Since we’ve been in lockdown, it appears that babies and children fall into one of two categories for naps. Either they’ve been craving an uninterrupted routine with snuggles in their cot so are either sleeping well or (dare you say it aloud) even better than the hectic life before lockdown. Or they love being out and about, napping on the go and as a result of limited stimulation are really struggling being cooped up and ‘forced’ to sleep. Do either of these sound familiar?
If your child fits into the latter category, here’s my tips for surviving isolation with a nap-fighter!
Some children may nap well on the go due to the noise and general humdrum so will hate that it’s all of a sudden very quiet. Try using white noise or keeping a radio/tv on downstairs so that they can hear some background noise as they are settling down.
Use your daily exercise allowance in the morning
Children will almost always sleep better after they have had the right balance of activity or stimulation. For babies this may be just a stroll around the streets or park looking at the sights and sounds. But for toddlers, this will definitely mean letting off some steam. So use your mornings wisely and get them out with a ball, bike, scooter or whatever gets them excited and moving. Back home, try activities and play time to keep their brains active too.
Babies need those naps
It’s crucial for most babies to get their desired naps in order to maintain a good night’s sleep so the primary aim for naps is always for them to actually SLEEP rather than how this happens.
For younger babies who are able to go in a sling or carrier, try walking around our home or garden to get them to sleep. Most will stay asleep if you then stop, but watch out for the end of the first nap cycle (usually around 30-40 minutes) and get moving again for a short while just to help then transition into a nice deep sleep. A similar approach can also be taken with a pushchair, again out in the garden where possible or inside the house. This can be especially useful if you have an older child that still needs your attention.
However, as babies they are still young enough to teach new habits so lockdown could be the perfect time to get into a good routine of settling into the cot for at least one nap a day. Start slow and stay with your baby as they learn to adjust to sleeping inside, and stationary on a mattress. Offer lots of assistance with patting, soothing and occasional cuddles where necessary. As they learn to accept the new way of napping, gradually retreat so that they can fall asleep on their own, happily and peacefully.
Grumpy no-nap toddlers
For toddlers who still need a nap, it can be tricky to get them to fall asleep in the cot if they are used to napping in the car or buggy.
As toddlers are all about independence, the mere mention of a ‘nap’ may send them into a tantrum. So avoid using this term if it causes a reaction and instead use quiet play or better still, nothing at all!
Ideally, go to their bedroom where they associate sleep, around the time they would usually nap naturally when out and about – for most this will be after lunch time. This acts as a great cue that the nap is coming next. Try to avoid tv in the hour before the nap too.
Darken the room, read a story and have a cuddle to help them wind down. This consistent routine will help them fall asleep more easily.
Stay with them at first, especially if they are unable to stay calm as you leave the room.
Toddler rest time
Even if your toddler refuses to nap, they (and you!) can still benefit from 1-2 hours of downtime during the day. Take them away from their play environment or tidy all toys away. You can still take your child up to their sleep environment and leave them with a few safe, quiet toys to play with – nothing with stimulating bright lights and sounds! With any luck, they may fall asleep at some point especially if the bedroom is dark…but they will still benefit from having some quiet play time even if they don’t actually fall asleep.
Does your child need to nap?
If you know your child will not sleep after trying the above for at least 1-2 weeks, build some tv, stories and quiet play into your day. After lunch, sit down together and enjoy the rest. This will also give you some time to catch up with whatever needs doing…and with the way lockdown is going, tv time may last all afternoon!
Many children drop their nap at around age 3, but this can be earlier for some. Look out for signs such as later bedtimes from struggling to fall asleep, difficulty maintaining sleep at night, and coping well until late afternoon without a nap.
Early bedtimes can be your best friend
The lack of routine coupled with the lighter evenings have also resulted in later bedtimes, which can also have a knock on effect to early wakings and/or tricky naps. If you’ve been knocked out of routine lately (haven’t we all?!), try an earlier scheduled bedtime to try to recuperate some missed sleep, especially if naps are less than ideal too. Just make sure you’ve got a darkened room, especially with older children who are aware that the sun is ‘still up’! Tin foil can work really well if you need a temporary measure, or there are great black out fixes on amazon…
If you need any further help with the above, get in touch for an advice call to talk things through and get a plan that suits your family.