for a few days

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