Friday, August 12, 2011

Ask the Host Q4: The End of Naptime

My daughter's bedtime is suddenly impossible. I think it's time to cut out the nap and have been trying to to do this for a few days. She's still acting like she needs a nap but it's taking two hours to get her to bed at night and I can't keep it up anymore. HELP!

This may not seem obvious to you because you've got a crusty baby on your hands, but if she's acting like she still needs the nap it's because she probably does. Remember when she was tiny and you heard the expression "sleep begets sleep"? Or maybe you didn't hear that one, in which case pretend I'm a genius! Anyway, the philosophy is that kids who are well rested tend to sleep better, so dropping the nap might backfire. The bedtime issues could be a phase that will be over in a week or two, but once the daily naps are gone, they're gone forever. I'd *seriously* advise against letting it go so easily. The Parasite has skipped her nap a few times and boy, howdy! was she a pleasure to be around by dinnertime. Nap time is precious time for kids AND parents. I've got a few different ideas to try before you resort to cutting out naps altogether:
  1. Wait it out. Maybe there's a new developmental leap in the works. Maybe she's just trying to push your buttons and because it's working so well she's doing it a little more. She might go back to her regular bedtime routine in a couple of weeks.
  2. Try an earlier bedtime. Seems counterintuitive, I know, but a lot of the time fighting sleep stems from overtiredness (is that a word? IT IS NOW!) They're just generally grumpy and a fight about sleep is as good a fight as any.
  3. Try an earlier and/or slightly shorter nap. We have no idea how long The Parasite would sleep on the weekends if left to her own devices. We wake her up at a set time because letting her go any later interferes with bedtime. Obviously the exact timing depends on your own household routine, but a little experimenting can go a long way. 
  4. Institute a "Quiet Time" policy. Did you see this post about our recent experience visiting the fam? Put her in bed with some soft toys and books and let her fall asleep on her own terms. She might throw a fit of protest about this approach at first. I think it's OK to let her have herself a little pity party. Some people confuse this with the "cry it out" method. I think there's a pretty big difference between letting a four month old with no language capabilities cry unattended to "train" them to sleep on your schedule and riding out the fit of a pissed off two year old who doesn't want to go to bed.
  5. Take up drinking as a competitive sport. That's not really an idea, I was just testing to see if you're still reading.
Remember that you need to give anything you try longer than "a few days" to work. If you try one thing one day and then another thing another day and something different the day after that you're not giving her the consistency that a toddler needs to feel secure. They're highly adaptable, yes, but they still thrive on knowing what happens next. Good luck!

This post is part of a weekly series, Ask the Host, that allows you to ask any question you want as long as you're prepared for completely honest answers. Got a question? Send me an email with "I have a question" in the subject line.


Catch My Words said...

Your last idea seemed pretty sound to me.


The Host said...

Joyce, #5 is the solution to all problems. It might not get the kid to bed earlier, or make the workplace any easier, or make the mortgage payment any easier to come up with... But it will make you care a whole lot less! :)

Alison said...

My children are older, 12 and 9, and we still do "quiet time" every afternoon on weekends during the school year and daily during school breaks.

They can do anything they want as long as they are laying down and there is no talking...reading, listening to music on their ipods or watching tv quietly.

I take the time as "me" time to catch a quick nap or read a bit for myself.

Admittedly, I also use #5 on a regular basis, and have since they were....well, born.

The Host said...

Alison, I've been practising #5 since before I had a kid. I didn't know that's why I was steeling my liver, but I'm sure glad I did! I'm thrilled to learn that quiet time can work beyond the little kid years. The Parasite is only two and a bit so we can probably count on naps for a while longer, but I think I'll need her to go read a book or something beyond that. I love her but she's exhausting!