The End of Napping: It’s Not the End of the World

I’ll never forget the first time I realized we could get my son to nap. He was about 8 weeks old, and we finally mastered some sort of swaddle/shush/pat technique that allowed us to PUT HIM DOWN rather than waiting around, hoping he would fall asleep. We were euphoric. Realizing we could give him and ourselves some regularly scheduled breaks made life seem so much more manageable. By his first birthday, we were down to one glorious afternoon nap that usually lasted three hours.

Oh how I loved those naps. Around that time, I was feeling like a failure because Owen still wasn’t sleeping through the night, so three-hour naps made me feel like I was doing SOMETHING right. He’s never been one to just fall asleep in a stroller and if he sleeps in the car he DOES NOT TRANSFER, so I was religious about being in his room by 1pm every day, with a sound machine, blackout shades, the whole shebang. And it worked.

Legitimately not tired during the hours formerly known as nap time

Around two-and-a-half, things started to change. Our wind-down went from being a 30-minute process to an hour process to 1.5 hours plus of “one more story” “I have to go pee-pee REALLY bad.” “I have to go poopy.” “May I have just a LITTLE bit of milk?” “I want a snack.” “I have to go pee-pee again.” For a period of several weeks, he insisted on getting up and changing from his PJ pants into a specific pair of madras shorts by himself, complete with tears, struggle, and much backward short-wearing. The start of naptime slowly crept back until some days he wasn’t falling asleep until 3 or later.

After napping late, he wouldn’t settle until late at night. Some nights, he would stand at his door, protesting, whining and/or yelling until 10:00 or 10:30. There were days when we spent an hour and a half getting him down for a nap and another hour and a half at night. I don’t have to tell you that spending three hours of your day getting your kid to sleep is unsustainable.

I was terrified of “the end.” But I started to notice something. On the days we eventually gave up on a nap, Owen was rarely the grumpy, irritable kid I expected him to be. He was happy and loving life. And sans nap, something magical happens at bedtime: he falls asleep within minutes. Even better, he often wants me to lie down with him, and it turns out my not-so-cuddly kid, when he’s tired enough, is quite the cuddler. So I get in some sweet but short snuggles, and he’s out in no time. (Not that “no time” isn’t enough time for an exhausted mom to fall asleep too. Just ask my husband, who has to wake me up from my evening catnap almost every night.)

Still going strong after a long day at Wild Adventures

Another benefit of the post-nap life? Freedom. I think what you lose in “break” time is made up for by the flexibility you gain. No more turning down afternoon plans or cutting a fun day short to go home and nap. Recently, Owen and I spent a whole day together at Wild Adventures in Georgia. We squeezed in a nature & animal walk, petting snakes, rides, a safari train, lunch, waterslides, a lazy river, more rides and he was still going strong. It was one of the best days we’ve ever had.

If you have a second or third child, the time-formerly-known-as-naptime could be a good chance to spend some QT with your “big kid” while the baby sleeps. I think the end of the nap is actually a really cool milestone. Since Owen gave it up, I can honestly say I don’t miss it. I feel like I have a partner in crime for more hours of the day. When we stay at home, I’m amazed at the conversations he has with his toys and the ways he occupies himself (usually) in his new found “spare time.” And now we can squeeze in a lot more family time when we’re all together on the weekends.

So if you’re a parent facing down the end of naptime, I know it’s hard to say good-bye. But I want you to know that, not only will you come to accept it, you may even learn to like it. And if you were hoping this post contained some advice on prolonging your napping days, remember, I’m the mom whose kid gave up nap well before his third birthday!

napping child
Sleeping hard after a napless day

Are you kids still napping and if not, how old were they when they stopped? Do you enforce “quiet time” or any other nap substitute?

Beach addict, magazine lover, beer geek, political junkie, runner, design snob, tree hugger, amateur travel agent, and rabid HGTV devotee. A native of Delaware, Erin’s advertising career took her from New York City to Detroit to Charlotte before bringing her to the Jacksonville area in 2006 where she promptly met her husband Shawn. They married in 2009 and their wild and wonderful son Owen was born in 2010. Since then, Erin has continued her advertising career as a self-employed writer and consultant working on a part time basis. Some days, she longs to be a full-time stay-at-home mom; on really hard mom days, she daydreams about being a full-time professional. But most days, she feels fortunate to have a balance of both. Although she’s spent her career in advertising primarily as writer, working with so many talented artists, designers and photographers has led to her keen interest in all things aesthetically pleasing – including great style, which will be her main focus as a Jacksonville Moms Blog contributor.


    • I should also mention that Lainey was about 3 when she stopped napping. I remember we spent a full day in St. Augustine, and I was dreading the drive home. I thought surely she would fall asleep because she had missed that nap! It was a totally dark, long drive home and she stayed up the whole way. And with two older children, I didn’t enforce a QT with her. It’ll be interesting to see if I should have with a new baby in the house now!

  1. Yep, sounds like my exact experience with Sienna. Definitely more pros than cons, though I do miss my hour of alone time eating lunch and reading. Still its great she goes down quicker and earlier at night with less of a fight most nights…

  2. This could totally explain why my almost 3 year old takes hours to go to sleep at night. Maybe she is getting too much sleep during the day.

  3. My son, now 3.5, stopped napping before he was 2 even. He naps great at pre-school, best napper in the class, but not at home. Most nights it takes at least an hour to get him to bed. Some nights I just give up and fall asleep before he does. My daughter, just turned 1, still takes at minimum 2 naps a day (except at school where she only gets 2 if she falls asleep and they scoop her up and put her on a big pillow). 1 year old goes right to sleep at night within minutes some days, never more than a half hour.

  4. I knew it was The End of Napping when my first daughter – who was 2 years and 1 month at the time – got through Christmas shenanigans at our house first thing in the morning, at my parents’ house next, and then got in her car seat and made it through a 2 hour drive to my in-law’s house without falling asleep.

    Since then, she only falls asleep in the middle of the day if she’s sick. I enforced some quiet time in her room for a while, then it was quiet time watching an hour of Sesame Street… and then it was gone 🙂

    Second daughter (15 months) naps much more soundly and longer than the first ever did, so I have a feeling she’ll nap until she’s older, too. She definitely needs it, and falls asleep right away for nap, but now she’s fighting bedtime tooth and nail. Sigh.

  5. Right on time… My 3 year old does not want to nap on the weekends…but my 5 & 7 year olds do! (Well, they say they don’t, but they still fall asleep if I make them lay down.)

  6. I have 3 girls, ages 7, 3, and 2, with one more due in April. My 7 year old has always been a napper. When she was around 3 she could go with out a nap fine but would still take one without issue if we decided to. My 3 year old has not regularly taken naps for a year now. We have always enforced quiet time because of her younger sister still requiring naps. Now, my 2 year old wont nap. I am still enforcing quiet time because it gives them a chance to nap if they need it, but even if they dont fall asleep, they get up in much better moods than when they went in. I also know I’m going to need naps/quiet time when the new baby arrives. I do agree that when we skip quiet time because we are out and about for the day it is nice not to have to stick to such a strict schedule, but I’m a stay at home mom, and most of our days are spent at home. Those days are not so nice without quiet time. My girls are also early risers, regardless of when they go to bed, or if there was a nap or quiet time that day, they are up anywhere between 5:45 and 7, usually around 6:20 though. I do wish I could change that!!!


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