Nap Skipping

Nap Skipping Chronicles: Unveiling the Impact and Strategies from the Parenting Frontlines

I recently did some work with A community created for parents to understand their parenting journey. The founders say that in this space “everyone’s wisdom and experience is valued equally, without the loudest voices diluting others. Insights are much more representative than what you would get asking a small group of people”.
Each week they pick a different topic and ask questions. Results are anonymous with the goal of a “full picture perspective” for what parents are considering.

In this case they asked:

Part a:

How many days in the last week did your child skip their nap?’

Part b:

Can you expand on your experience with nap skipping? E.g. Have you thought they were dropping a nap, only to find it keeps coming back? Do you find it manageable or stressful, and how does it affect your child’s night-time sleep and bedtime?

Summary of responses:

Nap skipping – or “Baby FOMO” as one community member aptly put it – was experienced by most parents. Just under half of all parents reported no nap skipping, particularly those aged 12 to 24 months. For the youngest (0 to 12 months) and oldest (24 to 36 months), naps were a little more unpredictable.

When you expanded on your experiences, the following themes emerged: 

1. Impact on Child’s Mood and Behaviour (55%): Most parents noticed more crankiness, meltdowns or harder dinner/bed-times, although many noted this was hit-and-miss – sometimes children were totally fine.  One parent shared, “Bedtime is miserable because he is so exhausted and fussy”, while another said, “We’re always trying to figure out if there is anything we can do to prevent skipping with mixed success (e.g. having dad pretend to leave before naps, doing naps in the stroller). Sometimes he is a melty disaster in the evenings after a skipped nap.”

2. Impact on Night-Time Sleep (42%): Many parents found that skipped naps can disrupt night-time sleep. As one parent observed, “Earlier bedtime…is very easy, he goes to sleep immediately but the night is a bit harder in that he wakes up more often.” That said, some parents mentioned their children sleeping in longer the next day (which was sometimes very welcome, and sometimes messed with routines like getting to daycare).

3. Stress for Parents (34%): The relentlessness of not having a break, plus worry around potential tantrums, came up a lot. Experiences shared included: “I get anxious that she’ll be overtired and have a meltdown”; “I get into a doom spiral that the skipped nap is going to lead to interrupted night sleep which also usually isn’t the case”; and “I’m worried that I will mess up their entire sleep skill set and they will never sleep again (as I type this, I see that it is catastrophizing!)”.

4. Adaptation and Coping Strategies (19%): On the flip side, other parents managed a more laid back, go-with-the-flow attitude, with one noting, “I’ve found that letting go of the rigidity of the nap schedule reduces the amount of stress for me. I remind myself that he’s not a robot, and many factors influence how he is each day, and that resiliency and flexibility are better for him in the long run that rigidity.” Meanwhile, another parent shared their lovely ritual of sticking to “quiet time” at nap time, even if their child didn’t sleep: “We explained that she could nap or just play quietly in her room and it went very well. Occasionally she would still nap, but most of the time it was independent play time (which she is now fantastic at).”

5. External Factors Influencing Nap Skipping (24%): Lots of parents mentioned external factors – particularly childcare/daycare – as being prone to causing nap skipping (although for a few people it was the opposite, with their child sleeping better than at home). “It’s so frustrating because then we have to feed and put her to bed right after she gets home and I miss out on spending time with her”, said one parent. For those with younger babies, cluster feeding was also mentioned as a reason for nap skipping.

6. Individual Differences (18%): Parents also highlighted that each child is unique in their nap needs and reactions to nap skipping. We enjoyed how a parent of twins summed it up: “One twin makes it to bedtime well behaved when they drop nap. The other one is a horrible little jerk, hitting, biting, and screaming.”

7. Finally, a fair few parents (around 10%) noted their conscious efforts to ensure naps were never skipped. Particularly parents with twins (we hear ya), with one parent saying “Nap skipping is impossible. Our nap schedule is the most important aspect of our day!”

In summary, nap skipping is often challenging, but you’re in good company. In the wise words of one parent, “I find that when I despair of it being a new pattern, things readjust and revert to normal – the next nap, the next day, is better, and I just have to relax and have faith it can go back to routine.”

Naps can be hard to master and achieve every day with ease as so many factors can impact how your child experiences day sleep.  It is not surprising to hear that almost half of parent’s report that when naps by day are interrupted, night sleep is affected, but I do try not to have parents stress too much.  Missed naps can be compensated for by bringing bedtime earlier or by having a last-minute day sleep and moving bedtime later.   Your child’s sleep has many developmental aspects; from birth onwards, they will undergo a series of nap transitions, so that by about 18 months of age, most children have one nap until closer to age 3.  I acknowledge that every child is entirely individual, as is each family unit, so I am a big advocate of what works for each unit.  I encourage parents to provide naps when you have seen early sleep cues, such as brief eye rubs and yawns rather than intense, obvious signals, as early onset of sleep can often result in an easier and longer nap duration. 

I also pay attention to sleep pressure, knowing that children need to be awake a certain amount of time per age, before they can nap, even if they seem tired beforehand.  I promote day sleep with regular wake times, feeding and predictable patterns of care, together with light exposure and activity, along with a sleep-friendly, dark, nap environment.  I always include a nap pre-sleep ritual to help your child to transition to day sleep, whilst temporarily leaving the busyness of the day. With over 50% of parents reporting impaired mood and behaviour associated with day sleeping patterns, achieving day sleep can make a difference to everyone’s mood, behaviours, and appetite too.  Sometimes naps can be improved by observing an earlier bedtime, as this can help unlock sleep readiness by day, as well as a movement toward an independent style of sleep at bedtime, which is a skill set that can be then transferred into the day.  

  • Total 980 valid responses 
  • 91% mothers, 6% fathers, 3% other (e.g. nanny)
  • Age split: 44% parents of 0-12 month olds; 31% 12-24 month olds; 25% 24-36 month olds 
  • Mix of nationalities, but predominantly US and UK 

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