Toddler Nap Struggles

Journal Entry about convincing my toddler to go to sleep at nap time.


With my son being almost 3 he’s become a little more complicated to put down for a nap because he wants to play all day. Today I tried something new and he was dozing off before I could leave the room, which never happens and probably won’t work as well again!

Babies and toddlers go through different patterns of their daily schedules in relation to meal times and sleeping times mixed with playtime and daily activities/outings. For a while I’ve established a pattern for us (me and my two toddlers) to have lunch together and then put them both to bed, with my youngest already exhausted and my oldest stalling to eat so he doesn’t have to go to bed.

Journal Entry

Today our pattern went as usual, with me putting him to bed and him leaving his bed a few times, but after I tried something new and it worked beautifully!!

Most days my son fights me just to sit down for lunch because he knows after he gets out of that chair he’s going to bed and he doesn’t want to miss out on anything. He eats his food very slowly, finding any possible distraction. Then I give him his milk and its the same distracted slowness. Its rare for him to eat at a normal pace of less than 20 minutes.

So an hour goes by and his younger sister (who loves to eat) has already devoured her plate and milk all by herself and is sleepy and ready for bed, while he is still stalling on that plate of food. After my son finally finishes, with a lot of mom’s frustration and constant “finish your food!” and “finish your milk already!” I change his diaper and, now that I’m slowly attempting to potty train him, he begs to go to the potty- another stalling mechanism he’s developed!

Here’s the moment where most mom’s are so proud because their child is finally announcing that they have to go before using their diaper. Since this wasn’t the first time, I feel a mixture of hopefulness and annoyance because I know he’s just saying this to stall nap time.

My son’s bowel movements usually like to come around right after lunch when I’m trying to get him to sleep- convenient right!? So a lot of times when I put him to bed he’s laying there literally pooping his pants and then can’t sleep. This has been the cause of many days of no nap and a grumpy toddler.

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One day I decided to put him on the potty right after lunch and it was a miracle and I rewarded him with a jumbo marshmallow before bed and he slept like an angel. So I tried for a few more days after but for one reason or another they didn’t work.

Now there are days when he asks to go, pees all proud and then when he tries to poop he says “its not working” but refuses to get off the potty because he wants his marshmallow. First I explain to him that he can’t force it, that he will feel when its time THEN come to the potty (toddlers always need explanations). Then I try to get him off the potty, into clean diapers, and off to bed. NOPEEE, he won’t have it.

The boy wants to get a marshmallow and go to bed with desert. Mommy is tired. And little sister is passed out in her crib next door, if she is awoken she will cry and not go back to sleep until nighttime, and mommy won’t get anything done or be able to relax.

So I try to be patient, I give him more chances but in the end I have to get him off that potty screaming and wailing, attempt to put on his diaper and pants and put him on his bed still wailing like one of those toddlers you see having insane public tantrums, leaving mommy’s stress level high.

Today we skipped the potty because he got a diaper change before lunch. I put him to bed after laying with him and then giving him kisses. He didn’t want me to leave and was wide awake when I left (I couldn’t stay because he doesn’t sleep in our presence).

A few minutes later he came out of his room with his water and teddy bear and was just looking at me from the doorway so I told him to go back to bed and he did. A few more minutes, and I hear him at his door, I send him back again (this is our usual pattern most days, with me sometimes giving up on that nap altogether).

After a while I wonder if he pooped so I go inside and I could already smell it before getting to him. After a diaper change I told him to lay down on his tummy in bed and I would come back to massage him.

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I rubbed his feet, legs and arms, he said he was ticklish when I did his back, and he asked me to massage his belly. Then I swiped my fingers down his face, from his forehead down to his chin, with both hands, and then with one hand.

The body massages calmed him to accept it wasn’t play time but the facial massage is what got him drowsy enough to want to sleep. I had seen this in a video before where a baby was playing one second and then was passed out after a quick facial massage. I didn’t expect it to work at all but it did, just not as instant.

He was so relaxed he started moving to get more comfortable. I covered him and kept swiping my hand his face. He was still awake when I stopped so I walked away and by the time he saw me at the door he turned over to fall asleep.


It was almost like putting a sleepy baby to sleep! It sounds ridiculous unless you know what its like to put a toddler who wants to play during nap time to sleep. It was amazing and so rewarding for both of us!

I’m a realistic person so I’m pretty sure that will be one of few times that will actually work on him. I even tried it on my daughter right after, who woke up with teething pain, but it didn’t work with her because she’s obsessed with her “paci” and it was in the way of the process. She also didn’t feel like being touched.

A perfect method is, sadly, always temporary and doesn’t work in all situations or children.

Oh and here’s my son, up from his nap already! He looks so well rested and sweaty, he had a short but great nap it seems. I guess that’s my cue…

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