Ah, babies. They're hard work, but you can pretty much guarantee they will sleep when they're tired (as long as they're not overtired, or under tired, over stimulated or under stimulated, too hot, too cold, hungry... but that's another post!) and usually it doesn't matter too much where or when they do it either. In the crib, the pram, your arms, the sling... And they can do it with noise too. The hoover, the washing machine, the TV, the kids running riot with lego. Whatever the circumstances, it can be said that babies are able to sleep pretty much any time, anywhere and through anything.*
But what of toddlers? As babies grow older, suddenly the game changes. Now they need a certain pair of pyjamas in order to initiate sleep. Or they need a drink. Or they need absolutely NO daylight/ darkness in their bedroom. They need three stories- the same ones- each night and they need only YOU to do the funny voices the way they like them. There are so many rules! And nap times are just as bad, aren't they? That precious sleep time during the day has been whittled down to one two hour stretch (if you're lucky) into which you can try to cram as much stuff as you can before they wake again. The naps are essential. So o you deal with toddler nap problems? Here are some ideas.
*Ok, so not all babies do this, and we realise that we're generalising here. But you have to admit that there are some days where baby sleeps well... surely? No? Oh, ok...
The problem: my toddler refuses to nap
Let's start with the biggy. The toddler who will not nap is the greatest of all toddlers, for he rules our days with an iron fist. Over tired, grumpy, tearful, refusing to eat, refusing to sit still... sound familiar? When you know your toddler needs a sleep, but he just won't accept it, what do you do?
Take a deep breath. No need for you to start screaming and stamping your foot either. Try to talk to your toddler calmly and explain why naps are a good idea. Try not to emphasise that you need a break (!) but instead let him know that it's a special time for his body to rest ready for more play.
If he still isn't convinced, then go for some quiet time instead. Encourage him to have a book or two in his crib and to lie down for a story, so that at least he is resting rather than sleeping. Alternatively, pop him in the buggy and get some fresh air on a walk if you can. This will help you to recharge, gather your thoughts and calm down if you're feeling stressed. Don't forget your SnoozeShade and you might find your toddler soon drifts off to sleep!
My toddler takes ages to fall asleep
Some of us find ourselves in a 'trap' of waiting with our toddlers while they fall asleep, and sometimes this can take a long time! Now, we don't ever judge anyone else for how they choose to parent, and in no way would we suggest that one method is better than another. If you like to stay with your toddler as he drifts off, and it works for you, then fine. But if it's an issue, here are some tips for dealing with it:
- Set the scene. Just as at bedtime, have a nap routine that allows your toddler to realise that its soon sleep time, and prepare for going to sleep. Don't skip a step and be consistent.
- Make sure the area where he sleeps is comfortable to and conducive to sleep. Black out blinds, favourite blanket, etc. Make sure nap time is as appealing as possible.
- Explain to your toddler that you are going to pop out briefly, but will be back in moment. Make sure you do return, so that he knows he can trust you. Repeat this until he is happy to go to sleep without you, making the length of time you're away a little longer each time.
- Get a comforter. This can be a toy your toddler already loves, or you can go together to buy a new one. Either way, it could make the idea of sleep a little more appealing.
Remember that this is likely to be a phase, so if the above don't work and you'd rather stay with your toddler, then perhaps the best advice is to ride it out.
My toddler won't stay in his crib
Hmmm. Might be time to move to a bed? See our tips on doing that here. Otherwise, make sure that the great escape attempts are as safe as possible. Remove any toys from the crib, and make sure there is no furniture close by that your toddler can climb onto. It's also a good idea to place soft cushions and blankets on the floor in case he does get out. Explain to your toddler that climbing out is not a good idea, and that he must stay in bed until you come in. Some parents will put a safety gate on the bedroom door to prevent their toddlers going downstairs etc, but this is up to you.
My toddler only wants one sleep a day but gets too tired
Your toddler will eventually drop down to one nap a day (sob!) and this is going to take some getting used to. You might need to amend your bedtime a little by bringing it forward to combat the tiredness. It's also a good idea to anticipate when the grumps will strike, and have a quiet activity at the ready to help him to wind down. He will get used to it eventually.
What are your top tips for dealing with toddler nap problems?