Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Inconsistent Napping

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I have some news for you. It might come as good news, but it might come as bad news. I always give it to you straight, so here it is.

At some point, your child will stop napping every single day.

And that point might come sooner than you think.

This is the inconsistent napper. 

It seems to start somewhere as a two year old--but it is rather rare for the two year old. Every so often, the child will just not take a nap. This usually results in a cranky toddler, and it is wise to end the day with a slightly earlier bedtime (30 minutes should suffice). 

As a three year old, this inconsistent napping starts to happen more frequently. I have never noticed a predictable pattern with my kids, but it does start off with maybe once a week, but by age four, naps happen as often as they don't it seems.

As a four year old, naps slowly start to happen even less often. Some officially move to rest time as a four year old. Brayden didn't do that until he was 5.25; Kaitlyn is almost four and I am guessing she will also be a five year old when she moves to rest time most days.

As a five year old, the child naps every so often during rest time. It is a foil of a two year old. The two year old doesn't nap every once in a great while; the five year old does nap every once in a great while. 

Why is this good news? Well, it is good news for you in that when it happens with your child, you know there is no need to panic. Why is it bad news? Because we all like nap time :).

Now that you are assured this is a normal cycle, you might wonder what you do about it.

As a two year old, I put the child down for a nap every single day unless there is some great reason not to. Nap time also lasts the same, normal length of time whether the child is sleeping or not. Relaxing in bed is better than being out being overstimulated. The two year old is very sensitive to missing naps and probably can't miss more than one, maybe two, in a week without having a meltdown.

As a three year old, I still continue having a nap every single day unless there is as good reason not to. Closer to three and the reason needs to be pretty compelling. Closer to four and it can be something as simple as nice weather outside. Yesterday, Brayden and Kaitlyn were having a lot of fun playing with each other and it was Brayden's last day of Spring Break from school, so I didn't put Kaitlyn down for a nap. If you do this, you cannot have a later-than-normal bedtime and will likely need an earlier-than-normal bedtime. By bedtime, Kaitlyn was tired and wanted to go to bed. Also, as a caution, don't skip naps too often. Once a week is probably okay. Twice might even be fine if you let about three days go between. So far as how long to be in bed if not actually napping, I stick with the length of a normal nap, but naps do shorten in this year from the two year old length.

For the four year old, I still continue to have a nap every single day unless there is a pretty good reason not to. As a four year old, I start to shorten the amount of time the child to stay in bed if a nap isn't going to happen. I cut Brayden's to an hour as a four year old. If he napped, he slept for about two hours, but I would check on him at one hour and if he was awake, I would let him get up. 

As a five year old, Brayden moved to rest time and we moved the length back to 30 minutes. If he does fall asleep, I don't let him sleep longer than 1.5 hours or else he will have a hard time falling asleep that night. If family is visiting, we are visiting family, we are on vacation, or we are having a rare nice weather day, I don't require rest time; however, that 30 minutes is great for taking a breather and great for some rejuvenation, so it is still highly valuable on a regular basis.

So now you know (if you didn't already). Sometime as a two year old, your child will most likely start boycotting sleep every so often for a nap--this is the beginning of the weaning process from a nap. But at least it is a weaning process that takes a couple of years :). Try to not stress about missed naps and know your child is being normal.

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Katie @momslrb said...

How do I get my 6 month old to nap? He never sleeps longer than 30 minutes at a time during the day and no more than twice a day. The odd part is he's not cranky or behaving as if he's sleep deprived. He's very even tempered and alert.

I make the excuse that he just doesn't seem like a napper but I really have no idea what to do.

Any advice?

mrs. martin said...

I was so excited about your post title today because that is what my son has been for the past 3 weeks- inconsistent! However, he is only 10 months old. Here is the situation/problem:
10 mos old. Has always been a great napper. In the past few weeks he has just stopped going to sleep! I put him down at the same time every morning and afternoon and he lays down quietly just like always, then as soon as I shut the door to leave, he starts screaming! Sometimes he will fall asleep after 30 minutes or so, but most days, he would probably just scream the whole time if I let him. Or just quiet down and lay there and not sleep. So basically, he has not been napping more than an hour or so a day for a few weeks!
Also, he is similar to Katie's baby in the post above, if I were to skip his nap, he would probably not even care! Is it possible that my baby boy could just not need as much sleep as most babies?
BTW: He sleeps from 8p-8a every night and has never had a problem with that.
Thanks so much!

Kristy Powers said...

This is a great help. I needed a refresher with one at 5 years old and one just about to hit 2. :)

Mollie Energy said...

This is so helpful. I seriously get palpitations when I imagine life without a nap!! But I know she'll be a much different kid then, so I should relax....

Michael and Yvonne said...

