A little while back, I shared about our life-changing experience with sleep training Baby Oats. Thanks to a wonderful friend who shared her expertise, we went from 3-5 wakeups per night to a baby who sleeps 12 hours straight.
The plan that we used involved getting rid of all sleep crutches, and tackling all sleep at the same time. This meant that we could be in for a few really rough days, but after that, things should improve dramatically. To recap, we were weaning Baby Oats off of the pacifier (which he wasn’t too attached to), nursing to sleep or close to, and the swaddle. We were also moving him from sleeping in a Pack n Play in our room or napping in the swing to sleeping exclusively in his crib. Crazy? Very possibly.
Before we started nap training, Baby Oats was napping any time of day. I had him on no schedule at all; he slept when I noticed him rubbing his eyes, or when he got cranky. Sometimes he would sleep for 20 minutes and be up for hours, other times he would have a marathon 3 hour nap. It was nice, not having a schedule, but I knew that we needed to get him napping regularly.
The biggest change for me was realizing that I was keeping Baby Oats awake for FAR too long. Here are the recommended awake times for infants (this blew my mind):
- Newborn: 45-60 minutes awake, 5+ naps per day
- 1 month: 60 minutes awake, 4-5 naps per day
- 2-3 months: 1h15 to 1h30 awake, 4-5 naps per day
- 3-4 months: 1h20 to 1h45 awake, 3-4 naps per day
- 5-6 months: 2h to 2h30 awake, 3 naps per day
- 6-7 months: 2h45 to 3h awake, 2 naps per day
- 8-14 months: 3-4 hours awake, 2 naps per day
- 15+ months: 4 hours awake, 1 nap per day
Now, the sleep consultant that this information came from says that this is a guideline, but MOST babies fall within this range. I laughed when I read it the first time – Little Oats NEVER napped 4 times daily, and dropped down to one nap between 10 and 11 months. Even Baby Oats, who was a decent sleeper, was only taking two, maybe three naps per day at 3 months! Changing the way I thought of awake time, and getting Baby Oats down for a nap BEFORE he was showing his tired signs was a wake up call…he is getting so much more sleep now, and he’s sleeping better!
Here’s what we did to make naps happen:
It was important that Baby Oats not associate nursing with either falling asleep or waking up. This meant that when he woke in the morning (or from a nap), we turned on the lights, took him out of his sleep sack, and went downstairs to nurse. It also meant that I needed to feed him far enough in advance of a nap that he wasn’t getting drowsy while he was eating. We adopted a general EASY schedule (eat, awake, sleep…but the ‘You’ time was more like ‘Little Oats time’) to facilitate this.
When it was time for a nap, roughly 1h45 from the time Baby Oats last woke up, we headed upstairs, put him in his sleep sack, read a book, sang a song, and laid him down in his crib. You repeat the same ‘mantra’ as you do at night (Goodnight Baby Oats, sweet dreams, I love you, etc). Then you leave the room. Because nap training starts the day after you start night training, this routine should already be a little bit familiar to your baby. If/when they start crying, wait for 10 minutes, and then go in to check on them. Repeat your mantra, sing a song, or pat their belly to calm them. Once they’ve calmed down, leave the room again. Keep this up, with 10 minute checks. If, after 1h10, baby still hasn’t gone to sleep, take a 30 minute break. Bring baby out of their room, offer milk or a snack, and then try again for another 30 minutes. If baby still won’t sleep, go for a drive, a walk…something to get them to nap. However, it’s important that you don’t rock/hold baby or feed them to sleep; these are the crutches you’re trying to break from.
For us, it never got to that point. A few times, it took about 40 minutes for Baby Oats to fall asleep. For the most part, it was under 10 minutes of crying before he fell asleep. Now, two weeks later, he doesn’t cry at all – he cuddles his lovey and falls asleep on his own.
The sleep consultant recommended having each nap of the day be at least 1 hour 30 minutes. Honestly, this seemed too much for Baby Oats. His pattern seems to be 2 1 hour naps, and a 1.5 hour nap in the late afternoon. We haven’t worried about extending short naps either, though the sleep consultant did offer several tips.
Being on top of Baby Oats’ awake time and nap schedule has been the toughest part of this all; while both kids are still napping, I feel completely tied to the house (once his routine is more solidified, he can start taking one of his naps in the car or the carrier). But, everyone is getting the sleep they need, and I am incredibly grateful. Here’s what a typical day looks like for us (nap schedule-wise):
6:30-7:00am – Baby Oats wakes up
7:00-8:30 – Nursing, diaper changes, playtime
8:30-9:00am – Nap routine and first nap
10:00-10:30am – Baby Oats wakes
10:30am – 12:00pm – Nursing, diaper changes, playtime
12:00-12:30pm – Nap routine and second nap
1:00-1:30pm – Baby Oats wakes up (and Little Oats goes down for a nap)
1:30-3:00pm – Nursing, diaper changes, cleaning the house while Baby Oats plays
3:00 – 3:30pm – Nap routine and third nap (and Little Oats wakes up from her nap)
5:00pm – Baby Oats wakes up
5:00 – 7:00pm – nursing, playtime, dinner, bath, bedtime routine
7:00pm – Bedtime
Looking at it like that, it seems very repetitive. Luckily, I have a 2 1/2 year old who keeps me on my toes. Baby Oats is a much happier kid now that he is getting a proper amount of sleep, and he’s sleeping better because he isn’t in the living room swinging where is sister is playing wildly. We’re learning to get creative and leave the house in short bursts; there’s an open window between 10am and 12pm where both kids are awake and happy that we can go out. I’m incredibly amazed with how well this plan worked, and I really hope that some of you see success with the same ideas. Good luck and happy napping!