This post idea was requested by a reader; thank you for the suggestion! I know it’s probably not of much interest to those of you without little babies in the house but I’m always up for suggestions if anyone else has other motherhood or relationship topics they’d be interested in reading about.
Ahhh naps, a most coveted thing by many adults and a huge pain in the ass when it comes to children. Luckily, babies nap A LOT or we like to hope, anyway.
I can only talk to my experience based on 4.5 months of having an infant but I have noticed a cycle to our naps in that short time.
Phase One: Being held and sleeping anywhere. As newborns, babies sleep more than they are awake so it feels like all they do is eat, sleep, and poop. Between my exhaustion and all the visitors we had in and out, there was always someone willing to sit and hold The Wee One while he slept. Naps were easy for us in the beginning because he would nurse and quickly pass out. We called it “milk drunk,” and it was adorable.
Phase Two: Being put down and sleeping anywhere. After my body healed and the initial shock of having a child wore off, I was motivated to start making dinner again, blog, clean the house, etc. But there was this baby with me constantly, how could I get anything done if I didn’t set him down? That’s when his swing and his rock n’ play became my best friends. Once The Wee One was asleep I would gingerly move him to one of those places and luckily he would stay asleep so I could feed myself, and get things done around the house.
Phase Three: Being put down and difficulty sleeping. Almost exactly at three months The Wee One “woke up” for lack of a better phrase. He wasn’t my sleepy newborn anymore and he was suddenly so curious about everything around him. This meant he couldn’t just sleep anywhere with any noise level. He also needed darkness and routine. This is when we started putting him in his crib for naps. He still needed to be rocked to sleep so it took anywhere from 5- 20 minutes but he would eventually succumb to the drowsiness. Unfortunately, this is also when his naps became about 20 minutes long, EACH!
Phase Four: Being held and difficulty sleeping. This is where we are now. The Wee One is very close to becoming a big five month old and he doesn’t need as many tricks or tools to fall asleep. His brain and his activity level have bumped up so he’s back to napping every two hours out of sheer exhaustion. But as he grows and explores, rolls, and jumps, I am getting nostalgic for my tiny infant and I miss the closeness of holding him while he sleeps. Unfortunately for me, being held makes it difficult for him to fall asleep at nap time.
He is a (new) tummy sleeper and needs space to get comfortable on his own. I put him in his swaddle at nap time now and try to get him relaxed before setting him down in the crib but he doesn’t need to be fully asleep anymore. He also takes naps in his swing (why not, he won’t fit in it much longer) and he can put himself down there in 15 seconds flat with a pacifier and a soft blanket. Once in a while I do get to hold and snuggle if he passes out after nursing. It’s true what everyone says, they grow so fast!!
Our ultimate goal has been for The Wee One to sleep in his crib during the day and at night, and aside from the tough transition weeks, he has done really well with both. As for getting him on a schedule? That has proved more difficult because every day is so different. Sometimes we’re out and about and he sleeps in the car or stroller and sometimes we’re home all day. Overall, this is what worked for us: following his cues and maintaining flexibility.
With The Wee One, we know that if he’s been fed recently and he’s still crying it means he’s tired. More often than not, when I wait too long to put him down for a morning nap, I miss that window where he will go down without a lot of fuss. From what I can gather his cues go in this order, stillness, gaze aversion, droopy eyes, squirming, whimpering, and then crying. It’s as if he gets exasperated with me saying, “I’M TIRED MOM! DUH!” I’ve learned to trust my instincts regarding naps and now I know if I get to tears, I’ve waited too long.
The flexibility comes in to play regarding expectations. I discovered early on not to count on nap sleep and to assume he’ll only be down for a short time. This way I don’t get overly frustrated when he’s up a mere 15 minutes after he falls asleep. I also don’t put him down based on the clock. The Wee One goes down for his first nap about 1.5 hours after he wakes up and then again every two hours-ish after that. I know he will eventually transition to 2 naps per day but for now he is telling us he needs more sleep than that. His naps usually last 30 minutes to an hour and a half.
With our current schedule, The Wee One is usually finishing up his last nap an hour or so before bedtime and depending on the day he will nap about 3-5 times. We believe sleep begets sleep so when tells us he’s tired, we put him down.
Here are my tips for cultivating a good crib napper, but take this with a grain of salt as every baby is extremely different. This is just what worked for us.
1. Keep night and day sleep separate. We used different swaddle brands at first, Halo at night, and Summer during the day. For naps we’d rock The Wee One in our glider, sometimes use the sound machine in his Baby Einstein mobile, and sometimes let him fuss for a very short period. For night-time, we’d stick to a routine of bath or books, holding til asleep, humidifier, and no sound machine. We are still working on the transition of putting him down drowsy but awake.
2. Use the crib early on. We introduced The Wee One to his crib in his second or third week of life even though he didn’t sleep there until two months old. It was usually for only 15 minutes or so at a time but it was an introduction nonetheless. We gradually worked up to naps in there, but it was only after he was sleeping there at night did the naps in his crib really click.
3. Make the room as dark as possible. This was especially important as The Wee One got older. We’ve always had curtains up covering the window but sometimes the sunlight from the bathroom across from his room would be especially bright so I’d have to close that door as well.
4. Be boring. This goes for middle of the night wakings as well as going down for naps. I LOVE to sing to The Wee One but I saved all songs, chants, and giggle fests for outside of his room and away from his crib. Sleepy time is quiet time.
5. Follow baby’s cues. I don’t believe there is a fool-proof plan or method to follow for getting a baby to sleep at any time of the day. I feel like we have been blessed with a very good sleeper and most of the time we have based our decisions on his (relative) maturity and adaptability. He has guided us through many transitions by showing us what’s not working anymore and forcing us to go with the flow.
I call this photo, “Who, me?”
Those of you with little ones, what would you add? Is (was) your baby a good napper?