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When Nap Time Sucks

I think we can acknowledge that as parents we all have things that trigger us… Things that take us to the edge and sometimes beyond. For me, I'll admit, it was my daughter refusing to nap. Especially as a toddler. It seriously used to drive me bananas.

You’re tired!

Just lie down, close your eyes and go to the F to sleep!

So what did I take away from my eldest's “nap time journey” - apart from the fact that it kinda sucked? I actually did end up learning quite a few valuable lessons…

1) Sleep trainers everywhere will scold you if your baby only naps for 20, 30 or 40 minutes. And I do understand that it’s annoying when you’re desperate for an hour to yourself. However, despite popular opinion, some babies really do recharge their batteries from short naps. If your baby is one of them, there usually isn’t much you can do about it. You can try to help them into the next sleep cycle by feeding, rocking, etc. but I wouldn’t spend more than 5-10 minutes on it. Especially if your baby is all smiles upon waking. Give yourself permission to feel irritated, but try not to let it destroy or dictate the rest of your day. It’s entirely possible he may be tired and grumpy again in an hour… But maybe he won’t. Maybe he will be just fine. Don’t catastophise. Just cross that bridge if you get to it…

2) And on that note, if it turns out your baby or toddler is still tired and she does melt down… well, that’s okay. It’s really not the end of the world. In fact, how disastrous a situation becomes, is totally dependant upon you. Your mindset determines the outcome. You did the best you could, in the gentlest way possible to help her back to sleep. Sometimes, despite all your best efforts, it just doesn’t work. Try something different tomorrow. Accept, surrender and move on. You won’t break your child by screwing up their naps for a day (or 2, or 3…)

3) It’s really important to recognise when you’re getting triggered. You know when it’s happening - your mind starts to blur, your heart-rate increases and you feel that white, hot rage rising. Just remember, that it happens to all of us and it's not something to feel ashamed of. Anger is a normal human emotion. It's okay to feel it. What's important is what you do with it. When you feel it creeping up on you, stop yourself and label your feelings. “This is triggering me and I’m getting pissed off" (you're mad, so you don't have to be polite!) This is a good thing to say out-loud. Repeat it again and again, put your child somewhere safe if need be, and walk away. Focus on your breathing until you are calm. Breathe in for 4 counts, breathe out for 4 counts.

It’s easy to want to explode. In those moments you really think that it will make you feel better, but we all know that it doesn’t. At the end of it, it makes you feel worse, especially when you notice the damage exploding causes around you.

4) Finally, how much your baby naps, or doesn’t nap, isn’t a measure of your success as a parent. Just because your baby only naps for 30 minutes at a time, even in your arms (like my new baby) doesn’t make you a less capable parent than the one whose baby sleeps for 2 hours in her cot.

How they sleep, how easily they sleep, where they are happy to sleep… all these things are dependant upon your individual baby. Accepting and surrendering to that will make your journey together that much easier.

So with all the above considered, how did I end up making peace with my daughter’s nap times? To be honest, I never did. Just after her 2nd birthday I got completely fed up with the daily fight of trying to get her to nap. I was sick of driving around in the middle of the day for 2 hours just so she would fall asleep and above all, I was sick of people telling me that children had to nap until the age of 4. This stupid “rule” (not backed up by any evidence either, thank you very much) was making everyone miserable.

So, we dropped her naps and moved her bedtime forward an hour. And guess what? Suddenly everyone was happier. Yes, she was a bit crabby at the end of the day for about a week, but she soon adjusted just as we all do to a change in routine.

Mummy got to enjoy a longer evening to herself and my relationship with my little girl improved because there was no more daily conflict around making her do something that she just didn’t want to do. I chose my battles and ultimately, I won. Just like that, sucky nap times were behind us and that chapter of our journey was done.

Actually, that brings me to one more point - that every difficult stage in raising these little people is temporary and short, but the lessons that you learn from them will ultimately make you a better parent, and a better person. And, as draining as it can be at times, I guess that makes it all worth it.

{Photo: My daughter, 2 years of age}

Georgina Dowden is a mother, midwife and lactation consultant (IBCLC).

In her day to day life, she looks after her two beautiful children and also supports other families on their parenting journey.

If you would like to get in touch for breastfeeding or sleep/settling support, please email:

Skype/FaceTime consultations available OR home visits if you live in the Northern Rivers of NSW.

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