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I believe too many parents today have let their children rule their households. Their children dictate their daily lives, demand every ounce of their attention and do not show any respect for their parents. This needs to change. The only way to do this is if parents start letting good old common sense start dictating their parenting practices and stop letting their children run the show. You're the parent. Act like one.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Nap Transitions: Two Naps to One

At some point after your baby (now toddler) turns one, they will begin the process of going from two naps a day (morning & afternoon) to just one nap. As Will approached 16 months, I found myself really looking forward to this. The larger chunk of time in the afternoon is nice and I didn't have to always worry about him being home for naps twice a day.

Some toddlers are ready to drop the morning nap sooner than others. Very rarely are they ready to drop the morning nap before 12 months. Likewise, very rarely are toddlers over 22'ish months still taking a morning nap. Here are some signs that your little one might be ready to drop a nap:

- Trouble falling asleep for the morning nap. This happens because they are now able to stay awake for longer periods of time so they're not tired.

- Morning nap shortens (30-45 minutes), but they still take a good afternoon nap. They can still fall asleep for the morning nap, but they're not tired enough to sleep for a long period of time.

- Morning nap lengthens and afternoon nap shortens. This happened with Will. He was a creature of habit and would always be able to fall asleep for his scheduled 9am nap. But then he'd end up sleeping too much for the morning nap and wasn't tired for his scheduled afternoon nap.

Once you think they're ready (or YOU'RE ready) to drop the morning nap there are a variety of ways you can go about it. The easiest is cold-turkey. When going cold-turkey, you basically split the difference between the morning and afternoon nap, and that will be their new nap time--for the time being. So for instance, if their morning nap was at 9am and their afternoon nap was at 2pm, start with their new nap time being around 11:30. As they get used to this nap time, you can slowly push out, so you get your desired time. For most parents, they like nap time to start around noon or 1pm.

Here are some common "troubleshooting" questions and answers when dropping the AM nap:

I dropped the AM nap, but now my baby is only sleeping 1 1/2 hours for his nap. I thought the nap was supposed to get longer when he went from two naps to one.

This is temporary as your child adjusts to the new sleep schedule. Give it a week or two and it should work itself out. In the meantime, when he wakes (as long as he's not screaming), let him play independently in his crib for a little while, without any stimulation. Then push up his bedtime about an hour so he can make up for the lost sleep time. Gradually, he should lengthen his afternoon nap to somewhere between 2-3 hours.

I am trying to drop the AM nap cold-turkey, but my baby gets soooo tired and fussy around 10:00am. I just want to put him to bed!

This is very common. He's tired!! Again, he's trying to adjust to the new schedule. You could do one of two things. Push it out as long as you can (say, 10:30am) and make that his nap time. Then over the next two weeks, as he gets used to that nap time, push it later by 15-30 minute increments every few days until you get to your desired nap time.

The next thing you could do is what I did with Will--plan activities!!! Be sure you are out of the house and active in the morning, especially around the time he is used to taking the morning nap. For us, we did swimming lessons in the morning and we were out of the house from about 10:30-12:00. This helped tremendously, because he wasn't thinking about napping, he was thinking about swimming! So go to a class, the park, to the zoo, for a run in the jogging stroller, whatever it takes to get you guys out of the house and not thinking about sleeping!

Now that my baby is taking one nap, she wakes up in the afternoon earlier than she used to. She's exhausted and ready for bed at 5pm!

When Will was in the process of dropping the AM nap, he went down at 11am and slept until about 1pm...which was way earlier than he was used to waking up in the afternoon. So by 5 or 5:30pm, he was exhausted. Know that nap-dropping is a process that kids have to get used to. Put her to bed at 5:00 or 5:30pm so she can make up for the lost sleep during the day.When we did this with Will, he still slept until his regular wake time in the morning, 6:30. Know this is just temporary.

Remember, just because they are dropping a nap, doesn't mean their sleep-need amounts are necessarily changing. If you toddler has been taking two 1 1/2 hour naps and sleeping 11 hours at night (14 total hours a day), they should still continue to sleep a total of 14 hours a day. You can achieve this by 1) Automatically: On their own, they should lengthen their nap from two 1 1/2 hour naps to one (approx) 3 hour nap or 2) Push up their bedtime.

My baby sleeps really well for her morning nap but refuses to go down for the afternoon nap. Does that mean she's ready to drop a nap?

Most likely, yes. If baby is sleeping like a rock for the morning nap, it's a little more tricky than the converse, where they sleep well in the afternoon and refuse the AM nap. To begin the weaning process, you will need to either do a cold-turkey approach and keep her awake until your desired nap time, or do a slower weaning process.

To do the weaning-style approach, you can still put her down at her regular morning nap time, but you will have to wake her up so her morning nap shortens and she'll still be ready to take her afternoon nap. Wake in 15-30 minute increments every few days, until baby is only sleeping about 30 minutes for the morning nap. For example, if she typically naps for 1 1/2 hours, wake her for a few days at the hour mark. Then the next few days, wake her at the 45 minute mark, etc., until shes only sleeping about 30 minutes.Frankly, this process is a little annoying for me and I feel bad waking a baby after only 30 minutes of sleep. But it's a means to an end. I prefer the method of planning activities and just trying to keep them up longer--the "cold turkey" approach.

Again, keep in mind that nap-dropping is a process. Baby may experience short naps, fussiness, restless sleep and other minor problems during this process. But if your baby has typically been a good napper, these problems should work themselves out in about 1-2 weeks. Be patient!

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