Lucy’s nap sabbatical

When I’m being realistic, I have to admit that Lucy has indeed given up her afternoon nap. And I have to tell you, this has been very hard (and it explains our absence from the blog). So on my optimistic days, I imagine she’s just on some kind of extended vacation from naps.


Lucy has gone a couple of weeks now without taking a nap of any kind. She’ll sometimes lie down for about two minutes, but then she starts calling out. We’ve been working on having “Quiet Play Time” instead, but this is a challenge in itself. Right now, Lucy can only manage about 15 minutes of quiet play time, and every time I start to remember her regular two-hour naps, I come to tears.

I went through quite a rough period at the beginning of this phase, despairing of ever getting any alone time again. Naptime has felt like a key, crucial time to my own ability to flourish and have patience as a mother — not to mention getting work-related and household tasks done!

Photo: “Just because I’m wearing jammies does not mean I’ll be sleeping!”

However, I’m starting to see that Lucy has definitely been picking up on my desperate need for alone time. I think it is good for her, probably, to realize that Mama is human and needs a little break. But I also think she was starting to feel threatened by the urgency of the “go away and leave me alone for awhile” message behind my friendly Quiet Play Time words.

There are other factors that are probably adding to her anxiety around naptime and quiet time, too. Rosie has been simultaneously giving up her morning nap, which seems to be a bigger change for Lucy than I had expected. I’ve been delighted by all the things we can do together in the mornings now (zoo! pool! grocery shopping! visiting friends!), but I didn’t anticipate how this would be a loss of “Mama-time” for Lucy — but of course it is! Also, this change has required a very sleepy Rosie to go down first at naptime, which is slightly different from what we’ve been accustomed to.

Another big change: Lucy has been sleeping in a toddler bed. We finally decided that the twin bed we put in Lucy’s room almost a year ago wasn’t really working, considering she has slept in it a grand total of once. One of Lucy’s friends, Simon, has a toddler bed and has been loving it, and after Lucy got to see it and admire it one day, we set out to buy one of our own. We got a cute wooden one off Craigslist, and Lucy has been sleeping in it quite well — at nighttime. But the fact is, she misses her crib. Every once in awhile she’ll ask, “Can I sleep in my crib tonight?” It pulls your heartstrings to hear her grief, but this seems like a good step forward, and she is doing well.

And one last thing: Lucy is also simultaneously (and coincidentally) doing really well with nighttime potty training. She has slept most of this week without a diaper and kept her pajamas dry! And, while this is a very positive thing, it is one more new event that is making for a busy brain on Lucy. (It was entirely her idea this time around.)

I’ve been re-reading all of the helpful comments we received from our nap challenge back in April, and those have been a gift. This does feel different than the April nap issues in that I think Lucy may be developmentally ready to drop her nap at least some of the time. She does not generally exhibit the signs of overtiredness that I’ve seen in the past (night-waking, cranky afternoons). She has napped a couple times in the car with Jon on afternoon outings, and I think she would still benefit from a nap (and so would I), but I don’t think she is necessarily under-rested.

I’ve been trying to organize my thoughts around issues and questions I have:

  • Issue #1: Stalling. During naptime attempts and quiet play time, Lucy will often request a potty sit, even if she has just had one. And the thing is, when she is granted one she almost always does actually produce something, so it is hard to just say “no.” But Lucy is picking up on this and sometimes tries to use it to her advantage. Other stalling tactics she has employed: needing a snack, wanting different pajamas, desiring “just one more” story, needing her nose wiped, etc. This has also drifted over into bedtime stalling problems, and we’d like to eliminate this whole problem.
  • Issue #2: Hollering. I really need Lucy to be quiet for quiet play time, not only for my benefit, but because Rosie is trying to sleep. There have been days that Lucy’s calling out has cut Rosie’s nap short, and this makes Mama Extremely Grumpy. We purchased a special clock that visually shows how much time is left for quiet play time, and this perhaps helps a little bit, but it’s not a magic bullet. Frankly, I would just let her holler if she were the only one in the house, but she’s not.
  • Issue #3: Anxiety. I’m not talking about me right now (although I’ve had a big dose of sleeplessness and anxiety this month). I would like to help Lucy feel more comfortable in her room with her new bed. She clearly misses her crib, but she totally is ready to sleep in her bed, especially with her nighttime potty success. We just rearranged the furniture in there (taking down the twin bed) so that it can be cozier, but I think her space still feels a little foreign. Plus, Mama has had a lot of intense emotions around the whole nap/quiet time process, so we are all on edge.

Here are some of my questions:

  • How long can I reasonably expect Lucy to be quiet for quiet play time? I’ve been banking on the assumption that once Lucy was ready to drop her nap, she’d be old enough to play quietly in her room for some time (30 min? 40 min? more?).
  • How can I get the break I need, even if Lucy doesn’t nap? (This is a huge worry for me.)
  • How can I help Lucy to feel comfortable in her new bed, and in her room? How can we help it to feel like a safe haven for her?
  • The afternoons are the worst: Rosie often feels a little needy after her nap, Lucy starts to get hyper, Mama is on edge after wishing in vain for some quiet time, and dinner preparations need to begin. How can we improve these challenging afternoon hours?

