Naptime or Not? Knowing When Your Baby is Ready to Be Put Down for a Nap or Stay Awake

Like some adults who can survive on a handful of hours a night while others need a full eight, some toddlers need more and some less

I always thought that the day Coraline stopped napping would be the day I officially lost my mind. But that day came and went — sometime earlier this year, I can’t even remember when exactly — and, much to my surprise, I actually prefer life post-naps. When getting her to take a nap caused more commotion (i.e. multiple hours of negotiating and crying and me losing my temper while she bounced all over the bed) than her staying up, I just stopped trying and she adjusted. We get a lot more out of the days, without having to reserve a chunk of time right smack in the middle for sleeping (or trying to sleep). And she goes to sleep super early now (usually around 7 o’clock), sleeping for 12-plus hours a night, something which rarely happened when she napped. And she falls asleep quickly — it’s been many months since I’ve had to “woosah” my way through a two or three hour bedtime.

The average sleep requirement for a one-year-old is around 14 hours in a 24-hour period; by two that reduces to 13 hours, and by three only 12. But just like some adults can survive on a handful of hours a night while others need a full eight, some toddlers need more and some less. The only way to tell if yours is getting enough is to monitor their behavior; often times bad behavior in toddlers is directly attributable to them not getting enough sleep. (This is actually true for kids of all ages, even teenagers. For more on this phenomenon, check out Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s book Sleepless in America.) Most pediatric sleep experts seem to agree that there is no magic age when kids should stop napping — it all depends on the kid. If your toddler falls asleep easily at night, sleeping a straight 11 or 12 hours, wakes spontaneously in the morning, and behaves pretty consistently throughout the day, he just might be ready to scratch the nap, whether he’s two or five. Many kids will simply sleep more at night to make up for the lost Zs during the day.

Even if your little one shows all the signs of being ready to enter No Napville, it can take a good six months to transition fully. While there are many variables (work schedules, school, siblings, etc.) which can effect the ease of your particular transition, here are a few general recommendations:

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Schedule downtime into every day, preferably right after lunch. Create a sleepy environment — quiet, low lights, no screens, lots of snuggling — and do a low key activity like reading or a puzzle. If your kid falls asleep, they needed to; if not, after 45 minutes to an hour go about your day.

Re-organize bedtimes if need be. While I love that Coraline goes to bed so early, gone are the days when we could stay out until eight or later if something came up; she needs to be in bed earlier or she won’t get her 12 hours and the following day is a nightmare.

If your little one is constantly falling asleep in the car or falling to pieces in the afternoon, they aren’t getting enough sleep. Reinstate naptime for a couple months and then try again if they give you the signs.

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