Sleep – What to Expect & Do 2 Year-Olds ‘Need’ Naps?
A very key piece of supporting your baby’s sleep is knowing what to expect. Remember how I said in my last sleep blog post that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for sleep?
There is also no “right” sleep pattern.
I received a text from a friend today, asking “Do 2-year-olds ‘need’ naps?” This question always makes me think of Spain. In Spain, still now, many grown-ups do still take an afternoon nap. It makes me wonder if their parents ever asked, while they were growing up, if their 2-year-old needed a nap! They’d have assumed they did. So the answer to the question is cultural, but, I believe, also individual.
I answered my friend’s question like this: “Depends on the 2 year-old! Some absolutely do and some definitely do NOT. It’s okay to have naps only when he seems to need one. He’ll probably be up till ten on the nights he has naps – that’s okay, too.” In my experience doing baby and toddler sleep coaching and consults, and offering baby sleep classes to hundreds of parents in Calgary, I’ve figured out for sure that every child is different.
If texting were as easy as emailing, I’d probably have added that the family’s rhythm matters, too. It may work better for the 2-year-old to stay up late some nights so that he can spend some time with his working mom every evening. It may work better for him to skip naps so that he’s in bed early and mom and dad can have some me-time or together-time.
Similarly, your baby may take shorter or longer naps, and may sleep shorter or longer cycles at night. She may need to pee twice every night until she’s 2, or she may be done with night-time pottying at one year, and have a dry diaper and sleep right through every night. Your baby may sleep a total of 11 hours every day, happily, healthily, and with tonnes of energy, while the books all say babies of your child’s age need 12 hours of sleep. (I personally believe that children who are less stressed need less sleep than average. Common sense, right?)
As you figure out your babe’s natural sleep rhythms, you will eventually also learn how to support your baby in adjusting to the family’s schedule, and you’ll learn how to work with your baby to create sleep habits that work for everyone. Maybe pushing through the morning nap by having a relaxing bath instead creates a 3-hour afternoon nap on some days so that you can get more work done in a stretch, or so that you can pick up big brother from preschool and picnic with baby, then have one-on-one time with brother while baby naps. On the other hand (it’s individual, right?) maybe pushing through the morning nap messes up your baby’s sleep for a week, and causes havoc for everyone in the house, day and night. In that case, it may be worth it to have a friend pick big brother up from school and zip him home for one-on-one time with you in the yard while baby has an 11-1 o’clock nap.
If you are having a difficult time with sleep, don’t rush the adjusting. First establish your baby’s natural rhythms, and stick with them as much as possible. Once your baby is good at sleeping, then you can gradually work with how and when and where.
So the question of knowing what to expect is really about NOT expecting that your child will necessarily fit into a pattern that other babies fit into. Every one of us is different, and your job is to observe, respond and be creative about finding ways to meet your baby’s needs, your needs, and your family’s needs.
This is the second in a series of 4 posts that will help you support your little one (and yourself!) to sleep better. I’ll be covering some key pieces of each of my Three Keys to Night-time Parenting (Know What to Expect and Choose Your Attitude in Advance, Help Baby Sleep Better, and Take Care of Yourself). When all three keys are addressed, sleep improves for everyone.
This second post is focused on one aspect of knowing what to expect, so that you can relax and respond to your baby without worrying if he or she is following the “right” sleep pattern.
If you need more help with sleep, I’d love to invite you to check out Get Sleep Now: Gentle Sleep Solutions for Baby & You. Get Sleep Now baby sleep classes in Calgary will support you with gentle, responsive sleep solutions, to help your whole family sleep better. I will never advise that you leave your baby to “cry it out” alone, and “Get Sleep Now!” will walk you through how to plan and implement a sleep strategy that will support your baby, and you!
Sleep coaching is also available in-home, by phone, or by Skype. I’d love to connect with you! Give me a call at 403-607-1463, or connect with me through the “Contact Us” tab.