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How to manage nap refusal or short naps.

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This blog will guide you on how to handle nap refusal or short naps on those tricky nap days to help prevent further difficulties with sleep. Know that at some point everyone will deal with their baby refusing a nap, fighting their nap or having very short naps.

Naps do not always come easily, they take practice!

Babies can transition naps up to 5 times before they are on 1 nap and so it is no surprise that naps get tricky from time to time. Nap refusal or short naps are also often caused by the use of a prop to get baby initially to sleep, or it could simply be teething or over tiredness.

I always felt very isolated in my struggles with naps and sleep. Since becoming a sleep consultant, I have come to realise just how many people feel isolated in some way when it comes to their baby’s sleep.

The top 2 reasons people tend to need sleep help is down to numerous night wake ups and lots of short naps.

The nap is generally kept until little ones are between 2 ½ – 3 years old, sometimes longer if night time sleep is not consolidated. It is also around this time that the transition from cot to bed can take place. Take a read of my blog ‘Transition from Cot to Bed’, for tips on how to do this with as little disruption as possible. It is worth mentioning though that it is important that children have their sleep skills at this stage otherwise you may have a little face at your bedside peeking at you at 2am.  

Short naps.

Short naps can happen as a result of not having independent sleep skills, (that is, they cannot go to sleep without needing something external to get them to sleep). They could also be down to a lack or routine of consistency as you may have been on holiday, or they could have had lots of naps ‘on the go’ recently. To get them back on track simply be consistent with their routine, be mindful of their awake windows and they will be back on track within a few days.

When I start to work with families, good naps do not happen straight away. When night time sleep becomes consolidated, naps start to come together and they will elongate with time. If your little one is well but is having trouble going down for their nap at their usual time then take them out as a one off in the pram or car just to make sure they have some sleep. Make sure to go back to your usual routine the next day though and try not to go out in the pram or car 2/3 days in a row as this nap method may become your little ones preference.

If they have a short nap then consider the next ‘awake window’ for the next nap or bedtime as you may need to make it slightly shorter to ensure they are not going down for their next sleep overtired.

Nap refusal

It is not too often that naps are refused after you have carried out the emergency nap scenario of having a nap in the pram or car but of course it does happen. Around the age of 2 years old it occasionally happens and is a developmental stage that will last a couple of weeks. Consistency is key and if you continue offering them a nap at the same time every day they will be back to napping well soon.

Like I mention above, there are about 5 nap transitions a child can go through before they are on the 1 nap a day. If your little one starts refusing the last nap of the day, or it becomes very short (less than 20 minutes), they may be ready to transition naps.

Awake Windows

This is the time that your little one is awake between naps and before bedtime. An awake window dictates the amount of time a little one can be awake for before they start to become over tired. Every little one is different and so bear this in mind when following my guide. Fifteen minutes either side can mean the difference of being under or over-tired. These times are there to make sure your little ones goes down for their nap / bedtime with the right amount of sleep pressure for their age to help prevent nap refusal or short naps. This will result in your little one being ready for sleep and have good quality sleep.

If you are not sure your little ones’ current awake windows are right for them may I suggest you keep an eye on their mood and their sleepy cues for a little while. When you have a good idea of this you could reference this guide to see how your little ones awake windows fit into this guide.

0-6 week: 45mins – 60 minutes
6-12 weeks: 1 – 1 ½ hours
4 months: 1 ½ – 2 hours
5 months: 1 ¾ – 2 ½ hours
6-8 months: 2 ½ – 3 hours
9-12 months: 3 – 4 hours
12-18 months: 4 – 6 hours

All little ones have bad naps days but the important thing to remember is that it is a phase and with consistency, routine and timings, naps will sort themselves out.

If you are struggling with naps on a regular basis and all naps seem to be short or are being refused then do get in touch. The sleep plan will guide you through wake windows and information about how to transition naps down the line.   Book a free, no obligation call and we can talk about working together to get you a better night’s sleep.

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