There are a limitless supply of books referencing children’s sleep habits. Nothing is more confusing or frustrating to parents than their child’s (or their own) lack of sleep. Kids that don’t get enough sleep are more difficult to deal with. Which basically means they’re prone to behavioral issues and general irritability. But, getting the right amount of sleep is not just about avoiding cranky kids. Sleep is integral to your child’s growth and development. It’s just as important as giving them right foods and nutrients to supplement their diet. So, how do you know how much sleep is enough? How do you know if it’s time to let go of your child’s nap?
Here’s how you know…
1. How Much Sleep Is Enough?
The best way to determine if your child is getting enough sleep is to check what’s developmentally appropriate for their age. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 11-14 hours per day for children ages 1-2 years and 10-13 hours per day for children 3-5 years old. If your child is not getting all of that sleep during the night, then they could probably benefit from a regular nap.
2. Watch for Patterns
Babies usually develop sleep patterns that carry on into their toddler years. According to KidsHealth, around 12-14 months children typically drop one of their two regular naps. At that point, one longer afternoon nap is generally part of their sleep routine. If you notice your child consistently having a hard time settling down for their nap or if their nap time keeps getting shorter and shorter, they may be moving out of nap phase. Don’t be surprised if their napping habits turn erratic. Your child might easily go down for an afternoon nap on Monday and resist the nap completely on Tuesday. These are all clues that their little bodies may be ready to transition.
It’s important to keep in mind transitioning out of a nap routine is not an overnight process. This is why it’s suggested you watch for signs of your child’s fatigue and adjust accordingly.
Dr. Harvey Karp, author of Happiest Baby On The Block, recommends being flexible during this transition time. For instance, if your toddler no longer naps in the afternoon, they’ll be more tired at the end of the day. The will most likely lead to an earlier bedtime to help them get the appropriate amount of sleep. Responding to their changed sleep cycle could also result in the need for an
3. Don’t Give Up Too Quickly
A child who doesn’t want to take a nap is very different than a child that doesn’t need to take a nap. Just because your toddler resists a nap for a few days doesn’t necessarily mean that their nap is gone for good. Make sure you’re giving them an adequate chance at a successful nap. Place them in an environment conducive to sleep. Dimly lit, quiet spaces are best.
Take the appropriate time to get them ready to sleep. Keep utilizing whatever sleep routine works for you. Maybe it’s a story or a quiet song. Make sure it’s something that lets your toddler know it’s time to rest. If you’re diligent with your nap routine and your child still has consistent difficulty napping – maybe its time to move on. Or, if your child’s nap is consistently interfering with their bedtime, it may be time to quit the daytime nap.
4. One Size Does Not Fit All
While there are lots of guidelines for children’s sleep requirements, each child is different. Only 50 percent of children will still be napping at age four, and at age fiv seventy percent are done with naps completely.
Even with all of the statistics and guidelines, only you will be able to tell what’s best for your child. One of the best indicators that he or she is getting enough sleep is their behavior. Do they seem tired or more irritable? Are they easily frustrated or having a difficult time focusing? Are they slow to wake in the morning? Have they developed new or aggressive behaviors since foregoing their nap? There will be some bumps in behavior during any transition, but if you notice consistent changes in your child’s behavior, they may still need more sleep.
5. All In Good Time
The key ingredient to a successful nap transition is patience. Be mindful of your child’s schedule and carefully watch their demeanor. Look for signs that they’re getting (or not getting) enough sleep. Know that transitioning is an ongoing process that often involves one step forward and two steps back. Be flexible and rest assured that like most childhood milestones, you and your child will move through it together, right on time.