From One Nap To None: 3 Survival Tips For First-Time Parents

When I was pregnant with my son, I was promised a fairy tale that never came true (it was one of many empty pre-labor promises, as it turned out). “Your kiddo will be napping in the afternoon at least until the age of 5”, said many optimistic – and lucky – parents to me, based on their wonderful experience.

For me, it never came true. We are at his 16 months milestone as I’m writing this, and for about two weeks, we’ve been having to adjust to his new wishes – to not go to sleep until he passes out at 8 PM regardless of what he’s doing, and that includes taking a bath. (Be prepared for that. I wasn’t.)

I’m not proud of saying I didn’t search for any advice on how to go through this stage. Quite honestly, it never turned out to be the first-next queued thing to do. This hectic routine has had me completely off schedule.

But guess what? I’m poking through it, and I’ve somehow managed to make peace with having no afternoon breaks whatsoever.

If you’re in the same boat, don’t worry – I’m a tired mom adjusting to this big change, too. Here are a few things that have helped me, and I hope they’ll do the same for you!

  • Don’t push it.

    I’m saying this because I tried to push it. The only thing I managed to achieve by forcing my son to go to sleep at his usual time (or later!) is going through a couple of hours of screaming in his crib, followed by proceeding with playtime as if nothing stressful had happened, which would turn into him randomly falling asleep at 5 PM regardless of the position he is. Waking him up after that kind of day would be impossible to do in any ethical way, so I’d let him sleep for about 30min, hoping he’d still be tired for bed after that (mistake #2) – a 5 PM nap inevitably turns into 11:30 PM bedtime. Pour some coffee into your mug, mama, because you’ll need it!
  • Let your kids sleep in.

    If they wake up early after only 10ish hours of sleep (considering they’d been awake the whole day), kids are gonna need that nap. But if their tiny bodies are suddenly saying no to nap time, your day can quickly turn into the previously described scenario. It’s a lot better to let them sleep 12-13 hours during the night (my son often wakes up as late as 10 AM when he goes to bed at 8 PM, with no naps during the day) and I’m a lot happier knowing he has the energy to be awake until 7 or 8 PM. He gets his meals a bit later, but as we’re still adjusting, that’s the battle I’m not willing to pick.
  • Be ready for the activities.

    Being awake all day is exhausting for both toddlers and parents. However, the most painful lesson I’ve learned is that there’s nothing worse than spending that time in limbo between two activities and having no clue what to do. It leads to boredom, frustration, tantrums, and reminders of that nap that could have saved the day if only those cute, little eyes would shut. If your little ones go to bed early (and after a day full of… well, daytime – they will!), you have plenty of time to come up with things you can do tomorrow regardless of the weather (or the current quarantine situation). Make a list of activities you can check the next day and look for the next thing to do when you’re done with one activity. You’ll feel like someone is doing half the work for you – trust me on this one!

There are plenty of things you can do to make this process easier, but I find these three to be the most important ones. What are some of your tips? Let me know in the comments (I’m still on a hunt for more ideas!) Remember: you’re not alone! This, too, shall pass!

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