DD1 is 4 yrs and 2 months and napping strong! I've been shortening total nap time to about 1.75 hrs, so taking into account 15 min to fall asleep, about 1.5 hr nap. The issue I'm coming into play recently is she is taking ages to fall asleep at night (and she always has taken an hour, so we're over that now). Is this a sign? I don't know if it's a phase and I don't necessarily want to force her to drop it prematurely if she needs it. It seems odd that she sleeps so well for it that I should wean it? Thoughts? Even on shorter nap days it's been an issue, so maybe it's a phase?

gsmaf said...

My daughter is 6 months old and for about a month now she napping aprox 30-45 min. She went from 3 hour naps overnight....Very hard on momma lol! She is still tired when she wakes up. I have even layed down with her after she woke up and she has slept a very good amount of time. Any suggestions...Please! (I have done the whole do not move during nap time, and it doesn't work)

Plowmanators said...

Katie, what is your background? Do you do Babywise or Baby Whisperer at all? What do you do to get him down for a nap?

Plowmanators said...

Mrs. Martin,

This is not uncommon for a 10 month old. Not all 10 month olds do this, but some do, and the mistake is to drop to one nap. That won't work long-term for a baby that age (if you want a happy child).

Try working with waketime lengths. It sounds like he might need a little longer waketime. Also work on physical and mental stimulation while he is awake. Make sure he gets the right amount of appropriate stimulation. Good luck!

Plowmanators said...

I know Kristy...my two year old hasn't gotten there yet so I needed the mental reminder, too :)

Plowmanators said...

Mollie, it isn't that bad. I know it sounds scary, but by that point it is kind of welcome because of all of the other things you have to do.

Plowmanators said...

Yvonne, I would consider it a phase for a while before messing with nap. You would hate to drop the nap if she didn't need to drop the nap yet.

Plowmanators said...


Try extending the amount of time she is awake before her nap. So it she was up for one hour, try 1 hour and 15 minutes and see how she does. She might just need more waketime to get the stimulation she needs to be tired enough for a nap.

SAmom said...

This is not good news! My DD is as old as McKenna (25 months) and have been inconsistently napping for 2 months now. She went down like clockwork at 1pm everyday before that. This current state of affairs is most distressing to me, as baby #2 is on its way! She used to nap up to 2.5 hours, after waking at 7:30 am and going to bed at 7:30pm. She is very happy in her bed and chats and sings but falls asleep only after 1hour to 1.5hour. I have tried putting her down later but it does not solve the problem. She also seems to be very awake when I get to her in the mornings and takes up to 30mins to fall asleep, where previously her night time sleep was perfect as well. Do I put her down earlier/later at night or what can you suggest? And do I put her down later for day nap, e.g. 3pm and till what time do I let her sleep - would it not come too close to her night sleep? Thanks so much!!

SAmom said...

Update: If I put her down a few minutes earlier for bedtime at night, she is still very much awake for a good 30 - 60 minutes. And if I put her down later for a naptime she sometimes only falls asleep after 3pm. HELP?

Plowmanators said...

SAMom, I would just put her down at your normal times and wait for her to outgrow this phase. You have already tried simple solutions.

You can try making sure she has plenty of exercise in the day--but chances are this is just a phase.

If she is grumpy at night, you could put her to bed 30 minutes early, but other than that I would just leave things as they are and not stress about it.

SAmom said...

Thanks Val. So you think this is a stage and she should still be napping 2.5hrs/day, even though this stage has been lasting for more than 3 months?

Plowmanators said...

Yeah, napping will usually be 2-4 hours until at least three, then it starts to get less.

Kaitlyn is four and doesn't fall asleep every day, but days she does sleep, it is usually about 2 hours.

The Hendersons said...

I have a 3 yr old that has been a good napper and we've done babywise. He went to VBS last week and then by the end of the week, he didn't nap fri, sat or Sunday. He napped yesterday b/c I sat in his room after he played for an hour and then today it took 2 hours. I really don't think he is ready not to nap,b/c after the 3 days with no naps he woke up in the middle of the night and woke up an hour early. So, do you have any suggestions on how to get him back in the habit of napping? He's been napping on average anywhere from 1.5-2 hrs every day.

Thanks, rebecca

Plowmanators said...


I would suggest you have some consistent days napping. Stay home for several days to a week and keep things consistent. Sleep begets sleep. He isn't ready to stop napping, but he will nap less and less over time. Good luck!

Jeanne-Marie said...

I'm at a total loss! DD4 is a good napper. She is JUST starting to transition into "rest time" and I still get her to actually sleep during her nap every two days. DD2 is my issue. For about a month now, she is NOT napping. I keep putting her in her bed...I don't go in until nap is over (2hours) but for the past month or so, she cries almost on and off for the whole thing. Then every few days, I'll get an hour or 1.5hour nap out of her. WHAT DO I DO?!?!! :(

Jeanne-Marie said...

I'm at a total loss! DD4 is a good napper. She is JUST starting to transition into "rest time" and I still get her to actually sleep during her nap every two days. DD2 is my issue. For about a month now, she is NOT napping. I keep putting her in her bed...I don't go in until nap is over (2hours) but for the past month or so, she cries almost on and off for the whole thing. Then every few days, I'll get an hour or 1.5hour nap out of her. WHAT DO I DO?!?!! :(

Plowmanators said...

