I’ve been struggling with naps this month. Okay, if I’m being completely honest, I’ve been struggling with naps this year. Why? Because my toddler refuses to nap.
Toddler naps are so important. Especially when you’re a stay-at-home parent with a partner who travels through the week. Naps are like the mandatory lunch break you get to take when you’re working a full-time office job. They give you a chance to breathe, recuperate, and maybe get something done that you’ve been putting off. And when your toddler refuses to nap, it can throw off your entire day. When your toddler refuses to nap for three straight months . . . well, things can start to feel a little hopeless.
This is not a new problem for us.
My daughter G has never been a great napper. She spent her first months sleeping in a carrier or in my arms. When she was five months old, she napped every one of her three naps in the stroller (and I was walking about 15K per day on average!). When she was a year old, half her naps occurred in the crib, and the other half were in bed with me after I nursed her to sleep. For the past few months, though, she hasn’t napped at all–and I’m about to lose my mind. Why is it that the three things kids are inherently meant to do — sleep, eat, grow — cause us so much stress and anxiety?
“If she’s tired enough, she’ll sleep.” Yeah, right.
Has anyone ever told you that your kid will sleep when he’s tired? Someone said that to me once and I actually laughed. Little G is about to turn two. At this age, she is testing her boundaries and I have to respect that. But from February to May, G napped maybe a total of 10 times. And it wasn’t like she was ready to drop the nap. By the late afternoon she was an exhausted, walking meltdown, and getting dinner on the table was a Herculean feat. (And once that dinner was finally on the table, half the time she was too exhausted to eat anything.) When I saw photos of those kids who are so tired they fall asleep at the table, I felt a crushing surge of jealousy.
I dreaded nap time. I felt physically sick when I started clearing the dishes after lunch and thought about what was to come. The funny thing is most of the time, G was totally fine with heading up to her room for a nap. We’d follow our nap-time routine, I’d stick her in the crib, but as soon as I left the room, she’d be talking up a storm and there would be no nap in sight.
So what do you do when your toddler refuses to nap?
By the start of this month I’d reached the end of my rope. I asked for advice wherever I could find it. We were already following a lot of common sleep rules: White noise? Check. Blackout curtains? Check. Putting her down awake? Check. In the mornings I made sure G had enough time to play and work off some energy (without becoming overstimulated). I tried to time lunches so that she was full, but still had some time to digest before sleeping. We tried earlier nap times and later ones. I’m telling you, I became obsessed with trying to get my daughter to fall asleep. But nothing worked!
When I posted about my trouble on my local moms’ Facebook group, a few people said that their kids had dropped naps at this age. This was not good news. I needed this nap. More importantly, G needed the nap. I wasn’t ready to give in quite yet. Luckily, a staggering number of people suggested another option. I was blown away when I saw how many people had success hiring a sleep consultant.
When you’re out of options, call in the pros.
I wish I had a secret formula for toddler sleep to share with you. I wish I’d figured it all out on my own, with a few easy steps that you could follow, too. If I’m being completely honest, I’m disappointed that the only real advice I can offer if your toddler refuses to nap is the advice that was given to me: seek professional help.
I’m not going to pretend this is an option for everyone. Not all exhausted parents can afford the $250 to (I’m not even kidding) $10,000 price tag that comes along with guaranteed sleep for their child. Many families just don’t have that kind of wiggle room in their budgets.
A glimmer of hope . . .
One evening in late April, following one of the worst toddler meltdowns I had ever experienced (and the resulting nightmare of a bedtime), I sat on my sofa and sobbed. Things felt absolutely hopeless. I was physically and emotionally exhausted from wrangling my over-tired toddler day after day. I’d reached the end of my rope. After pulling myself together, I went back to the thread I’d started on my local Facebook group and searched for sleep consultant recommendations. A huge number of parents sang the praises of Lisa at WeeSleep, and I decided to get in touch.
The result? G has napped more this month than in the past three months combined. She is actually happy when I put her into her crib! I admit, things haven’t been perfect. Just when I think we’ve finally got this nap-time trouble beat, G will go another three days without napping. But–I have hope. If I’ve learned one thing about kids since becoming a parent, it’s this: consistency is key. We will follow our new nap-time routine, and I have hope that things will improve. My daughter may never be one of those kids passed out in her plate of spaghetti at 5:30 in the evening, but at least she’ll nap more often than not. I am not going to give up.
Have you struggled with naps? Do you have any tips to get a stubborn toddler to sleep? Please share in the comments!