We did it. We nap trained Olive!
First we had to decide when to nap train. We sleep trained Charlie when he was 4 1/2 months and I have no regrets about that, except maybe we should have sleep trained a little earlier (or rather instilled better sleeping habits from the get-go). He was a big baby though and I didn't feel comfortable sleep training Olive when she was that young because she was so small, having been born at under 5 pounds. Also Olive's sleep wasn't nearly as bad as Charlie's was, so we were able to wait. Finally, I was waiting for her to hit a couple of milestones around the 6 month mark that may have helped her become a better sleeper: being able to roll from tummy to back, sleeping on her tummy on her own (most babies sleep better on their tummies), and starting solids.
According to the book Bed Timing, 5.5 - 7.5 months is the ideal time to sleep train, and I wanted to sleep train some time during that time period. But since Olive was born a month early, she seemed to be developing closer to her adjusted age rather than her actual age, so I started seriously considering sleep training when she was 6.5 months old rather than 5.5 months. At that point Olive had still not mastered rolling from her stomach to her back in her crib (though she could do it on the floor), and she would cry frantically every time she found herself on her stomach until I came and got her. So I postponed sleep training until she was able to roll over both ways easily.
Time flew by and Olive was 8 months old! I was dreading sleep training because she has a strong personality -- I thought she would be much harder to sleep train than Charlie, and imagined hours and hours of crying. But Bed Timing says that 8-11 months is not a good time to sleep train, so I wanted to get it done before Olive turned 8 months old (adjusted).
Here's how we did it:
Last Monday, Olive wouldn't go down for her morning nap. She always goes down for her morning nap since I nurse her down. So I decided to plop her into her crib wide awake. She rolled around for 10 minutes babbling and playing, then she rolled around for another 10 minutes fussing, and then she fell asleep! I wasn't even planning on nap training that day, but decided in the moment that it was a great time to start. My plan of action was:
1) implement a new nap routine
2) put Olive in her crib awake
3) cap crying depending on how frantically she's crying (with Charlie we capped crying at 20 minutes)
4) if she doesn't go down for a nap, try again in an hour.
Miracle of all miracles, Olive took to nap training from day one and went down for her second nap of the day with only 1 minute of crying. She's only cried a couple of times total, and even when she did cry, it was less than 3 minutes! Since she was putting herself to sleep, her naps also lengthened from one sleep cycle (30-40 min) to up to 2 hours! This is how her naps went down last week:
Monday, June 18
9:00am - 1 1/2 hour awake before in crib for Nap #1, played 10 min then fussed 10 min
9:20am - 10:50am - 1 hour 30 min nap
1:20pm - 2 1/2 hours awake before in crib for Nap #2, 1 min crying
1:38pm - 2:34pm - 1 hour nap
Tuesday, June 19
9:47am - 2 hours awake before in crib for Nap #1, no crying
9:55am - 12:01pm - 2 hour nap
2:33pm - in crib for Nap #2, no crying
2:39pm - 4:00pm - 1 hour 21 min nap (woke her up to stay on schedule)
Wednesday, June 20
9:13am - 1 hr 45 min awake before in crib for Nap #1, cried 3 min
9:16am - 10:22am - 1 hour 6 min nap
12:37pm - in crib for Nap #2, cried 2 min
12:39pm - 1:27pm - 48 min nap
3:37pm - in crib for Nap #3, cried 3 min
3:40pm - 4:16pm - 36 min nap
Thursday, June 21
2:14pm - in crib for Nap #2, no crying
2:16pm - 4:00pm - 1 hour 14 min nap (woke her up to stay on schedule)
Friday, June 22
9:55am - in crib for Nap #1, fussed 7 min
10:01am - 11:25am - 1 hour 24 min nap
2:06pm - in crib for Nap #2, no crying
2:10pm - 2:55pm - 45 min nap
Saturday, June 23
8:55am - 1 hour 45 min awake before in crib for Nap #1, no crying
8:58am - 10:45am - 1 hour 30 min nap
She is getting so big! Look at her sitting up, and I didn't realize how much hair she now has until I looked back at her pictures from a couple months ago. She's also belly crawling everywhere. My little baby is growing up!
I never dreamed in a million years that Olive would be this easy to sleep train. We've put her in her crib awake many, many times in the past, but maybe she was the perfect age now for nap training and it just clicked. When I nap trained Charlie, I discovered that the key was to find that perfect awake interval where they're tired but not overtired. This window (which is probably shorter than 10 minutes) is the easiest time period for them to put themselves to sleep. For Olive, that interval is 1 hour 45 minutes before her first nap, and 2 1/2 hours before her second nap, third nap, and bedtime. Her nap lengths are still a little inconsistent, but they will settle down over time and become like clockwork. She's currently taking 2-3 naps/day depending on the length of her naps.
When we were nap training Charlie, he stayed home for every single nap for over a month to make sure that he had it all down. But that's just impossible to do with two kids, so Olive still takes an occasional nap in the stroller during the week, and she takes at least 1 nap in her stroller every Saturday and Sunday since we're usually out and about most of the day. I was concerned that the crazy weekend full of activity we had would throw her off, but she went down for her first nap this morning without any crying.
With Charlie we followed an eat - play - sleep schedule which is what you're supposed to do so babies are not being nursed/bottle-fed down to sleep. But I've found that Olive tends to sleep better if she has a little something in her tummy, so we feed her something (milk or solids) after she's been awake for a little while, but before she goes down for a nap. As far as her nap routine, it goes like this: get changed into sleep sack, read one book, turn on white noise, turn off lights, walk around the room while rocking or patting and singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, put into crib awake. Now that Olive is used to the routine, she's started yawning during the singing part because she knows nap time is coming! Another big thing we did was introduce a lovey a couple months ago, as that really helps Olive self soothe not only in her crib, but also in her stroller.
As far as Olive's night time sleep, it hasn't improved that much unfortunately. A big part of that is because she is waking up to comfort nurse, and I know that if I wean her, her sleep will get better. I don't know if or when I'll night train, but for now I'm just happy that Olive is finally nap trained. It's going to make my life so much easier because I can actually get things done while Olive naps!
Please note that this was probably atypical of nap training. It usually isn't this easy -- it definitely wasn't with Charlie. But if you create a nap routine, determine the ideal awake interval between each nap (babies are most tired before their first nap of the day), and let your baby practice going into the crib drowsy but awake, you are on your way. Many sleep training resources tell you to let your baby cry for one hour and then scrap the nap if they don't fall asleep, but I never did that with Charlie. We capped crying at 20 minutes (he rarely cried that long), and he was still successfully nap trained (and is still an excellent napper to this day).
If you have any questions about sleep training or nap training, please feel free to ask away!
Did you or do you plan on nap training your child? Or if you didn't nap train, do you wish you did?