Infants and toddlers periodically resist their naps for a time for a number of reasons. The most likely reason is they are just too busy and interested in everything around them to stop to sleep. Sometimes children stop napping if there is a big change in their life, like moving. Older toddlers sometimes resist nap when they begin to understand that they might miss out on something if they go to sleep.
Here are some things you can try to ensure that your child gets the rest he/she needs:
- Continue to put him/her down for nap, even if he/she did not sleep the day before. If our children miss one nap, we may think they are done with naps and give up trying to put them down. Maintaining the rhythm of going down for a rest will help their body remember how to rest during the day. If they do not get a chance to try, their body may lose its natural napping rhythm.
- Make the transition to nap consistent. All of the activities that lead up to nap can help a child begin to relax and prepare to sleep. If those activities are familiar from day to day, they will help clue your child that it is close to time to sleep. Songs, stories, nursing, rocking and music are some of the things that families have discovered which help the resting process.
- Create (or maintain) a consistent nap time. Human bodies have rhythms. Even young children develop a pattern for their days and nights and an expectation of that pattern in their bodies. Even though some children sleep well just by going down whenever they are tired, if you are trying to help a resistant napper sleep, it is useful to keep the time consistent every day.
If you feel like your child needs to change their nap time, observe him/her for a few days to see when he/she seems to be getting sleepy. You can then try to adjust naptime to a more appropriate time.
Create a restful place for nap. Some children really like it dark when they are going to sleep. If your child is one of those, you can help him/her by putting up darkening shades. Some children do better when it is relatively quiet when they are resting. Getting to know what your child needs will help you create a resting place for them.
Remember that children need to rest, even if they aren't sleeping. Ultimately, we don't get to choose when or if our children sleep. This can be very frustrating for parents who feel like it is their job to make children sleep. It can also be exasperating to be with a baby who is not sleeping when you need a break yourself or are concerned and confused about what is going on with your child. You will have better success helping your child find sleep if your goal is to help them find peace and rest.
Once you have created a peaceful place and time for your child to rest, he/she may need to figure out, on their own, how to find sleep. On the other hand if you and he/she enjoy being together and can stay calm and relaxed while he/she is going to sleep, that's another way to do it.