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Toddler Nap Transition to Daycare

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Dear Dr. Susan:

My daughter sleeps all night herself with her pacifier of course. My problem is since she was very small we have taken naps together on my bed, since I wasn’t working this is a luxury and definitely a bonding time for us during the day. We cuddle and she holds my ears. Ears are her “security blanket”. I will be returning to work in a few months and I will be putting her in a preschool/daycare and she is so accustomed to taking a nap with me on our daily schedule that she won’t take a nap herself. How can I make the transition to daycare where she can nap like the other kids. She is so active that if she doesn’t get her 2 hour daily nap, she is very cranky. I have always prided myself that since she sleeps so well at night and at naps that she is a more alert child. Help please. Your last advice my husband took and is still working on.

Caryn

Dear Caryn:

Thank you so much for writing again!

Toddlers need to sleep in a state of peace of mind, so don’t abruptly put her in her own room for a nap, but do start putting her in her own room in bed for a story and a cuddle before you go to your bed. Every day spend a few minutes longer in her room before you go into your bed. Take several months to stretch the time and make a nice sign that has her picture on it. Then switch the picture when you leave her room to yours. Start adding a warm blanket and fuzzy animal with ears to her bed and let her take it into your room. Tell her you don’t want your ears rubbed but, the animal does and be firm about it. Slowly she will stop pulling your ears, and you can move away from her to take a nap. Tell her she will soon be taking a nap in her crib (or bed) you should think about moving her to a mattress on the floor in a corner of the room if she is still in a crib. Just make the changes slowly but stick to it. Don’t let her stroke your ears anymore once she begins to like the animal – not even once! Break the habit all at once because you have now substituted “other” ears that can become her “security blanket”. Talk to her everyday about taking time to be in her room with all her animals and dolls. Make it fun and cozy to be there. Don’t rush these changes she has to break the habit in 2-3 months –that’s time enough.

Good Luck

Susan Turben, Ph.D.

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