My 11 month old daughter has been taking two daily naps for months, one in the morning around 9:30 or 10, and another after lunchtime. Lately, though, she’s been skipping one or the other—sometimes she’ll refuse to nap in the morning (she’ll just play or fuss in her crib until I come and get her). Other days she’ll stay awake all afternoon without napping. It’s making our days crazy and unpredictable, and of course, she’s overtired by the evening. What’s going on?
Few things are more frustrating to parents than skipped naps, especially when you’ve been waiting all day for a much-needed break, and your tot is exhausted and clearly needs to nap.
An occasional skipped nap isn’t something to stress out over. But when skipped naps become a pattern, overtiredness can begin to negatively impact your child’s behavior and nighttime sleep. By skipping naps for more than a few days, your child is trying to tell you something. Take a look at this list to see if you can figure out her message.
Does she need a more soothing environment and wind-down?
Sleep environment is just as important at naptime as it is at bedtime. Ensure your child’s nap environment is dark, cool, and comfortable. A consistent naptime ritual is equally important. Reading books, changing your child’s diaper, drawing the curtains, and playing with soothing toys can become part of a relaxing naptime ritual. Make sure to do the same things in the same order for every nap.
Is she ready for fewer naps?
I suspect that your daughter may be preparing to drop her morning nap—she’s a bit ahead of the curve, but not terribly so. Children often begin skipping their afternoon nap shortly after their first birthday. Skipping a nap every day for a week is a sign that your child is ready for fewer daytime naps. Babies may be ready be awake for longer stretches when they play happily in their cribs at naptime instead of fussing or falling asleep.
When your baby is ready to drop the morning nap (between twelve and eighteen months for most), gradually decrease the length of the morning nap by fifteen minutes per day until it disappears. Alternately, you can gradually move the a.m. nap later by fifteen minutes per day until it occurs at midday, and simultaneously shorten the afternoon nap until it disappears completely. Keep in mind, this transition to a single nap usually occurs over a period of several months.
Is she overtired?
Waiting too long to put your child down for a nap can result in overtiredness that makes it difficult for her to fall asleep easily. When your child seems tired but just can’t nap, or if she throws a screaming, crying fit at naptime, overtiredness may be the culprit. Move your child’s naptime earlier by fifteen to twenty minutes per day until things improve.
Want more information on naps, nighttime, and everything in between? Check out my ebook Ready, Set, Sleep: 50 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep, So You Can Sleep Too for the latest information on helping babies and tots 0-3 sleep well.