Part 1 - How We Sleep Trained

We decided to nap train and sleep train at the same time to get it all over with, and we didn't want to confuse Charlie as to why he was being rocked to sleep in the daytime and not at night.  But you can definitely night train and nap train at different times because the brain can separate daytime and night time sleep.  It's pretty grueling to do them together, but I approached it like ripping off a bandaid and wanted to get it all over with as quickly as possible.  Nap training is a lot harder than night training because:

  • babies are naturally tired at the end of the day
  • you have to be able to recognize your baby's tired cues and put them down for a nap before they're overtired
  • you have to cry it out for each and every nap

There is very little information about nap training in the sleep books out there, so most of what I did was based on stories from real parents who had successfully nap trained. These are the guidelines I followed:

  • follow an eat, play, sleep schedule so they do not fall asleep nursing/taking a bottle
  • the maximum amount of time babies under 6 months should be awake is 2 hours
  • do the exact same nap routine in the exact same order before every single nap
  • look for tired cues such as yawning, getting quiet, staring off into space
  • overtired cues include rubbing eyes, pulling hair, fussiness, acting wired (because they get an adrenaline rush once they pass the tired window)
  • babies will be extra tired during sleep training/nap training
  • babies are the most tired before their first nap of the day, so they may only be able to stay up 1 hour after they first wake up
  • let them cry for an hour and if they don't fall asleep, get them up and try again in an hour
  • you can do 5, 10, 15 minute Ferber checks if you choose
  • blackout shades and white noise can help babies sleep better
  • you can move up bedtime while nap training, especially if they don't go down for their last nap

We had a bedtime routine since Charlie was 2 weeks old, but we never had a nap routine.  We just did whatever it took to get him to sleep whether it was rocking him, feeding him, or pushing him in the stroller.  I asked parents what their nap routines were -- some were as simple as a kiss and saying "Have a nice nap!".  Others involved playing a certain cd, singing songs, and reading books. Since babies learn by repetition, it's important to have a couple of nap cues, so I made up a nap routine of our own: Put in sleep sack.  Dim lights.  Hold Charlie over my shoulder while singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and patting his back.  Put him in his crib awake and say "Night, night Charlie." Turn on white noise, shut off the light and leave the room.

Now I had to get good at figuring out Charlie's sleepy cues.  This can be tough because your baby is probably already overtired from fragmented night sleep and short naps.  Putting your baby down in that window when he's tired but not overtired is the best way to help them fall asleep easily.  I missed the window a couple of times, berated myself like I'm prone to do, and became obsessed with putting Charlie down at the absolute perfect time.  But eventually I became a pro at determining his ideal wake times, and followed the clock more closely than I did his cues.

Here's how the nap training went down:

Day 1
9:05am - Nap #1.  Cried 7 minutes, slept 2 hours 50 minutes
12:05pm - Woke up.
2:00pm - Nap #2.  Cried 23 minutes, slept 40 minutes.
3:10pm - Woke up.
5:07pm - Nap #3. Cried 23 minutes, slept 45 minutes.
6:15pm - Woke him up at 6:15 so his bedtime wouldn't be too late.

Day 2
7:40am - Nap #1. Cried 10 minutes, slept 2 hrs 20 minutes.
10:10am - Woke up.
12:00pm - Nap #2. Fussed for 5 minutes, slept 35 minutes.
12:35pm - Woke up.
2:41pm - Nap #3 in stroller on way home from pediatrician appointment, slept 30 minutes.
3:11pm - Woke up.
5:12pm -  Nap #4. Started crying right away. Cried on and off so hard for 17 minutes that I went to go get him.  I missed the window so we scrapped the nap and gave him an early bedtime at 6:00pm.

Day 3
8:01am - Nap #1. Happily cooed and played by himself until 8:19.  Started crying at 8:20 for 3 minutes then fell asleep for 54 minutes.
9:17am - Woke up.
10:53am - Nap #2. Slightly fussed for a couple seconds and fell asleep in 3 minutes.  Slept 39 minutes.
11:35am - Woke up.
1:19pm - Nap #3. Cried as soon as I put him in the crib, but only for 1 minute, then fell asleep within the next 3 minutes.  Slept 1 hour.
2:25pm - Woke up.
3:57pm - Nap #4. Cried for 3 minutes.  Fell asleep 5 minutes later.  Slept 1 hour and 15 minutes.
5:17pm - Woke him up so he wouldn't sleep too close to his bedtime.

Day 4
7:22am - Nap #1.  No crying.  Slept 2 hrs 25 minutes.
9:47am - Woke up.
11:41am - Nap #2.  No crying.  Slept 2 hrs 15 minutes.
1:55pm - Woke up.
3:41pm - Nap #3. No crying.  Slept 50 minutes.

There were a few tears the first two days while we were trying to figure everything out.  The third day Charlie fussed just a little.  But by the fourth day, Charlie fell asleep for every single nap with no fuss at all.   His previous 45 minute naps lengthened to 2+hour naps at times.  Because he put himself to sleep, if he woke up after one sleep cycle (45 minutes), he was able to put himself back to sleep resulting in much longer naps. I used to walk, rock, pat, feed Charlie to sleep for every nap, taking over 30 minutes at times.  Now his nap routine took 2 minutes, and it took him anywhere from 2-8 minutes to fall asleep on his own (I watched him like a hawk on my video monitor and documented everything down to the minute like the crazy person I am).

Most parents have told me that nap training took about a week.  While nap training went great for us the first four days, once our nanny took over it took a turn for the worse.  We did have little stumbling blocks along the way, but many more successes.  For instance Charlie would usually go down for his first and second nap without a peep, but sometimes have trouble falling asleep for his third nap.  I could only focus on the times he cried because it was just so gut wrenching for me.  I told Mr. Bee that I'd rather go through child birth again than go through sleep training again!  But I stuck to it because I didn't want Charlie to waste all his effort, and I knew that it would help him in the long run.   One thing that really helped me was that I never let him cry longer than 25 minutes -- there was no way I could have made it a full hour!  You gotta adjust and take what works for you.

Once Charlie caught up on sleep and we settled into a good schedule, Charlie was taking three naps a day like a pro.  I don't think we've ever had to nap train again, and to this day Charlie is still a great napper.

Did you nap train?  If so, what methods did you use?

Nap Training part 1 of 5

1. Nap Training by Mrs. Bee
2. Our Sleep Training Journal by Mrs. Superhero
3. Nap Training an 8 Month Old Baby by Mrs. Bee
4. Nap Training at Six Months by Mrs. Confetti
5. Nap Training for Baby Markers by Mrs. Markers