How old is she?

wearp said...

Hi Val,

Thank you so much for your blog! My wonderful, consistent-napping 23 month old has started refusing his nap once a week as of the past month. Could this result in MOTN waking or could something else be causing that? He appears to be going through separation anxiety as well, so I'm a bit stumped...How would you respond to the waking if it continues for over a half hour? This has only happened once and I went in to check, but am concerned it could trigger a bad habit. Thanks for your advice!


tulipcraft said...

Hello, we have been reading your blog for three years now (three year old) and this will be the first questions, so we have been doing really well, but recenently we have had some napping issues.

At three years old he is sleeping from 830pm to 730am perfectly, but naps less than half the time. We put him down at 230pm. Is he sleeping too much at night? What should the total sleep night+nap be at 3?

Thank you so much for your time!

rebekah everson said...

First Thank You So much for this site I read everyday! My wonderful little man Jaron is 3 months and 3 weeks He sleeps 12 hours at night Yay Babywise. I follow babywise as close as possible. Here is our day.
730-800 feed/wake
nap 1hr later
1030 feed/wake
1130 nap
130 feed/wake
230 nap
430 feed/wake
530 nap
630-700 wake
700-730 feed
730-800 bed
Now here is the problem for about 2 months 50% of the time he wakes crying 1hr into His nap( sleeps wonderful at night though). I know he is tired his eyes are closed . we have tried extending and shortening wake time, changing lighting, patting him on the back but not getting out of crib sometimes he has a poopy diaper and I change it and put him back to bed (very rare). Most of the time I let him cry it out. Sometimes its 10 minutes and He is asleep again other times its till I get him up for scheduled feeding 1hr later. It can be anytime not one specific nap. I thought the binky was the problem so I eliminated it a week ago it does not seem to affect anything. everything else is perfect. He goes to sleep like an angel not a peep. Couldn't ask for an easier baby. He is as happy as they come...lol Am I doing the right thing letting him cry? Any thoughts would be great! Thank You again for taking Your time to do this.

Pearcy Family said...

Thank you for your blog! It has been extremely helpful to me the last few years.

My daughter is a few months away from turning 3. A few weeks before Christmas we took her pacifier away from her which she used only to sleep. She was napping for 2-3 hours a day and sleeping from 10-11 hours at night. Immediately after taking the paci, she stopped napping and starting having a hard time falling asleep at night. She wouldn't get out of her bed, but she would basically have independent playtime on her bed for her 2-3 hours.

I thought it would go away with a little time, and after Christmas vacation, she did start napping again for a couple of weeks. We are now back to not napping with any regularity. When she had her paci, all I had to do was put her in her bed and give her the paci, and the girl went to sleep. Now she wants to read books and for me to stay in her room with her for a little while. She will nap if I lay with her for 30 min - an hour, but that is not going to work for me. I have another baby due in June, and I want to figure out how to get her napping regularly without me having to lay in her bed with her.

I have tried taking all of her animals and pillows out of the bed, but she can play with her fingers and toes for a couple of hours. Also, she is starting to get increasingly daring as far as getting out of her bed to get the animals or even coming out of her room. I understand that she is starting to wean off of naps, but I can't have her not napping at all or not even resting. How do you suggest that I train her to get back to napping regularly? Do I sit at her door and say "hush" every time she starts talking or "lay down" every time she stands or sits up? I'm at a loss. Thank you for your help!

Lindsey Shumway said...

I have been reading everything I can about this topic! My 2yo is almost 3 and I really wouldn't mind her inconsistent napping if she was resting in bed. But she acts like a loony! She's still in a crib and she just plays and signs and jumps. If I get stern with her to lay down and rest it's worse. How can I get her to stop with the craziness. It's been an on and off problem for probably 6 months. It is overlapping into bedtime now too, she'll take hours to fall asleep at night (even on days where she wouldn't nap). If you have some posts about this that I've missed please link them- I'm desperate to improve my approach to handling this.

frances said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
frances said...

My lo just turned 2. He wakes up 7-7:30 and bedtime 7:15-7:30.
lunch is at noon and nap 1.
Question is about his nap.
Recently he has been taking forever to go to sleep and yesterday skip his nap altogether. Today he finally fell asleep at 2:20 and only slept 1/2hr but after going in a few times.
I never had to go in before even if heard him playing because after a few minutes he would go to sleep.
Now, however, I feel like i have to go in and tell him sleep. I have even played a recording by my husband telling him to go to sleep bc that would work (not working anymore).
What do i do? do i give him a little spanking to let him know i'm serious?
thanks, frances

Valerie Plowman said...

Hi Frances, there is a 2 year old sleep regression, so it could be that

It is also important to just accept that you can put a child in bed, but you can't force sleep. Two year olds start to not take a nap every once in a while, and that is normal.

With that said, you might try adding 5-10 minutes to your wake time length. So start. So at 1:05 or 1:10.


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