Your Child and Naptimes

Just as  your kid requires interaction and healthy food to thrive, she’ll also need sleep – far more than you require, and more than she’ll get at night.  This will diminish as she grows, but you’ll be surprised at how much time she spends studying the inside of her eyelids.  Years before our first child, we visited with friends who were new parents.  When I commented to them about how much fun their new son probably was, Mom’s response was "nah, he just eats and mostly sleeps.  We call him our VIPP – Very Important Potted Plant."

How long are the naps and how often will she nap?

While no two children are exactly alike in personality, there are typical patterns to the small body’s sleep needs.  Usually, the pattern will be:

AGE                                        # NAPS      AVG DURATION

< 12 Months                         2                  2 hours/nap

12 – 24 Months                    1                  2 hours/nap

24 – 36 Months                    1                  1 – 1.5 hours/nap

Remember that these are averages and yours just might be different.  One of my kids only napped for an hour at a time during the first year, while an acquaintance’s  son would sleep for three hours at a pop.

Near the end of each age level, the shift will begin to occur.  The morning nap will naturally shorten until she stays awake; the next day, she might again act as though she’s ready to conk out and the day afterwards, not conk out.  This is a natural transition until you’re clear the next level has been reached.  There is no absolutely certain sign that she’s dropping a nap or changing her sleep schedule.  The real adjustment that you need to make during this period is to be ready to feed her earlier so as to move up the afternoon nap.

Why does a child need to nap?

Your daughter is growing at a phenomenal rate and her body is consuming energy and fuel at a massive clip, kind of like Mainland China.  Even with a decent night’s sleep and a solid diet, her body’s capacity to cope will diminish unless she can get more rest.  The naps will lessen as she develops a better nighttime sleep pattern, but growth spurts and illness will place added burdens on her body and increase the need for a good nap.

"The Witching Hour"

If you ask most homemaker parents about their least favorite time of the day, the response would probably be late afternoon, aka The Witching Hour.  Even with naps, the kid’s energy levels are waning as she wears out after the day and she’ll likely need more attention just as you’re trying to get dinner ready.  It is a good test of your ability to multi-task, even with a nap.  So how would it be if there were no nap at all?

How do I know when my kid needs a nap?

Obvious signs of needing a nap are:

  • rubbing eyes;
  • yawning;
  • for babies, drooping head and neck.

Not-so-obvious signs of need are:

  • increasing crankiness or tantrum;
  • shortened attention span (if that’s even possible);
  • more fidgeting.

How do I put my kid down for a nap?

Let me say this now.  There is no 100% Guaranteed way to successfully put a child down for a nap, so be patient until you get the hang of it.

Kids do better with a routine as they find the familiarity comforting, so unless she utterly collapses on the floor from exhaustion – which occasionally happens – be prepared to spend some time in a daily ritual.  This involves a period of quiet time to wind down from activity; you can try a short book, perhaps followed by a hummed or sung lullaby.

You ideally want her to fall asleep by herself instead of in your arms, so make it a practice of getting her to the crib – on her back – before she conks out.  Whether or not she cries, be prepared to check on her every several minutes until she does sleep and don’t panic if she does cry.  In that event, reassure her and step out again; recognize though that persistent crying might be indicative of other problems and you should check for other issues.


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