Parenting

How We Got Past the No-Nap Slump

People, there is hope.

A few weeks ago I thought for sure Adelina was done with napping, because it had become a monumental fight that took half the afternoon. I know you can’t technically force anyone to sleep, but dang it I sure was trying my very best. And by the end of one particularly difficult week, she had torn the door of her bedroom off its hinge! It was an exhausting battle of wills, and I was so tired of spending at least an hour trying to get her to sleep every day. We were both at our wits’ ends.

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Then I had an accidental epiphany.

I resigned myself to the reality that it was probably time for some quiet time in her room instead of nap time, and maybe if I got lucky she’d fall asleep from time to time. So one fine Monday, I took her to her room at nap time and explained that she could play with her toys (I set up her cars to inspire her) or she could nap, or do both, but she just needed to stay in her room for some quiet time. She cheerfully agreed and sat down to play, I closed the door and left. There was some fussing once she got bored after about an hour, but I was not giving up on quiet time. I told her through the door she could play or sleep, but she needed to stay in her room until quiet time was done (we use this toddler alarm clock, it was pretty helpful in dealing with early wake-ups). She fell asleep right there on the floor, about five minutes before her toddler alarm clock went off…

(I had to have a cut-off time otherwise bedtime becomes a nightmare)

The next day, she needed a diaper change after a little while, so I went in to help and then asked her if she was ready to sleep a little bit. She just went with it! I tucked her in, walked out, and she was asleep.

What?!

I texted my husband, jubilant. The next day, we went through the same motions, with the same result. And the next day, and the next. It was working!

After debriefing a little, I realized two things: One, maybe it had been a phase. If there’s anything that’s a constant in parenting, we all know it’s change… But also and most importantly, I really think releasing the pressure I had built up around nap time allowed her to relax, have her own way for a while, and then willingly be ready to nap.

I was stressed about getting her down before a certain time so she wouldn’t nap too late, and I was NOT willing to let go of naps, so it had become such a battle with constant back-and-forth and willful defiance. Once I decided she could do whatever she wanted with that time — in her room — she suddenly decided she didn’t mind napping after all.

Who would’ve thought?!

Of course this does mean we still have some odd sleeping arrangements from time to time. Her stuffed animal basket is a favorite hidey-hole, which I think is kind of cute!

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I want to make it perfectly clear that we still have tough days. Some days she still refuses naps — especially on days I need to hurry home and get things going on a shorter timeline. But for now, at 2 1/2 years old, nap time usually happens if I give her enough time to get to it on her own. Once I gave up on forcing nap time and allowed her to make the decision, it magically came back. I’m sure there’s some greater metaphor about life and motherhood here. I’m slowly learning that with this girl at least, independence is really important. But hey, I’ll take the naps while I can still get them! And in the meantime, a lot of the tension is gone and we can both just enjoy that time.

Share your nap time tips below, I’d love to hear them!

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