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Five Toddler Naptime Tips

by Dr. Heather Wittenberg | July 23, 2012 | Child Development

My friend Gina has these incredibly predictable twins who used to nap like clockwork. But after their second birthdays, everything went out the window. Poor Gina had fussy, overtired toddlers who refused to nap. Afternoons became a nightmare of whining and meltdowns.

None of my four babies were predictable nappers, so I shared my Five Toddler Naptime Tips with her:

1.     Get over it. A baby’s brain develops and changes so quickly that the old napping schedule just won’t work anymore. Don’t waste your energy trying to urge your little one back into the old schedule. But don’t despair: It’s just a matter of time until your baby’s “new normal” emerges.

2.     Get creative. Try new schedules – you won’t hurt her by experimenting to find her new normal. If your baby used to take two naps, aim for one noontime nap, with an earlier evening bedtime. If your tot used to take one nap and now refuses, try for afternoon quiet time and an early bedtime. Darken her room, so she might sleep later in the morning too.

3.     Get patient. Things will be a little tricky until the new normal settles in. Try to make your own schedule less demanding while your baby goes through this time of transition.

4.     Get active. To short-circuit the afternoon of fussing, hit the park or the pool. Sunshine, friends and fun improve everyone’s mood and energy levels – and make an earlier bedtime more likely.

And, most important:

5.     Don’t worry. A healthy baby eventually gets the sleep she needs, given that you’re generally consistent about her schedule. Short-term sleep deprivation is hard on a baby and parents alike, but these changes in your child’s schedule are just temporary. Over time, your little one will get enough Z’s, despite these temporary disruptions.

What are your tips for surviving a non-napping baby?