If you are a first-time parent and you are struggling with various things about your baby’s development, you are not the only one. Questions like what happens if a baby is overdue, what’s normal for a newborn, when do toddlers stop napping, etc. have been bothering parents forever, and – for a reason. While there is an extensive spectrum of guidelines helping parents figure things out, things come down to one simple fact: every child acts differently, and it’s critical the parent understands the whole process of their (fast) growing up.
This time around, we will be outlining facts that could help you recognize your child’s napping and sleeping habits, and – in doing so – help both your toddler and you build a healthy lifestyle and sleeping pattern.
Naps are vital for your child’s development in every sense of the word. They provide time for the baby’s tiny bodies to rest both mentally and physically and restore the energy. Expect your child to stop napping anywhere between the ages of 2 and 5 years old.
Nap transitions happen pretty quickly, so don’t be surprised when your baby goes from 5-6 naps a day to just 2 in the first 12 months. Expect your toddler to go from 2 naps to just 1 somewhere between 15 and 18 months of their development. However, do keep in mind that the afternoon nap number varies greatly from baby to baby; while some children may be enjoying their multiple daily naps to the fullest until they are 3 or 4 others will try and resist them after they are past age 2.
Every (exhausted) parent knows that feeling of bliss when the little one is asleep and there’s finally some time to wash your hair, do some errands, take a shower (!), finish a project, eat, or just – nap yourself. Nonetheless, there are actually times when it’s best to wake your baby, and these are the situations when:
For naps to be considered restorative, they should span to at least one hour in length. Naturally, the number of hours your baby spends napping depends on how old the baby is and what their general napping habits are. On that note, you’ll sometimes have your toddler see 4 hours of awake time before all sleep periods. This often happens right before they transition to one nap a day. Also, do consider that there is the option of a nap becoming a shorter 30-45-minute catnap for your toddler, just before they transition to one nap a day. Obviously, this is not always the case.
For toddlers who have fully transitioned to one nap a day, they should sleep from 2 to 3 hours per nap. This goes for kids who are at least two years old. Much of your kid’s napping length will depend on their sleeping habits at night. Do remember that some kids need longer restorative naps to feel refreshed.
For most children, the resistance to napping starts showing sometime between the ages of 2 and 3. This happens because their minds start working faster, they lack impulse control, get super curious and busy, and, ultimately, gain the ability to fight sleep. However, the fact a toddler wants to avoid napping doesn’t mean you should let them.
The healthiest thing you can do for your toddler is encourage them to maintain a healthy nap pattern, at least until you are confident they are functional without it. If you notice your child’s coping skills, mood and behavior dramatically deteriorate when they forgo naps, they still need them. On average, children stop napping at the age of 3 or 4.
Here’s how to know when your toddler is ready to stop napping:
Although your baby’s napping time may have been your only time when you could rest yourself, the fact your baby is switching to no-nap routine won’t be the end of the world. You’ll adjust! The best way to work around the new situations is to take your toddler’s cues as a guide, then work it into your own vision of how things should be.
Most parents like to introduce something called “rest time” – it’s almost like naptime, except there’s no napping. For instance, lie with your kid in bed for an hour or so; dim the lights, play soothing music, and have some small toys, books, a cartoon, etc. around. Your toddler will learn how to keep themselves entertained even when they’re not running around, and you’ll finally have some down time yourself. It’s a win-win!
A few more tips for parents with non-napping toddlers:
Toddlers need naps to support their development and growth. Babies’ brains and bodies are growing at fast rates; naps help them recharge and process everything they take in and learn in a day. Also, just like adults, toddlers get irritable without enough sleep, adding to the importance of napping for their good mood and healthy daily dynamic. One of the most important things in channeling your child’s napping cycles and routines is to be aware of their age and expected napping rates as well as their biorhythm.
If you clock your child not wanting to nap anymore, look for the signs suggesting your toddler may be growing out of it. Contrary, if you notice the child is resisting napping because they’ve got something more fun to do (watch a cartoon, play with a playdate, build LEGO castles, etc.) understand that this is your cue to put them down to sleep, especially if they are showing signs of tiredness like rubbing their eyes, yawning, crankiness, and similar. Good luck!