I must mention how amazing Jon has been through this process. I’ve been really consumed by this whole dilemma for weeks, trying to figure out ways for sleep or quiet for Lucy, despairing over my own need for a break, and having a few meltdowns. Jon has been super-encouraging and, perhaps best of all, he has been “on call” with Lucy all afternoon over the last couple of weekends. What a gift! I’m also looking forward to Lucy having an afternoon date with Grammie later this week.

But optimist that I am, I’m still hoping against hope that Lucy will end her nap sabbatical soon and miraculously re-join the world of nappers!

10 Replies to “Lucy’s nap sabbatical”

  1. I’ve learned a few things in this process with Benjamin. He is a little older than Lucy (he turned 4 in June), but perhaps some of these will be helpful for you:

    1) I let him control the whole potty thing. I don’t know if this is practical in your house or not or if Lucy is self-sufficient in the potty area or not, but I basically tell him he has to stay quietly in his room for quiet time but that he can come out and use the potty as long as he’s quiet about it and goes right back in his room when he’s done. This seems to work well.

    2) On days when I really feel that he needs a nap because he’s acting tired, I tell him he has to lay in bed for 15 minutes quietly and if he’s still awake at the end of it he can come get me and we’ll set up the room for quiet time. If he comes out before the 15 minutes, the time starts over so he has to lay in bed longer. I only had to reset the time once before he figured it out and most days that we use this technique he will nap (again, I only do it when I really think he needs a nap).

    3) He gets a reward at the end of the quiet time if he stays quietly in his room the whole time. His reward is to play a game on the computer, but you could do whatever you want! If he’s noisy and I have to go up there and talk to him or if he comes out before times up, no computer.

    4) I have made a point of having special toys that only come out at quiet time. I made him a lacing card with cardboard, a hole punch and a shoelace – he enjoys that. He also enjoys the actual hole punch – punching tons of holes in a piece of construction paper (the punch catches the scraps, so no mess – I got it at Target for 99 cents). I also print out shapes on construction paper for him to cut out and I put a toddler sized table and chair in his room for him to sit at to do all these activities along with a coloring book and crayons and stickers (the rule with those is they stay on paper or no more crayons at quiet time!).

    Anyway – I keep all these things up high on a shelf in his closet and they come out for quiet time and then get put away. This seems to keep his interest better than just giving him some of his regular toys to play with. I also try and add new things as I think of them.

    I would say with Lucy – if she’ll stay quiet for 15 minutes, even though this is less than ideal, start with a 15 minutes quiet time. Then when she successfully completes it by staying in her room and being quiet the whole time, lavish her with praise and/or a reward. Gradually lengthen the time until you reach whatever you consider to be a decent amount of time (we currently do an hour, I might increase it a little in the future). Continue with the rewards and hopefully it will work. For the beginning when the quiet time is so short, maybe give yourself a break by letting her watch 45 minutes of a movie or something after her quiet time.

    We now give him the choice every day of quiet time or nap and he for a while wanted a quiet time everyday but has lately been choosing to nap – I think the novelty of staying awake wore off and he decided he’d rather pass the time sleeping! But he still does a quiet time a couple times a week.

    I hope this is helpful – I know how hard it is to envision life without naptime – that break is indeed key to my sanity!

  2. Hey Ann,

    Simon has been dropping naps here and there. We do enforce a quiet time. When I put him down I ask him if he wants his door open or closed (he usually naps with it open). He always says open. I tell him that if he comes out of his room I will close the door and lock it. On the days when he does not want to nap, he will come out of his room and find me. I return him to his bed and very matter-of-factly close and lock the door. He sometimes knocks on the door for a few minutes, but doesn’t cry (he did the first time, but not since). He will play with his trains, lay down, sing, etc. I usually leave him in there for an hour or so.

    I think when he is too wound up to sleep or doesn’t need to, he has a hard time staying in his room. He has never seemed scared or anything to be in there, although he was pretty mad the first time. He seems to need the physical boundaries (as you know, we also close and lock his door at night).

    Not sure if any of this would apply to Lucy. But I can SO identify with the momma anxiety that missed naps cause. Ramona typically sleeps from 1:00-3:30 or 4:00 and that is a long time to kill with a cranky Simon. With him in “quiet time”, I can often nap or do a few things around the house.

    Love you!

  3. Hey Ann,

    I can so totally relate to this post! One thing that has really helped Ben is to have a “Quiet Time Chart” with special treats set up along the way as he completes each Quiet Time. So, if he stays in his room quietly for the entire duration of Quiet Time, he gets a stamp on his chart. After he gets 5 stamps, he gets an ice cream cone. After 10, he gets a slushie. After 15 he gets a candy bar (I have a child with a massive sweet tooth). Etc. The first week it worked great. The second week, not so much. This week, his grandparents are in town, so that’s going to screw things up a little bit.

