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Sleep, Baby Sleep

nap“Junior quit his naps when he was 9 months old. I just couldn’t get him to sleep anymore.” Seriously?

Our oldest child fought sleep every chance she got for her first few years. Knowing her now, I realize it was because she was afraid she might miss something while she was sleeping. To this day, her body requires more sleep than most, but it can still be hard for her to give in and rest. There were times when I was tempted to let her drop her naps in the early years; the struggle sometimes seemed to outweigh the reward. But I persevered, making sure she never thought that naps were optional.

I noticed that when she was discovering a new skill, our daughter was so excited that she could not settle herself down enough to sleep. At those times, I simply required her to stay quiet in her room for a while, to give us both time to be alone and sane. It was interesting to me that, days later,  after she had fully mastered the new ability, she needed her nap even more than before!

Obviously, it is up to parents when to allow their children to drop their naps, but it seems that sometimes parents allow the children to decide, and this is not fair to anyone. The general guideline is that babies should sleep up to 15 hours per day, toddlers 14 hours and elementary aged children up to 12 hours. There are so many children who are exhausted and their parents are, too!

Research shows that sleep is important for healing, growth, mood and weight control in adults and children. I believe that we do a great disservice to our children, and to ourselves, when we hinder their sleep with lots of plans, caffeine and busyness. When they are young, children need a scheduled time to rest every day. Making room for this can teach them to relax, to comfort themselves and to listen to their bodies.

After church on Sunday, my 17 year old had big plans for the afternoon: nap and homework. In that order. I am proud to say she had a very successful day.

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2 responses »

  1. I have an almost 2yo who will not take naps with us. When strangers and anyone other than his mom or dad put him down, he goes to sleep like a lamb and people must think we just make this stuff up. Not only will he not nap, he has been an early riser since birth and has woken up anywhere between 4 and 5 a.m. every day of his entire life. He sleeps through the night (thanks Ferber), but he makes us just batty.

    I for one see the averages for recommended hours of sleep as guidelines; as any statistician knows, there are always numbers above and below the average or median of any set of data. So, while we’d ideally like our kid to wake up at a more reasonable hour, we’re starting to accept that he’s wired to have less sleep than those numbers would have us believe. Since he is developing fine, in fact at a faster rate than our #1, we know he must be okay. I do agree that letting kids dictate the terms of their length of sleep should be a nonstarter and is unequivocally problematic. However, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Still, kids can (and should) be trained/taught to meet our (reasonable) expectations, and since the hours between 4 and 5 are NOT “awake” times, we’re hoping that a series of strategic incentives – rather than trying to convince him that dark=sleep time – may be the answer to buying ourselves an hour (or two) more of quiet rest time. It may take 6 more months of nuttiness, but I’ll take that over 10 more years of this silliness. I know I’ll be fighting the “how-can-you- possibly-sleep-in-so-late” battle in the future. Thanks for the reminder.

    Reply
  2. Oh, I feel your pain. My second child is a morning person, has been since day 1 (he’s now 15) and to this day, gets up way too early! When he was old enough (maybe 2.5?) we put a clock in his room and told him not to get out of bed until it said 6-0-0. He was such a rules follower that it worked! He would lay in his bed and play quietly until it was time to get up.
    I totally agree about sleep amounts being a guideline, I meant for this to be permission to parents to be parents, to make the important decisions instead of abdicating them to a toddler.
    Best of luck to you, it should get better from here! And thanks so much for reading.

    Reply

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