Sleep. Everyone needs it, yet few of us seem to get enough of it. And with babies, it determines the mood of an entire household. All moms want their babies to be good sleepers.
At the beginning, Little C was a 2-asleep 1-awake kind of kid, round the clock. It took him a while but eventually the night stretches got longer, and within a few months, Mr. Confetti was bound and determined to sleep train Little C. Thankfully, there was minimal training required. As C gave up the swaddle around 3 months, he started sleeping better at night time, and he slowly figured out night weaning mostly on his own (with Mr. Confetti’s encouragement and a few rough nights of Ferber-style CIO). By 5.5 months, he had cut out all of his night feedings except our last early morning 4:30 a.m. nursing session, and as we completed the weaning process just before he reached six months, he dropped the last feeding and made it all the way through the night.
He was not a good daytime sleeper, but everything I had heard and read said that once a baby’s nights were consistent, the naps would just fall into place. Lies.
Because of upcoming travel and concerns of allowing too many “sleep crutches,” we had transitioned him from the swing to the crib for his naps, and without fail, Little C could not get past the 40 minute nap threshold in his crib. Like clockwork, he was waking at the end of his first sleep cycle, and would not fall back asleep, no matter what I did. Even more enervating, he woke up crabby, clearly in need of more sleep and yet refused to Just. Do. It.
Around that time, I was sitting with Little C at an adorable baby class (where he was acting far less adorably than his peers – he was so overtired). I began chatting with the mom sitting next to me. It turned out that she was a veteran mama – this was her third baby – and she gave me some excellent advice. Shocking at the time, and probably a bit more extreme than I would be comfortable with, but useful advice nonetheless.
Here is what she told me: She put her son down for a nap in his crib twice a day for two hours each time. What he did in there was up to him. He could play, nap, fuss, roll around, whatever. Barring illness or injury, she just let him have his “quiet time” while she worked (she worked part-time from home), twice a day, every day. She usually did not even use a baby monitor. Whether he slept or not (and usually he did), he got down time to either nap or just have some less stimulating time, and at the end of “nap time” he was refreshed and happy.
My mind was blown. As a self-described baby monitor addict, I had never really tried this. When Little C would wake, I would give him 5-10 minutes to see if he would fall back asleep, but it never worked. I typically ran in at the first signs of discomfort, and within an hour of waking, he would be showing signs of sleepiness again. It made for long cranky days for both mom and baby.
The day I chatted with this seemingly crazy but lucky mom, I decided to test her advice, albeit on a less extreme level. I decided I would wait until he had slept (or at least hung out) in his crib for at least an hour. I figured it would be a step in the right direction.
For the first couple days, I would watch in the monitor as Little C woke up after 40 minutes, and then I would let him play or whimper.I stared at my little boy on the monitor, itching to go get him, but I waited and voila! Within 20-25 minutes, he would fall back asleep for anywhere from 30 to 75 more minutes. More sleep – I could not believe it.
After a couple days, his arousal from his first sleep cycle became lighter, and while he might turn his head, shift positions, or grab and reinsert a pacifier on his own, he stopped fully waking up and playing. We were able to shift gears and fall into a great two-a-day nap routine that we are still using to this day… at least for now. And on days when he wakes earlier than planned from a nap, as long as he isn’t a hot hysterical mess, I’m happy to let him play in his crib, which he usually enjoys too.
It’s amazing how much happier and more fun Little C is when he is well rested, and it has had positive effects on his nighttime sleep as well. I drink Dr. Weisbluth’s Kool-Aid: better daytime sleep begets better nighttime sleep and vice versa.
Is your baby a good napper? Have you tried nap training?