    Another thought I had is if you are really craving the afternoon break, what about waking Lucy up earlier in the morning? Since Ben dropped his nap, he has been sleeping until 8 am, which has been fabulous. How much total sleep is Lucy getting? Maybe work backwards from there, i.e., if you want her to take a 1 hour nap in the afternoon, wake her up an hour early? I’m not sure if that would work or not, but it could be something to try.

  4. Sending hugs! She’ll adjust soon, but I know how trying it can be in the meantime. Mo can have his super cranky days when he’s on day 4 of his no nap cycle. He typically naps 2 times a week, and it’s just enough for him.

    Also find one of those activities that Lucy loves, so that on those days when you really need some me time, you have something special she can do while you take care of you.

    I’m feeling blessed that Mo is an outdoor guy and will happily dig in the dirt for hours if I let him. But when the twins are here, it will be colder and it is going to be much more difficult for me to keep 4 kids happy at once.

  5. You will never believe this, but Lucy is napping right now! This is the first nap she has had since July 9. I guess I just have to write up the problem on our blog for her to get the hint!

    One other breakthrough for me today: I decided that I was starting to feel like Lucy was running the show in this area, which isn’t good for her or me. So, I made a resolution to be firm with our naptime routine and not worry about her crying and waking up Rosie. I only went in a couple of times, and the final time I told her I was getting in the shower and wouldn’t be able to hear her if she called for me. She gave a big yawn and said, “Okay, goodnight!”

    Now I’m going to cherish this rare nap moment with some rest of my own!

  6. way to go ann! I think the key is being in charge and firm, yet understanding. It is totally okay to expect her to have at least 1 hour of quite time. We have done all of the above suggestions and they work and I have been in your spot with the waking up the sibling a lot. I have discovered that I go to Madelyn and tell her I am disappointed in her behavior which woke up Lydia and now she needs to chose to obey or there will be a bad consequence (yes using those words, which we have helped her to understand) then I go to Lydia and say, “sorry Maddy woke you up, but it is still sleepy time” she goes right back down (some times she yells at me too, those are the FUN days, ahhh). But setting the expectations high and giving them the ability to attain it is the key for us. Of course when they get up we affirm their good nap and point out how much better the family feels when we rest and now that we can have even more fun together. Like I posted before “our family will sleep because mom needs sleep”! :-0
    I pray for a good rest for you and the family. Blessings.

  7. Katrina – we use almost those exact same words with Benjamin. We’ve really been working on teaching what it means to be obedient and why we are obedient and how even Mommy and Daddy have to be obedient to God and how when we aren’t obedient there are negative consequences and it makes God sad and we have to ask him to make our hearts clean again. I’m not sure how much of it he grasps, but since I started emphasizing obedience and consequences for disobedience, he has actually been a lot more obedient. Perhaps it made Mommy’s rules seem a little less random?

  8. Oh Ann! I’m so glad you posted about this. Abby’s not fighting her nap times but boy, does she go to bed late these days! We still do bedtime at 7:30-8ish but most nights she’s up until 9:30ish. I guess we could call the time in between “quiet time” becuase she really does just hang out on her bed. She’s used the stalling techniques as well and we’ve just been firm about the fact and rules about bedtime. (I got the rules from Weissbluth.)We’ve been contemplating (I’ve been denying) Abby dropping her nap. She also doesn’t seem to show signs of overtiredness but we’ve only not napped a handful of times when special events occurred. I absolutely affirm your feelings about naptimes being precious – I love the quiet! I know mom’s of older kids and they remind me that our little ones will be in school and we’ll have quiet all day all too soon. I’m mustering up my courage to embrace the no nap season! :)

  9. Anne,
    We’ve used all of the above techniques but just wanted to add two things.
    I save any sort of “screen time” for “quiet time”. Which means if lucky Marie gets to watch a movie that day or if she wants to play a computer game or play with her Leapster, it is done during this time. That way her little sister isn’t getting “screen time” (she just turned 2). Otherwise it is key to have special “big girl toys” that are only for quiet time in the room.

    I also have a gate that I use. When both girls are awake but I HAVE to get something done (usually laundry which is in the next room over, or taking a few minutes to myself to lay on our bed and check email without little people) I will put both girls in Maries room with her dolls and polly pockets and tea set and put a gate on the door with the door open. They can’t see me but I can hear them (and I peak every now and then). It forces them to play together nicely. I’ve only had to break up a few squabbles. The first time I did it they whined at the gate for a few minutes but then realized they could play without anyone telling them what to do and now they thinks it’s fun. Seriously. They could stay there for hours if I would let them!

  10. You could make Lucy listen to Danielssen Family songs and see if that changes her mind. This stage with my kids made me crazy. I did like Jane, and basically put them in a room and made them stay there for an hour. With toys, books on tape, and siblings. It wasn’t a quiet quiet time, but they were in there and I wasn’t and that was enough for me. I could hear them bouncing off the walls, but there were mattresses on the floor and I knew they were safe. Eli was a master at always having to poop the moment quiet time started. So that cut a good ten minutes off the whole deal. But I got really good at reading and tuning distractions out. To this day, if I am reading I don’t hear what the kids say to me.

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