Five Secret Tips For Parents Of Toddlers That Won’t Nap
Lets face it, we need our toddlers to nap just as much as they do and I’m constantly getting emails from mums with “HELP MY TODDLER REFUSES TO TAKE A NAP”. Written in caps in the subject box. I’ll admit, helping toddlers take daytime naps can be even more challenging than helping them sleep through the night. But you can’t isolate and separate these two sleeps. Whatever you’ve set up for your child’s night sleep will be reflected during the daytime nap. So if you need to keep resettling your child with milk every time they wake through the night, they will most likely need that during the day as well. Here are my top 5 tips to help encourage your toddler to take better naps.
So first of all, the most important thing you can do to help your toddler take better naps is offer them some sleep training or as I prefer to call it, Sleep Guidance. This generally means you start to wean them off settling methods that involve you, like rocking them, feeding them and driving them around to get them to sleep. If you’re using any of these settling methods, your child is probably waking you up several times each night. Start to eliminate these mama-centric settling methods and replace them with settling that doesn’t involve you quite as much. See My eBook Sleep Like An Angel – Sleep Secrets of the Mindful Mama and Blissful Toddler for help with Sleep Guidance.
Secondly, if you have established sleep training and your child knows how to settle themselves to sleep, its important you communicate your expectations respectfully without buying into a battle of wills. I know, this is easier said than done. Our toddler’s are so smart, they deserve nothing less than the respect of gently and clearly communicating our expectations and boundaries with them but being gentle doesn’t mean being a pushover. We need to set clear limits and boundaries with our toddlers and have normal and likely consequences. For example if after naptime you take your child to the park for a play, you can tell them that there wont be time to play at the park today if they don’t have a rest. Be mindful this is not a threat, or punishment for not napping, nor are we trying to manipulate or bribe them into sleeping, it’s simply the consequence of not settling and resting.
It’s really important to stay calm. Toddlers are learning more about the world and their place in it every single day, it’s their job and a natural compulsion to test your limits and it’s up to you as their mum to remain calm and be tested when it’s thrown your way. The moment you feel rattled, your child will feel it and will react to it very quickly, usually by resisting their nap even more. Calmly acknowledge your child’s emotions and listen to their protests if they are having them. Let them know you hear them AND that its time for a rest. They are unlikely to be kind gracious, respectful and well mannered if they aren’t happy about having a nap, that’s not their job, their job is to tell you how they feel and your job is to listen acknowledge and help them rest.
If your child is on a consistent sleep routine or schedule it may be time to graduate to a later nap time, start to push the nap time back by 30 minutes every few days and observe your child to see if they settle a bit faster. If your toddler is still taking 2 naps, it might be time to merge them into 1 nap, start by pushing the morning nap back every few days until it meets the afternoon nap and then merge them together.
It can be really hard for toddlers to sleep when there are so many cool things to look at. A lot of children find it hard to rest when the sun is up and they can see everything in their room. Try to minimise distractions by installing blackout blinds, which will only allow a little bit of light in. Also take a look around your child’s room, is it cluttered or filled with lots of gorgeous toys and ornaments that your toddler can’t wait to get their hands on? If so, it might be helpful to create a ‘play space’ outside of your child’s room and see their bedroom is focussed on the purpose for which is was built…. Sleep. Remove anything that is distracting, you want their bedroom to be a bit boring. I always recommend playing sleep music or white noise for every daytime nap and I like to leave it on until the nap is over. Firstly, This helps drown outside noises out and secondly, it creates a familiar rhythm that your child gets used to and it communicates, non-verbally that its time to rest.
If all else fails, surrender! You may have noticed a few times above I’ve used the word ‘rest’ instead of ‘sleep’ and that’s because your toddler wont always sleep and you can’t make them but you can help them rest and recharge. Some toddlers need more sleep than others and some will even lengthen their night time sleep to compensate for their daytime nap deficit. Regardless of whether you think your child is ready to give up their daytime nap or not, I would still offer it every day for at least a few months, knowing that some quiet time and a rest can be enough to get them through the rest of the day. For many toddlers, some time with less stimulation is enough to recharge the batteries, which will take the pressure off you so you don’t feel so desperate to get your child to sleep. When you take that pressure off yourself, you take it off your toddler and I guarantee they’ll notice. Children can always tell when we have an agenda or when we’re attached to a certain outcome and they usually rebel against it even more.
When my little girl stopped napping in the afternoon, I continued to offer her a nap with no expectations, I decided I wasn’t fussed either way. I noticed she would talk to herself the whole time, so after a month of trying a few different strategies, I decided it was time to play an audio book while she had a rest and I had one too. Getting some rest helped Sophia avoid overstimulation, which can make it hard to sleep at night. Having this time apart was and still is important for both of us, it helps us recharge so we can come back together fresh and energised.
Are you loving Sleep Like An Angel articles?
Sign up up and get weekly sleep support delivered directly to your inbox.
Download your FREE copy of my eBook -
8 Baby Sleep Mistakes That Are Keeping You Up At Night And How To Fix Them Right Now.