Do you remember the time in your life when nap time was mandatory? I can vaguely remember feeling trapped into laying down every day and feeling like it was torture. Of course, now napping is such a luxury that I consider asking for it for my birthday instead of the super expensive shampoo that I love and can no longer justify buying on a regular basis. I have two kids and they couldn't be different when it comes to napping. EC has always loved sleep. Sure, she had her moments in the early weeks when she woke up for night feedings, but I mean weeks literally, she was only six weeks old when she started sleeping eight hours at a stretch. And she got onto a schedule of napping for two hours in the morning and another two in the afternoon. This lasted for quite some time. When all her peers were giving up their morning naps, she clung to hers as if knowing that one day, she'd regret being so frivolous with something so luxurious. It was not, and even now is not, odd for her to nap for three or three and half hours at a stretch. She has always gone to bed at seven p.m. without a struggle.
Compare that with LR who just refuses to sleep as many hours as she needs in a day for more than a few days at a time. She's a sensitive sleeper - waking at small noises and being unable to go back to sleep. It took LR nine months to sleep through the night instead of mere weeks. We considered a sleep specialist, but finally succeeded with sleep training. She also wakes much more easily when she's really tired. This just results in a snowball effect of more tired leading to less sleep and even more tired leading to even less sleep until she's a crying mess and finally naps for three hours to break the cycle.
Don't get me wrong, EC had her share of crying in the crib instead of napping, but these were phases, not a lifestyle. Nap time with her is less fragile. If she falls asleep in the car, waiting an hour before putting her down for a nap is really all it takes to get her rhythm back. If LR falls asleep in the car, even for ten minutes, her body will boycott naps for the rest of the day.
I was listening to a very tired LR crying in her bed yesterday and googling what to do with a toddler who won't nap. And I found an article that was as contradictory as a toddler's sleep rationale on the subject. One of the first things it said was to avoid letting your toddler nap in the stroller, car, etc. Nap time was for beds in quiet, dark rooms. This was quickly followed by a command to be sure not to let your child's nap time rule your life. And another bullet point pointed out that if your child is overtired, they won't be able to fall asleep, but if they are under tired, they won't be able to fall asleep. Somehow, you're supposed to figure out the exact right time to put them down for their nap in their bed in a quiet, dark room - how is that not going to rule your life? Either you have to bring a portable bedroom in your purse, or you have to never leave the house.
Its all confusing and I have to admit that nothing stresses me out more than a toddler screaming in their room for Mommy to let her out (!) when I know that is not even close to what she needs. Its tough to not feel guilty and neglectful when this happens, but what else do you do when he or she needs sleep and the Sandman just isn't coming? I rely heavily on my gut in these instances. What does my mommy intuition tell me? Is LR really just overtired or is she genuinely done with napping for the day?
Right now, my mommy intuition is telling me that nap time will be brief today because someone has decided to jackhammer the street outside our house and I'm sure that my sensitive sleeper won't sleep through this. Its going to be a long afternoon; I wonder if I walk to the park, could get her to fall asleep in the stroller?