Skipping Naps

It’s a nightmarish thought, isn’t it? One day, your infant or toddler decides he’s too busy to nap, while you stare at him on the monitor in complete denial and dread. What about ME? Mommy needs a break! Well, today Mommy doesn’t get a break. I’m writing this, as I watch my own son on the monitor playing–and not sleeping. He has been at it for about an hour. I have visited him 3 times, just to be sure he hasn’t pooped, and at this point he is hyped! Will he actually skip today’s nap?

Fortunately, I can count on my hands how many times Bubba has straight up skipped a nap, but as he gets older, I know there will be more days like this. I hear that most toddlers stop napping (or just occasionally nap) around 3 years-old. Yikes!! Two years into this Mommy gig, I have learned that the only way to survive “no-nap” days are to hold my head up high, and accept defeat…and make another cup of coffee, of course.

On days when your kiddo refuses to nap, it’s best to move forward, and try to tailor the rest of your day in such a way that little one is able to go to bed 30 min. – 1 hour earlier. Most likely your child will crash, but don’t be surprised if he is up on and off throughout the night. Sleep begets sleep — so lack of sleep must beget lack of sleep, right? Overtired-ness is our worst enemy. I have always said that an over-tired kid is like a strung-out maniac: destroying the house, SUPER moody, no interest in eating dinner…you get the picture. It’s vital these kids get enough sleep, not only for our sake, but for their brain development and health.

So, WHY do babies and toddlers skip naps?

BabyCenter says: “The explanation is simple, though the solution may not be: Toddlers fight the urge to rest simply because they are so interested in what’s going on around them. Your curious toddler has so much to see and do and she’s afraid that if she naps, she’ll miss out on something.” Totally makes sense to me.

What about babies? An article in Today’s Parent says pretty much the same thing. It explains that baby is growing up, and many parents find that as their babies become more aware of their surroundings, they are more difficult to get down for a nap. Also, your child is beginning to understand that she’s separate from you and is her own person, so she asserts her independence whenever she can. Refusing to take a nap is one way she wrests control from you.

What do you do when babies and toddlers skip naps?

When it comes to a baby (1 year or younger), it’s sometimes as easy as strapping her in the car seat, turning on some soft music, and going for a drive. I remember having to do this on occasion with Bubba, and sometimes,  I’d even get to park somewhere and catch up on emails, once he was out. The “car-nap” will probably be shorter than a typical nap in the crib, but it’s better than nothing. One thing I must mention, is to try everything you can to get baby to nap in the crib first — before resulting to the car-nap. This is advised because he will get a more restful sleep, and most likely a longer nap. I remember reading that the quality of sleep a baby/toddler gets while sleeping in a car seat or stroller is equivalent to sleeping on an airplane. Not restful, and you always wake with a kinked neck. When Bubs was an infant, my rule was always this: if he was still crying or playing 45 minutes past the time I put him down, it’s time to go for a drive. It almost always worked.

Toddlers may not be so easily lured into sleep by the old “car trick” — unless they are REALLY tired. But every kid is different, of course. According to Dr. Sears, when a toddler starts consistently refusing to nap, he says it’s best not to force the nap. He goes on to say: “An option is to replace nap-time with quiet-time. An older toddler or preschooler can often get the rest he needs by lying down and listening to a tape or story. Market this as a special time – when mommy, daddy or a caregiver rest and nest with the child in a quiet room. Some days this will result in a nap. Other days, it will just be a time to relax and rejuvenate.” I think this is great advice, and I try to look at it like this: At least he had time to rest, so it wasn’t a total loss. I try to stay positive and not resent my little maniac for stealing my precious “break time,” and try to find something for us to do to fill the second half of our day (as exhausted as I am!)

How do you prevent baby or toddler from skipping naps?

You can’t always control baby’s schedule. A harsh reality for a control freak, like me. The only thing you can control, is making sure little one is being put to sleep before he or she is overtired, and providing your tot with the right sleeping environment (a full tummy, comfortable temperature, the right amount of darkness, white noise, paci, blankie, etc.), a good bed-time routine that is consistent and signals that it’s time to sleep (books, songs, snuggles, nursing, etc.), and patience while your little one tries to get comfortable. Other things to consider trying:

  • No sugary food/drinks close to nap
  • Not too much action or stimulation close to nap (this includes rough play or TV)
  • Limit the amount of toys, books, and stimuli in your kid’s bed (I also put toys away, so he is not tempted to try and hop out of his crib to play!)

I hope this information helps! Remember, they will eventually pass out–they always do! Just use little one’s “quiet time” (whether he sleeps or not) as a chance for you to kick your feet up too. This, way, whatever happens, you are ready to take on the rest of your day.

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