“My daughter stopped napping when she was 2. I guess some kids are just finished with napping early”. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard this, whether from toddler sleep coaching clients, audience members at speaking engagements, or during my regular mom life at preschool and the playground. And every time I hear it, I feel a bit wistful for that toddler, and their parents, because they’ve fallen for the false trap of the…
2 year nap regression!
It’s extremely common for 2-year-olds to stop napping temporarily. Yet no 2-year-old I’ve met turned out to be done with naps altogether. (And I’ve met many, many tired 2-year-olds.) Most, if not all, 2 year-olds go through one or more sleep regressions in the form of a nap strike, nighttime sleep issues, or both. These are completely normal and part of your toddler’s natural development. And, as mentioned, they’re temporary. The key is to remain consistent and ride out the temporary disruption. Unfortunately, parents who don’t know this will often react and do something which can make the situation worse.
How to deal with your 2-year-old’s sleep regression or nap strike while avoiding common pitfalls?
Don’t assume that naps are now a thing of the past.
If your child is under 3, you should still expect her to nap.
Many parents react to a nap regression by making drastic changes. One of the most common changes is pushing the nap later. Don’t fall for it! The ideal time for your 2 year-old’s nap to start is by 1PM. If you push the nap much later, you may end up with a permanent nap strike because you’re attempting the nap outside your toddler’s ideal sleep time window. Even if they do fall asleep later, you then risk the double-whammy of a nap which is not very restorative due to bad timing AND late enough that it manages to interfere with bedtime. This starts a cycle of bad nighttime sleep and poor naps which can continue to devolve. So avoid any big changes.
Check your schedule
Okay, I know I just said to avoid making big changes out of panic, but try taking a calm look at your toddler’s sleep schedule. Has naptime started shifting too late (past 1PM) due to morning activities? How about bedtime? While your 2-year-old may seem to have grown and changed so much over the past year, his sleep needs have changed very little. His ideal bedtime continues to be about 4 hours from when he woke up from his nap. Do the math, and see how this compares to when your toddler has been getting to bed lately. Also make sure you haven’t loosened with your toddler’s sleep routine too much.
Don’t give up
I used to tell my clients to wait at least 2 weeks without a single nap AND the right schedule before even considering calling it quits. Then I had a client whose toddler went for 3 full weeks before slipping back into a regular 2-hour nap. That nap went on to last for several more months. Now I recommend that you keep giving them an opportunity to nap no matter what until age 3. At the very least your toddler will have an hour of quiet time to reset and recharge before tackling the afternoon. But I have yet to see a 2-year-old who didn’t go back to napping when given a proper chance.
The 2 year nap regression is like many so-called “sleep regressions”. It reflects a normal developmental leap in which your child is rapidly developing a new skill or entering a new phase. For your 2 year-old, some of these leaps are verbal. You may encounter sleep issues right around when your toddler experiences a word explosion or learns to express more complex ideas. While these developmental changes may disrupt sleep in the short term, your 2-year-old’s overall need to nap doesn’t change until … they are no longer a 2-year-old!
Truth be told, even most 3-year-olds benefit from having some downtime and the occasional bonafide nap. So even if your toddler is approaching 3 and you gave up on a nap a while back, consider implementing an hour of “quiet time”. Let them know they don’t have to sleep, but they DO need to stay in their room. Try using a toddler clock or timer to help reinforce staying in their room for that time. Put together a special basket of books and other relaxing activities which only comes out for quiet time. Have your preschooler stay in their room for the hour with soft lighting, their quiet time basket, and a little low music. You may be surprised what happens next!
Whether you call it a 2 year nap regression, 2.5 year sleep regression, or toddler nap refusal, most 2-year-old nap strikes reveal themselves as a temporary bump in the road when we stay calm and remain consistent. Don’t panic and your toddler’s sleep will be back on track soon.
And, whatever you do, make sure to never, ever, introduce your 2-year-old to Honest Toddler.
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