My 14 month old daughter has been doing really well on the schedule you helped us establish, with two naps around 8:30am and 1pm (give or take a little), bedtime at 6:30pm, and awake around 6 or 6:15am. However, in the past few weeks, she has started refusing one of her naps on some days. She will play in the crib for 30 minutes or more, or will just cry, wanting to get out of the crib. I assume that this is normal as she will transition to one nap at some point in the next few months (although I definitely do not think she is ready yet). Do you have tips on the best way to handle this or just let her take one nap on the days when she is really fighting it? Unfortunately it seems that it is most often the afternoon nap that she refuses, so then she ends up being awake from 10am or so until 6:30pm, which is a very long stretch of awake time. Thanks in advance for any advice you are able to provide!
What you are experiencing is very common for her age because she’s not quite ready for one nap a day but she’s resistant to the second nap due to her changing sleep needs. It’s an exciting time developmentally but it can be draining on both parent and child. Because we’ve worked together in the past, I’m familiar with your daughter and I know she has the ability to fall asleep on her own if she’s truly tired, so I’m confident that the nap resistance you’re experiencing is not because she can’t fall asleep on her own. If we know your daughter can fall asleep on her own, then why isn’t she?
First, we want to consider how much an average 14 month old sleeps. Typically, a child of her age will sleep anywhere from 11 – 14 hours in a given 24 hours. Currently, she’s getting 12 - 13 hours of sleep so even with her “off” days she could still be getting her sleep needs met. With that said, I think we can both agree it’s not an ideal situation to have her skipping that afternoon nap and staying awake for such a long period time. In this case, we might work towards redistributing her sleep. Meaning, we could potentially get her sleeping more during the day and then lessening her night time sleep just a bit. Even small adjustments can ultimately make a big difference.
Another potential issue to consider is that your daughter hasn’t built up enough sleep pressure between nap 1 and 2. Sleep pressure refers to the body’s need for sleep. This need is built up over time so that the longer you are awake, the more your body craves sleep. If she hasn’t built up enough sleep pressure between nap 1 and 2, then you will see behavior similar to what you’ve described above. You’ll want to consider how much activity your daughter is getting between her naps. By making sure she’s active (outdoor time is great), she will be more likely to sleep when it’s time. Unfortunately, I cannot give you an exact time for her afternoon nap because every child is going to be a little different. We do know that 1pm isn’t working so I would suggest pushing back her afternoon nap later into the day. You could begin with 1:30pm for a few days and see how she reacts. If she’s still sleeping for a short amount of time or not at all, consider moving the nap back even further into the day. As mentioned above, if the later nap time does work she’ll probably need her bedtime adjusted as well. Sleeping later into the afternoon means she’ll need time to build up sleep pressure again before going down for the night so you can begin putting to her to bed later in the evening, such as 7pm.
A child’s sleep needs are ever-changing so continue to try and be flexible with the times to find what works for her. It could be that she will ultimately have a little later of a bedtime while she continues with her 2 naps and then when she switches over to 1 nap a day, the bedtime would again be moved earlier to compensate for the single nap. But I’m getting ahead of myself; that’s a question for another day!