How to Handle a Nap Regression (at any age)


Some time ago, my husband asked our Alexa to play a song I didn’t know. After I finished loading some slime-covered, multicolored kids’ plates into the dishwasher to the beat, I finally got up the nerve to ask him the name of the song. He burst out laughing, as it’s a fairly well-known 80’s song. Flustered, I reminded him how tired I am now that our littlest has hit yet another sleep regression and nap regression. Okay, so that and growing up I wasn’t allowed to listen to the radio.

I spent the rest of the morning cleaning to an 80’s Amazon music station – and was pleasantly surprised to realize I recognized quite a few of the songs. Yeah, I’m living the life, y’all. Living on a (parenting) prayer, even. In any case, let’s nip that nap regression in the backside, shall we?

A nap regression (or a nap transition) is unfortunately normal

Babies sleep a lot, y’all. Unless you’re one of my babies – and then you just catnap all day.

Sick of naps all over the place? How to Get Your Child to Sleep in Their Own Crib

But as kiddos grow and get older, they begin to need less sleep. It’s partially because they need less sleep and partly because the sleep they are getting becomes better, more restful, and more consolidated. In other words, your baby begins to spend more time awake.

Gradually, naps and night-time sleep habits develop. First, those babies may take 3 or 4 naps per day. Then, they’ll only need 2 or 3. That’s a nap transition. Right now, my baby girl has finally made the full transition from needing two naps per day to just one.

Okay, let’s face the facts: some days, she still needs two naps. But she would rather play with her brothers, toddle around, and eat everything off of the floor. She and her body are at odds. And, being part ginger, her stubborn streak is winning.

**sigh** That’s +1 for the 2-to-1 nap transition, 0 for sleep.

Want to Know the answer to ‘How Many Naps Does My Child Need?

Scheduling conflicts don’t help much, either. Generally, we try to treat naptime as sacred. But when there’s back to back soccer games, family events, and then a playground just begging to be played on? Sometimes naps get skipped. And on Sundays, it’s even harder.

You see, we have 9 am church right now (we have 3 congregations that meet in our building, so we rotate what time we all attend so that it doesn’t get crazy crowded).

I love 9 am church – don’t get me wrong. It’s loads better than 1 pm church, which is right in the flipping middle of naptime. But 9 am church means it’s right before nap time, so I feel bad for the nursery teachers, who have to deal with my cranky gal. They’re saints, well and truly.

But we have to rush to get home – all while crossing our fingers and praying mightily that she doesn’t zonk out in her car seat. Because then, we’re toast.

Commonly-asked Nap questions

What time is nap time?

The best time to nap is going to depend on your child’s age. That’s why you should first start with this article on how many naps does a child need.

Then, read this article about how to set the right sleep schedule for your child – and I’ve got my kids’ sleep schedules listed out by age for you.

Then, know you aren’t alone: read my open letter to parents everywhere about our kids’ crazy sleep schedule.

Finally, join your people in a free sleep training group on Facebook.

How do you transition to one nap per day? How do you transition from two naps to one per day? (insert ALL the questions about nap transitions here)

Nap transitions are hard! And this is a huge question, so I’m working on a whole article for it. Meantime, check out this video on naps.

3 Things to get that long nap back to normal

Well, the single most important thing you can do to deal with a nap regression is to remember that change is going to happen. And while keeping that in mind, the second most important tip is to maintain your schedule – as best as you can. Finally, keep things as consistent as possible – while allowing for that change that happens when kids grow.

Okay, so here’s that again in a list. Because lists make everything better, right?

  1. Remember that change happens – and accept it.
  2. Keep to a schedule and your sleep training plan as best as you can.
  3. Be consistent. Keep trying. Be patient.

So on Saturdays, we do our best to make sure our little miss gets a good nap. I try to make sure she gets her naps in her crib – because that’s where she sleeps best. But it’s not always possible – so we make do with what we’ve got.

On Sundays, attending church keeps her up and super active in the morning. Then, we rush home for that sacred, beautiful, long afternoon nap.

Then, during the week, I try to keep nap time sacred and clear of events. Dental appointments, doctor visits, and whatever else gets scheduled around naps as best as I can manage.

Oh – and one more thing helps a ton. In fact, when all else fails, this works.

When naps are on the fritz, an early bedtime can save the day (and/or your sanity)

My kids go to bed early. They need the sleep – and we need some time to ourselves. Since they’re still all under 8, it works for us. But this way, they’re getting enough sleep – and so are we. Because sleep is weird, y’all. If you don’t get enough, it gets harder to fall asleep when you’re trying to. Weird, huh? Well, it’s the same with kids.

How to Manage Night Wakings and Getting Baby Back to Sleep

So on days where my youngest doesn’t get adequate naptime, her bedtime moves from 6:30 to as early as 5:30. Because by getting her to bed earlier, it’s like I’m able to hit the “reset” button on her sleep schedule. The earlier bedtime helps her slide back into that tried-and-true nap schedule with fewer problems.

Like right now – she’s napping (praise be!) well despite the last few days having been crazy. Why? Early bedtime last night. She got enough sleep so that she can keep getting enough sleep. Nap regression – nipped in the backside.

Oh, and enough of y’all asked, so here it is: How to Set the Right Sleep Schedule for Your Kids.

And now that naps are back on schedule, we can get back to working on sleeping through the night. Because one day, I’ll get a full night’s sleep, right?

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Kimberly C. Starr

I'm a ginger who loves reading, eating, being a nurse, spending time with my family, and writing about it all. I believe humor is the best medicine, followed very closely by chocolate and tacos.

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