Sleep Schedules, Late Naps, Cranky Kids – Oh My!

“What am I supposed to do with this kid?” I have heard it over and over. Moms tired, struggling, and frustrated. Kids don’t come with a manual, especially when it comes to their sleeping habits and schedules.

Moms get tired and confused, trying to do the same thing that worked yesterday, and not understanding why Johnny just won’t fall asleep because he’s overly tired.

Moms will resort to about anything, just to get their little one to fall asleep for nap time. You may think it’s crazy. They do not! Some of the favorites I’ve heard are setting them in a seat on the running dryer, hoping the vibration will lull their bundle of joy to dream world. While others resort to using an entire tank of gas just to get their baby to doze off. Unfortunately, with most of those, as soon as you stop or turn the engine off, your little one is staring you down from the back seat… wide awake.

Of course, as they get older, kids’ napping habits change – seamingly overnight – without telling a soul. It’s up to mom (or Mister Mom) to figure it all out. Sure, there are the What to Expect When You’re Expecting books and plenty more to read. However, when the rubber meets the road, there is no one cookie cutter answer because each child is different, as well as their situation.

Take twins or any multiples for instance – in order to have any kind of life, they MUST be put on the same schedule. I remember laughing so hard reading Juggling Twins while I was still pregnant with mine. Having only had two singletons up to that point, some of those things the author was describing, I just couldn’t imagine. Now, having lived it, I TOTALLY get it and understand why people without multiples don’t quite “get it” either. In order to get both kiddos on the same nap schedule, you are bound to, almost daily, put someone in a crib before they are ready to sleep, while the other one may crash out instantly. Of course, half way through the first one’s nap, the second decides he’s going to fall asleep finally, after playing happily for an hour. And, trust me, trying to remove one to let the other sleep is not a good answer! Most of the time, whoever decides to stay awake knows the routine and is a happy little clam just to play in bed and watch his brother sleep.

As they get older, their naps change. Every child I’ve had has put me through a phase of “do they need one nap or two?” and even “have we moved from an early nap to a later one?”

My boys went through this around 2 1/2. They were getting therapy through Babies Can’t Wait, and I was doing therapy with them daily when the therapists weren’t here. There were days that we completely wore them out. They were cranky, rolling on the floor crying, or screaming at me. However, once they were in bed, they would get quiet. Several times, though, I would find an hour into it, they weren’t actually sleeping, but playing quietly. By then, they really WERE tired and would drift off to sleep. Then, the following day, I’d try to hold them off, thinking they would need sleep later, but by that time, I would have even crankier kids!

It sure was a fine balance… some days they wouldn’t nap at all, and others, they would be in there for hours on end because of their crazy play-sleep or sleep-play opposite their brother!

Fortunately, since then, they have started Special Needs Preschool which wears them out most days, coupled with them being a bit older – I think we have finally found a better napping schedule.

You are never guaranteed a constant nap time or schedule, though. They are real human beings who you can’t just turn on and off. Their bodies are changing and growing at such a rapid pace during the years from birth to four. Because of that, most kids still need some sleep, even if it only goes down to two naps per week. Even my 6-year old still takes naps when he really needs them. And I trust that he will slow down when he does. It works every time. However, because my twins are not like the typical 3-year olds out there, they have always required more sleep than my other two did when they were the same age. Their pediatrician isn’t worried, and neither am I. I think it’s like the difference between an adult needing 6 hours of sleep at night and they are good to go versus someone else needing 9 hours.

And then there’s the late napping dilemma. If you put them in bed too early, they may not nap. If you wait too long, they won’t go to sleep at bedtime. There is certainly a fine balance between finding that sweet spot where you aren’t dealing with cranky kids… because anything off the sweet spot can lead to cranky in a heartbeat!

So, what’s one to do? You pay attention to the cues your little one is giving you. Are they already cranky? Rubbing eyes? Laying down? My boys have even gone into their room, pulled their blankets and bears out of their cribs, and laid down on the floor with them. If that isn’t an obvious clue, I don’t know what is!!

Just remember, they will survive this period and so will you. Just keep taking your cues from them, but also know that you may need to step in to do what’s best for them whether they want to or not. You know they are happy when they wake up, after they have rested. But I’m sure they aren’t thinking that when all they want to do is play with their new toy truck. Stick with what you know, don’t sweat the small stuff, and be sure you always show a good attitude towards nap time. It will make it that much easier and them more willing to lay down, whether sleepy or not.

How have you struggled getting your little one to nap?

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JessBio200 Sleep Schedules, Late Naps, Cranky Kids   Oh My!Jessica Stone is a wife, mom to 4, and owner of her own businesses in the fitness and essential oils industries. She has 3 special needs children, one which has an undiagnosed neuro-muscular condition that limits her mobility, and her twins are currently receiving therapy for sensory defensiveness, physical mobility, fine motor skills, and speech. She enjoys sharing what she has learned through her trials, experience, research, and tools that have helped her children’s health with other parents who are looking for support, encouragement, and helpful information. Get her FREE gift to you, 30 Easy Snacks Your Kids Will Devour: Eating Healthy Never Got So Simple, to help you feed your kids quick & healthy! Connect with Jess live today on Facebook!

Sleep Schedules, Late Naps, Cranky Kids – Oh My!

10 thoughts on “Sleep Schedules, Late Naps, Cranky Kids – Oh My!

  1. This post bought back so many memories for me of the sleep deprivation I experienced with my first child. Your post highlights how important it is to get children into a routine of naps. Essential for them and for the parents too!

  2. This brings back so many memories!! My 3rd child was born a month after my 1st child turned 3, so for that year I had 3 children 3 years old and under, and it was crazy for awhile. Crazy good, too, but sometimes just crazy :)

    I like what you say here: “Just keep taking your cues from them, but also know that you may need to step in to do what’s best for them whether they want to or not.” You have an extraordinary amount of wisdom, Jessica… I’m so glad you’re opening your life to other parents and allowing people to share here.

    You’ve created an oasis of sanity … great article!

    1. Thank you, Susan, for giving us a glimpse into what your mothering life was like when your kiddos were little. And believe me, I totally understand those “just crazy” times!! I’m thankful to be able to encourage other parents and connect with them on real issue of real life with kids and even those with special needs. Thanks for your encouraging words to me.

  3. One of my children was really easy and one of them wasn’t that much with nap time; I think consistency is key with this. But I also think that we should ‘flow’ with them; I remember one of children wanted to nap before lunch, so he had his lunch a little later. I like your advice Jessica!

    1. Yes, I have done that before, too… nap before lunch – however, it’s been rare in my house. But if you are flowing with them and their tired and crankiness, then you will know those times that something needs to change, even if only for that day! Thanks for your thoughts and sharing with us, Olga.

  4. PHEW! Wow, that sounds tiring! You are a real trooper! I admire you. I’ve heard a lot of moms say that What to Expect When You’re Expecting & other sleep books were really helpful. Keep on encouraging the moms Jessica!

    1. Thanks, Jenny! I appreciate your encouragement to keep helping others and your respect for what I do. Motherhood is certainly not an easy job, nor is it for the faint of heart… but it’s worth every second for those little smiles, hugs, and kisses!

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