Rock-a-bye Baby: Naptime!

It seems like everyone I talk to is frustrated with their children’s naps- or lack there of. When I tell people that my 5-year-old takes a 2 hour nap, at the same time that my 3-year-old takes a 2 hour nap and now my 8-week-old takes a 1.5 hour nap at the same time as well- they seem to comment how “lucky” I am. Yes, I am blessed with good sleepers (I prayed a lot for good sleepers!) however, I have worked REALLY hard to get them to abide by this schedule and with a little effort you can have napping angels as well! I read the article at the bottom of this post and have seen enough studies to know that kids need naps- and to be honest, moms need kids to nap too! I don’t know what I would do without my “break”- I can sleep, do bible study, read, prepare dinner, laundry- you name it- it happens between 2pm and 4pm. There are several nap phases with children, I believe. Here is my synopsis:
Phase 1: (0-13 weeks) I generally (very loosely) follow Baby Wise and with that plan they eat then are awake for 1.5 hours, asleep for 1.5 hours; therefore there are several naps throughout the day and usually they are happy to be napping!
Phase 2: (13 weeks-1 year) The move to a 4 hour schedule- so they are awake for 2 hours then asleep for 2 hours. This is where I start to manipulate their schedule according to what works for the family. I want my kids wake up time to be 8am, so I put them to bed at 8pm and then allow them to sleep until 8am when I feed them and start the 4 hour schedule: (NOTE: baby #3 might just have this schedule in the car between errands, I am prepared to be flexible!)
8am: wake
10am -12pm: nap #1
2pm-4pm: nap #2
8pm: bed
I always love that Baby Wise says: nap time starts when the parent says it starts and ends when the parent says it ends. There is a time during each sleep period when the baby is active, maybe even crying- if you pick them up at the first movement it will train them that they are in charge of waking and sleeping. I think this plays a huge role in the future of napping! Make sure to give them time to fall back asleep- my girls usually fall back asleep if given the chance.
Phase 3: (1-2ish years- or as long as they are in a crib) Maintenance- I believe this phase is all about “training” the child to nap when the parent says it is time to nap- which is the time when their little bodies are ready for a nap. When you have a schedule, you have the confidence to know when they need that. Baby Wise points out that if your child wakes unhappy or crying, they have probably not received enough sleep and most of the time, they will fall back asleep if given the chance (i.e. leave them in there until you think they are ready- even if they cry a little bit or delay response) At some point in this phase, usually around 18 months, they drop the morning nap and are down to 1 nap a day= FREEDOM! You will love the one long nap a day, you can accomplish so much more outside the house! My girls were both sleepy in the mornings so it took a few weeks of keeping them up and pushing back the nap before they made in to 2pm (which is the time I chose for nap- you decide what time works for you).
Phase 4: (2ish-5 years) When they move into a “big kid bed” that is when the fun begins! Usually, if you have followed the above, they will stay in the bed whether it is a crib or not, until you say it is time to wake. However, when given the first taste of freedom it gets a touch challenging. This is where you have a choice- you can let them come out of the room and decide when nap time ends or you can train them to be obedient and stay in bed until their nap is complete. I will say, Ellie is one of the few kids who still naps in her pre-school class and she has been talking a lot about “skipping a nap” because she chats about it with her buddies at school. They all tell her they don’t nap and she thinks that is a great idea- which means I need to “reinforce” the importance of nap time at our home (because she still needs one- some kids do not require it at 4/5, every child is different). Here is what works for me; I give the child a generous amount of time to fall asleep- if I hear them on the monitor or check on them and they are not sleeping- there is a consequence. In my opinion, you can go a number of ways here- the key is consistency and (sadly) it has to “hurt”, meaning if your child sleeps with 8 items (as mine do) and you take away the baby at the end of the bed that they don’t really care about- you will probably be unsuccessful- take the prize item the first time- for example the blankie- yes they will throw a fit, but I bet the next time all you will have to say is- “if you do not sleep, I will take X and you will not be getting it back until you can obey mommy and take a nap.” At bedtime that night, you will have to remind them why they are not sleeping with that item and that when they obey mommy or daddy you are excited to give it back. What I really care about with my 5-year-old is that she is resting in her room from 2-3 and not waking her sister- who shares a room. I do not necessarly require sleep anymore, but most of the time she falls asleep because she is required to be in her bed, quietly resting. My 3-year-old needs to sleep, so I make sure she is sleeping at nap time or she will get a consequence. I have had to give further consequence when this becomes an obedience issue vs a sleep issue.

All of that being said, of course there are days when we skip naps or take naps at a different time to fit in our schedule. I believe you can start at any phase- it takes a full week or two to establish a new routine and the key is sticking to it. If you are firm and consistent at the start and the nap is “parent directed” not “child directed” you will have napping children! These are just my opinions, I am not a doctor or expert at all- we have issues just like everyone else! I realize I have only been doing this for 5 years and I have SO much to learn. This is simply what had worked for my family. Sleep is extremely important around here, so I have worked hard to maintain this wonderful daily routine! If it is not important to you- do whatever works for your home. That is the beauty of our “job” as parents- we get to decide what is important to us and how we want to enforce those important things in our home. God called YOU to raise your family, no one else has been called to parent your children, so do whatever you feel is best for your family! Hope this was helpful for those of you frustrated by naps- please feel free to email me or comment below if you have any questions about what I said above.

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