Nap help for 17 month old toddler

by j.

Question: Hello, We are regular contributor to the site and always find your advice to be so very helpful. Our lively and spirited son R. is sleeping much better at night than he has done in the past. Still not "all the way through" but good long stretches. The problem seems to be his naps these days (always something or something else). He is taking one nap a day usually starting at around 11:30 or 12. He sleeps anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours BUT he almost always wakes up somewhere between 50 minutes and 1 hour and 15 minutes into his nap and I breastfeed him back to sleep. This has been going on for months now! He breastfeeds to sleep for almost all his naps- or almost to sleep. Most days this isn't a problem but I would like to know that I can go away during nap time and that he will still take a nap! The breastfeeding to sleep doesn't bother me, but the mid-way nap-snack can be a bit annoying. I have been thinking about waking him up at about 45 minutes into his nap and then breastfeeding him but not sure if "scheduled" wakings work for naps? Any other suggestion to get him through the first sleep cycle and through his nap without assistance?

Heidi's Answer: Hi Justine, Nice to hear from you, but of course I'd be happier if you could simply announce all is well now ... :)

But we're getting there: it's great for R. to sleep so nicely at night now. That's a great step.

Do you also breastfeed-to-almost-sleep at night or has the self soothing (and the breast pull-off move) set there completely?

In any case, whether it's for nights or naps, try to go one step further. You're at 'almost asleep' now; so it is a good time to go to less and less asleep.

Praise him whenever he has had a good sleep onset, it's amazing how effective praise can be.

For the mid-way nap-snack: I haven't double-checked if I advised this to you before but, rather than scheduled awakenings, I advise scheduled-keep-asleep moments here:

About 5 minutes before he'll usually wake (so 40 minutes into his nap) go to him very quietly and do something you know can keep him asleep: your hand on his belly, stroke his forehead, your hands around shoulders, ...

You want to keep him asleep, rather than startle and awake completely.

If this does not work (but you will need to give it at least a full week of trying) you can make a habit of taking him out for a walk, ride or drive (if he sleeps in the stroller, sling or car for example).

Being on the move makes it easier for him to stay asleep. So if you can, say for a week or two, regularly take these walks or rides for an hour or more, his body can also get used to sleeping for longer during a nap. And he will be able to continue doing that in his crib.

Hope it helps!
Take care,

PS: The Nap in a Snap step-by-step guide helps set up the best-fit nap routine. Such a routine is ideally adapted to your toddler's needs and therefore has the most success.

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