After writing about bedtimes and waketimes in my last post, I received a question from one of my readers that went something like this…
“I have a 5yo who is trained for “nap” time. A 2 1/2yo and a 14mo. The baby is in the crib. The 2yo is supposed to stay in her bed for nap time. She usually naps but this week (three days now!) she has refused to stay in bed let alone take a nap. She has books to read if she doesn’t want to nap. However, she repeatedly gets out of bed and plays or wakes up baby. Did I mention I am also 5mo pregnant? Yeah, I kinda need that nap time! I have had to swat/spank her for the two hour nap time or, like today, completely lost it and locked myself in the schoolroom. Sitting there and swatting when she attempts to get out of bed doesn’t give me a nap (a literal nap – not just “quiet time”) and the baby doesn’t seem to nap then either. How do you train your kiddos to stay in bed for their naps? I’m wondering if I should empty their room and put her in the playpen? The 5yo is in our room during this time since they share a bed. The other clincher here is that my hubby will be working 5 hours away for about 2 months, being home only 3 days a week. I REALLY need to get this figured out or I/we will never survive those two months!”
This is definitely not the first time I’ve heard of a child going on a napping strike. Gabriel’s pulled a few similar stunts in the past and I know many other mothers complain of the same problem. So you’re definitely not alone.
So what do you do when your little one starts rebelling against naptime?
Here are a few tips that came to mind. Feel free to pick and choose and see what works for your family. No one knows your child like you do.
1) Be sure your child is actually tired.
Perhaps they have always taken a 1pm nap in the afternoon, but as they get older, they often outgrow their past sleep needs. If your child has been battling their nap for several days in a row, it might be a sign that they’re not ready for naptime yet. Try postponing it by another hour or get them purposefully exhausted first. Often, I’ll stick Gabriel outside or toss him on our neighbor’s trampoline just before. When naptime comes around, he greets his bed much more willingly.
2) Naptime is not playtime.
I’m planning on incorporating a quiet play time in Gabriel’s day once he outgrows his nap, but currently the signs are obvious that he still needs his sleep. If your child is showing signs of nap readiness (crankiness, hyperactivity, or lethargy) then there is no reason to send toys, books, or other distractions to bed with him. It’s sleeping time. Remove any toys from within reach and put them to bed with only their blanket.
3) Think about the pack n play as a spanking alternative.
I get that sometime a battle of wills needs to be faced head-on and conquered. But if it’s not working day after day and is just exhausting both of you, take it back a step. Explain to your child that since they are not old enough to obey Mommy by staying in bed, they are not old enough to get to sleep in the ‘big girl’ bed. Bring out that pack n play again (and hope they haven’t learned how to climb out of it yet). The toddler bed is a privilege, and maturity begets privileges, not the other way around.
4) What about waking up the baby?
*facepalm* I must admit this is something we still struggle with during nighttime sleep. There’s nothing more frustrating! In fact, it’s probably the #1 reason I’m eager for our someday-larger home. For naptimes now, I’ve been separating them (like you mentioned) and sticking one in my bedroom for his nap. Eventually, though, I’m also going to have more children than bedrooms, so I’ll be forced to get more creative. I read on a large family blog about a mother with seven kids and small home who made everyone their own separate napping spot. After running out of bedrooms, she would pull out the couch from the wall, lay a blanket and pillow down behind it and then rig a sheet-tent roof over top to keep it dark and quiet. I also read that she stuck a pack n play in their spare bathroom. Talk about getting creative! (I only have one bathroom, so I’d have to make sure everyone ‘went’ beforehand, but it might be worth it!).
5) Although I hate to say this… Realize that sometimes they just won’t all nap at the same time.
It’s hard getting three children correlated on the exact same schedule. Sometimes the teething one will need to be put down earlier. Other times the two year old won’t be tired when the other ones are. The good news is that well-rested children, even on their own alternating sleep patterns, are going to be easier to handle than those kept awake past exhaustion. The all-at-once nap is definitely worth aiming for and sometimes it lines up nicely, but try not to let it become the end of the world when it doesn’t.
Now, I understand that as a pregnant mother, you need your rest. You’re working hard keeping a family together and making a little person while you’re at it. If your husband is not home and you still aren’t getting any rest in, I’d recommend looking to others for help. Do you have any willing family near by? Are there any teenage girls in your church or neighborhood that you could hire to pop in for an hour a day (or even a few times a week) so you can take that well-deserved nap?
It takes humility (and sometimes a bit of cash) to admit we can’t do it all, but sometimes for the sake of sanity and your good health, it becomes a priority.
6) Lastly, be encouraged!
A few years from now, your five year old will be old enough to watch all the kids for you while you take a long, multi-hour nap. A few years after that, they’ll be able to make dinner for you and do all the clean up afterwards while you sit on the couch and get your nails done (haha, we can hope, right?). It’s sometimes hard to see the good things ahead among all the pregnancy hormones and exhaustion now, but those days are coming… Take a deep breath, gather your courage, embrace your cup of coffee if you have to. Do a lot of smiling, even if you don’t feel like it. Love on your little ones, even if you’re tired. No one said this motherhood thing is easy, but it will get easier.