Sleep is always a hot topic among us parents. Since we understand the struggle, we thought we’d try our best to help you out! You asked us your most pressing questions about sleep & your kids and we asked Janey Reilly, Infant & Toddler Sleep Consultant at WeeSleep to answer them.
Q1: My son will be starting school in September and they don't allow naps but his daycare currently does. What's the best way to transition him to no more naps so he is ready for school?
A1: The transition from one-nap to no-naps can be a big one for many children, but there are certainly ways you can help ease your child into this change.
Option 1: Maintain the daily nap until your son begins school, and continue it on weekends once school has started. If your child is clearly not ready to drop that nap (and still goes down for his nap willingly!) then continue the nap right up until the first day of school, but ensure you have a nice, early bedtime (as early as 6:30pm) during school days. Also, continue to offer him his naptime on the weekends, to allow him to make up for the sleep debt he has gained during the week. Then, once he shows signs of no longer needing that nap on the weekends, skip to Option 2!
Option 2: Cut the nap cold turkey, but transition with some afternoon down-time. This option makes sense both for those parents who are already finding their child no longer needs a daily nap, and for parents whose children will be forced into a no-nap scenario once kindergarten begins.
Remember, if your child still clearly needs a nap, you may wish to go with option 1. However, when it becomes clear that your child is just not going to sleep at the usual time every afternoon, commit to ending it cold turkey rather than waffling back and forth, trying to make your child nap on the off chance it might work that day. This will just cause frustration for both of you. It’s better for your child’s body clock to just be consistent from the start.
A few weeks before your child is scheduled to begin kindergarten, cut the nap. In order to preserve your sanity and give your child some downtime, try having an afternoon quiet time. After lunch each day, take your child to his bedroom and help him become engaged in a calm, quiet activity like coloring, reading, or playing with cards or blocks. Tell him you’re going to take a rest and will come and get him when the timer rings. Then, set a timer for 30 minutes and encourage your child to stay in his room until the timer goes off. This might not result in the longer break you got when he took naps, but it’s good for both of you and will help take the edge off so you can get through the afternoon and evening.
It usually takes about a month for the body to adapt to any significant change in sleep habits, so don’t panic if you have a few rough weeks while your child adjusts to no nap. And the bonus is, he will be exhausted and ready for bed nice and early. Once your child drops his naps, you can do bedtime as early as 6:30, which leaves you with your evenings free!
Q2: I've got 2 kids ages 7 and almost 5. It takes about an hour to get them in PJs, brush teeth, use the washroom and have 2-3 books. And it's still an argument to get them to bed... what's the best procedure and how long on average should it take kids to get ready for bed?
A2: Ah, bedtime battles! We all have them, but there are ways to manage them so that the whole family is getting great sleep (quickly and quietly!).
I always recommend to my clients that the bedtime routine not last longer than 30-40 minutes. This allows your child(ren) enough time to wind down and get ready for sleep, but not so much time that your child becomes overstimulated and overtired.
It sounds like you have a great, consistent bedtime routine in place – this is great! A bath (every night!) is a great sleep cue for babies and for toddlers. This, followed by PJs, and a couple of short stories, makes for a great set-up for fantastic sleep.
In order to ensure your child’s routine does not drag on for ages and cause bedtime challenges:
- Limit the bath to 10 minutes, max. This is enough time to wash and have a quick play in the tub.
- Only two books! Let your child pick which two they would like to read (children love to make decisions), but always limit it to two stories. Have your children read with you together to cut down the lengthy bedtime routine – tell them you will read two stories, and they each get to choose one. Also, ensure your stack of “bedtime books” does not include any that take longer than 5 minutes each to read.
- Rid the bedroom of stimulating toys, which can cause bedtime stalling and distractions.
- Be firm about “lasts.” LAST trip to the toilet, LAST sip of water, LAST hug and kiss, and don’t waver. When your child knows what to expect (i.e. stall tactics and 100 requests for more water, more kisses, and more trips to the bathroom are not going to work), they will stall less and sleep more! A bedtime chart can also help with this – mentally check off each element of the routine as you complete them with your children, so they know when the last step is complete and it is time for sleep.
Q3: When do babies usually drop their morning nap and go to one afternoon nap?
A3: It can sometimes be difficult to tell if your child is ready to make the switch from two naps a day to one. The average age that children switch from two naps to one is 13 to 15 months. Some babies are ready as early as 12 months, while others hold on to two until they are 18 or 19 months.
All too often parents will switch to one nap in hopes that this will improve the situation at night. If you are a past client of mine, you will already know that the more your child naps throughout the day, the better their sleep will be at night. Over-tiredness can be a baby’s worst enemy. So, before you make the switch, watch for the possible signs that your child might be ready.
- Your child may begin to sleep longer for their morning nap and progressively shorter for the afternoon nap.
- Many children who are ready to make the switch will just simply play in their crib for the entire afternoon nap and never sleep, or if they do sleep it will be too late in the day and you need to wake them to preserve their bedtime.
- Occasionally it is the morning nap that becomes the challenge and the afternoon nap being the long one.
Making the transition from two naps to one is not an easy thing to do; it will most likely take a month or more before your child seems comfortable with the change. Although it can be challenging, once you have made the decision to switch, it is better to just go for it and make the transition, rather than waffling between two naps and one.
My suggestion is to make the transition over the course of 7-10 days, gradually pushing your child’s morning nap further ahead by 15-30 minutes each day, until you reach the desired mid-day naptime. Put your child down for an afternoon rest on the first few days of the transition, to ensure she is not super overtired by bedtime. And don’t be afraid of an early bedtime (as early as 6pm) as your child makes the transition to one nap per day.
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