Sleep begets Sleep. It is not logical but it is biological. The more your child sleeps during the day, the better they will sleep at night. This does not change until somewhere between their second and third birthday.
You will know with one of these three signs or a combination thereof:
1) The most common is a delayed journey to sleep at night. Instead of falling asleep quickly at night, your child will not be ready to fall asleep around 7:00 pm like they used to. It will take them until an hour to three hours later before they finally drift off to the land of slumber. Both of my own test subjects did this. Max would lay awake peacefully from 7 pm to sometimes 10 pm (sound crazy but true). Madeline on the other hand would not be as content to stay in her room trying to fall asleep.
2) They will miss the odd nap and simply play and giggle in their crib when they normally sleep. They will still be in a great mood right up to bedtime. This can happen a few times a week.
3) They will fall asleep just fine at night, have a great nap BUT wake up too early the next morning
If you feel that the daytime sleeps might be interfering with your nights, then it is best to eliminate the nap. If you are still on the fence – like the nap, but think it might be interfering with the nights, then you could keep it in for the next two weeks and see what happens. It could be a phase.
If you are still on the fence – like the nap but think the length might be interfering with the nights, then you could try playing with max 1.5 hours or max 2 hours. Some children respond well to being woken prematurely from their nap. They would be grouchy and irritable for 15 to 20 minutes but they can snap out of it. Others are grouchy and irritable right up to bedtime. In these cases, it is way better to simply eliminate the nap entirely.
At the end of the day, it is MUCH better for your little one to go 7pm to 7 am and get 12 hours of night time consolidated than 9 pm to 6 am and then 3 in the day. You will notice a much-improved disposition.
It sometimes takes a whole month for them to adjust. Don’t waffle back and forth though. Their little body will never be able to adjust. There will be days where their little bodies have NAP written all over them. You will desperately want to let them nap and they may be even asking to.
Hang in there and if they do sleep, wake them up after 20 minutes otherwise you will end up in a vicious cycle. Please trust me on this one. I know from first hand experience with my own son.
When a baby, toddler or child is well rested, they are at their OPTIMAL all day long from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed. It may take two to four weeks to PUSH all their sleep to night and get your ideal little person back.
It is also best to avoid any car rides and stroller walks during the first week or when you decide to eliminate the nap. Chances are your little one will fall asleep if you do – especially around their “old nap time” and later in the afternoon. If they do fall asleep by accident, yes, you still need to wake them up within 20 minutes or so.
To help get you through this tough transition, focus on an earlier bedtime if you need. Put your little one down as early as 6pm if you need to.
If you are worried that your little one is going to miss out on some down time during the day and you are going to miss out your “Mommy time”, then think about implementing Quiet Time instead. This is where they would be playing independently in their room for an hour or more with quiet time activities such as puzzles, Lego, dolls, and “reading”.