Do you schedule naps for your children?
I go back and forth with whether this is appropriate for a family practicing Attachment Parenting (AP). When my children are babies, I don’t schedule naps at all. Babies sleep when they need to sleep. But as my children get older, they usually go through a phase where I do schedule naps – because they fight sleep so badly.
This doesn’t mean I dump them in a crib and close the door while they cry themselves to sleep. I take time to soothe them to sleep, whether in the sling, in arms, or on another surface. My favorite daytime other-surface for baby is a bouncy seat, and my favorite method of soothing a reluctant napper is nursing while in the rocker.
Eventually, the child “self-weans” from naps. However, I do continue to encourage my children to sleep if they feel they need to. Usually, this is met with a fervent shaking of the head. And as long as they seem to be doing OK, I let them go without a nap. But, at times, I do need to force a nap. For example, today, one of my children whacked another one with her purse out of frustration and then denied that she did the deed, when confronted by the hurt sibling. This is clearly a sign for her that she’s tired.
Again, it’s not a matter of dragging a kicking, screaming child to bed as a punishment for her crimes, but rather to soothe her to sleep as a solution to her exhaustion. Still, it’s not always pleasant getting a tired child to bed, and the situation should be handled as any boundary-setting is done in your house.
But the sibling wasn’t acting tired, so there was no need for her to take a nap also. Since the girls share a room, the wide-awake one would hinder the other’s nap, so the one not taking a nap spent some downtime “helping” me sort through the mail and pay bills. My, her sister must have been tired, because she’s been asleep for a couple hours! Her sister has spent the remainder of the naptime making cookies and popcorn with her dad.
A friend of mine, who parents her four children in an AP way, does schedule an afternoon downtime. For her younger children, naps are appropriate. But for the older ones, if they don’t want to take a nap, they take what she calls “quiet time,” in that they read or play a game or otherwise do something quiet and usually alone. This gives each of them, and her, some downtime.
I think it’s important for children, and parents, to have downtime, whether that involves napping or not. People, young and old, big and small, need to recharge part way through the day. It’s healthy.