Naps – how can I get my baby to sleep well in the day?
Naps is a subject that is talked about a great deal between parents and even more so with lockdown in place. Why? because without realising, baby/toddler has been content sleeping in the car/pushchair/baby carrier in between heading to classes, on the way to do a food shop and/or the journey home. Plus with the weather turning warm and sunny it’s when we want to take advantage of the lovely day and head out for a long walk with them in the pram/baby carrier ensuring they have a long nap.
I would say if it works and they are sleeping well, don’t change it. However when listening to guidelines over the past 7 weeks our aim around the UK has to stay well, stay safe at home and limit your time outside to 1hr. All perfectly acceptable but when you release as a parent that your baby/toddler relies on a motion nap and trying to get them to settle in their cot turns into screaming protest and after 20 mins you get them out, both of you looking at each other thinking what is going on?? Then the hour a day of exercise really isn’t going to help if your baby needs 2 or more naps a day.
So, please read on for my advice/tips on how to teach your child to sleep in their cot throughout the day…
Establish a nap time routine
To be a short, simple routine for a few minutes. This routine could involve a short story, a song and your child to always be in their sleeping bag. Make sure they are awake for the whole routine so in time they will recognise and understand that this routine is setting their mind and body that sleepy-time is coming next.
Having a dark room and when I write dark, I mean pitch black is key to making sure your child has a good nap. A dark room means that your child will not be stimulated upon seeing daylight (even little cracks have an effect) but also dark helps the sleepy hormone – melatonin be present and stay present.
I talk about these alot on my social media pages. Wake windows are how long a baby can stay awake until their next nap without being under-tired or overtired. Wake windows increase every 4 weeks until your baby is about 6-7 months and then they transition to a 2 nap schedule.
When you know about wake windows it can be life-changing (not exaggerating), it can change a difficult nap to an easy one.
A word I use all the time. Consistency is key. Look at how your baby/toddler is falling asleep at bedtime and repeat this for naps. If you are feeding to sleep, rocking, they have a dummy and/or being held. I would repeat this for naps to ensure the consistency is there for all sleep situations.
Taking all this information in I would advise to start with their first nap of the day in the cot. They would have woken from the night’s sleep, fed well, played and us as parents have more energy in the morning so there’s less chance that our baby/toddler is overtired, so no zoning out and plus we have the stamina to be persistent!
Beforehand make sure where they sleep is ready – dark room, lights on, story book out along with their sleeping bag. At the right time depending on whether they’re on a wake window or set schedule head up 5 mins before nap is due to carry your new routine. Then either feed, rock, hold, and/or pop their dummy in and place them into their cot – they could be fast asleep, drowsy or wide awake – remember replicating what happens at bedtime. It may take 20-30 mins of trying, even 45 mins but the moment they fall/stay asleep in their cot – yippee even if they sleep for 20 mins. The goal is they have slept in their cot.
As you know consistency, patience and time are the golden ingredients to help your baby settle and sleep in their cot. Then in time you could start to reduce the amount of external input because as you know a child who sleeps well is a child who is an independent sleeper & starts their journey to sleep awake in their cot and are able to fall asleep without any props.
My Secret to a good nap? getting the spacing between each nap right, so before I finish look out for sleep cues such as staring, loss of interest in toys and burying their face in your chest. I tend to find that the yawning and pulling ear stage means they have passed their wake window and at the point of being overtired which means it could be harder to get them to settle in the cot – then aim for a motion/cuddle nap if you can. It’s always better to preserve their sleep rather than skip a nap.