There are many lessons that parents have to learn as they go through parenthood, and one of them is that children do not like to sleep. You will spend your pregnancies and you’re preparing for parenting, learning all about safe sleep solutions and safe bed sharing and why your cot needs to have no loose covers. But one thing that none of the books can teach you is whether or not your child is going to be one who likes to sleep or not. There are some miraculous children who, even though they wake up frequently in the night as a newborn, which, let’s be honest, is expected. Their children start sleeping through and that’s it. Game over.
They always will sleep and they will never have any issues. And then there are other children who do not sleep through the night and refuse to do so for several years.These are the same children that have difficulty with nap time. For a toddler who is always on the go, nap time is an inconvenient stop to their fun. It’s not the time to put on a nap sack, grab a Binky and curl up in their cot and go to sleep. It’s a time for fighting and arguing that nap time is the best thing for them.
But babies and children need sleep. It’s how they’re going to preserve their energy. It’s how they’re going to improve their mental and cognitive reasoning, and it’s how they’re going to grow. It’s also how their parents are going to finally get a break. Improving that time should be something that is on your radar, and if it hasn’t been so far, then it’s time to start looking at it, especially if your child is terrible at napping.So with this in mind, we’ve got some top tips to help you to improve nap time and make life easier on everybody.
- Don’t skip out on nap time. If you want to improve nap time, you need to make sure that you’re actually enforcing it. Skipping nap time may be tempting, but it’s not going to help anybody, least of all your child. A missed nap can lead to a very cranky and very overtired baby, and that can lead to further night wakings and you not getting any kind of evening or semblance of time that isn’t spent with a screaming child. An overtired child is one that will tantrum and be unable to reason with, so make sure that napping in their cot at least twice a day is happening. Of course, before the age of six months, children should be napping in the same room as you, so if you are downstairs, then having a pram or push-chair or even a small bassinet downstairs can help.
- Get to know your child’s sleep cues. The rule of two is so important from newborn upward. Once your child wakes up from sleep, any kind of sleep. Give them a bottle or breastfeed them and then watch for their cues of tiredness, which normally happen within two hours of their wake up. That time extends as they get older, and by the time they’re in their toddlerhood, they should be napping in the morning and the afternoon. Once they get towards school age, the morning or afternoon nap would be dropped and they would stop napping through the day entirely. You can only do this if you know what their sleep cues are.
- Reduce screen time for about 30 minutes before they start to wind down for any kind of nap. Remove screens from the occasion and have quiet time. Avoid using the TV as a pre nap tool because all it’s going to do is keep your child’s brain hyperactive and awake. Make those 30 minutes before nap time for books and for snuggles on the couch.
- Consider a sleep schedule, but don’t be too hard on yourself. Children will naturally settle into a nap time routine that suits them, not what suits you. Trying to force your child into a sleep schedule is only going to cause anxiety for you and frustration for everybody in the house. Rather than spend 2 hours of your time trying to force your child into a nap, just watching their sleep cues can ensure that they are down for a sleep within 15 minutes. Not only is that easier, it’s going to be less stressful on you, which is the whole point.
- Be consistent about nap time. Nap times don’t need to be minute, nor do they need to be in the same space with a silent area in the room every time. But you do need to be consistent about winding down for that time. Children will pick up when they’re supposed to wind down and sleep, and when they’re supposed to be awake. If you’re consistent with nap times, you won’t have that problem.
- Make the environment a favorable one. Whether your child likes to sleep with the night light on or they like to sleep in the pitch black and silent room, then make sure that their nap time is synonymous with their bedtime. When you do this, you will ensure that your child is happier and healthier, and you’ll ensure that they are able to get themselves off to sleep, recognising that now is the time to do it.
- Avoid harsh sleep training methods. Sticking your baby in another room and leaving them to cry is not how you get a child to comfortably sleep. That’s how you get a child to give up asking you for what they need. It’s so important that you know that as a parent because there are going to be plenty of books and so-called experts telling you that crying it out is the method to go with when it comes to training your baby. When it comes to scheduling nap times, you’re not training your child, but you are simply responding to their natural sleep cues and honoring them.You will find that you fall into a natural and easy pattern as a result.