Diary of a First Time Mom: Handling Nap Struggles
I've been meaning to write this post forever and I'm glad I'm now finally taking the time to write this out! I've recieved so many questions about how Amira naps and believe me it's not perfect at all. We've struggled with naps since day one and there is no one size fits all answer when it comes to napping your child. I wholeheartedly believe that it's up to you and your family to come up with a plan that works and to stick with it!
Our Nap Approach From the beginning
Since Amira was a month old we decided to follow the E.A.S.Y. schedule which stands for "Eat", "Activity", "Sleep", "You Time" to structure her day (I wrote a little more in depth about this here). Essentially this scheduling method disassociates eating to sleep which can cause sleep issues with some babies as they get older (i.e. always needing to nurse in order to fall asleep). Currently we technically still follow the E.A.S.Y. schedule but have added a breakfast, lunch, and dinner feedings for her since she's eating solids and staying awake much longer (here's an example).
I've followed this chart on the average awake times for babies and just tweaked her schedule based on her age and sleepy cues which is always yawning or rubbing her eyes. Month over month she would increase her awake time which would then impact how many naps she would take a day. Currently she averages an awake time of 2-2.5 hours and takes 3 naps a day! The first two naps average about 1-2 hours and the last nap is usually a 30 minute cat nap but each day is very different. I do not have a predictable child by any means, some days she wants to take a shorter nap and I've learned to just roll with it.
The Struggles we've encountered
Naps were a huge struggle for us in the beginning because Amira just never wanted to sleep for very long and would always fight her naps (until recently)! Amira isn't the kind of baby that just passes out anywhere and maybe I should have been more diligent about putting her down "drowsy but awake" when she was much younger. As a first time parent, survival mode kicked in and I chose to rock her to sleep for her naps which is a sleep association and apparently big no no (welp, not perfect). However, I've always been very firm on making sure she naps only in her crib when we are home because I wanted her to get comfortable with sleeping flat and in her own space. I did not want to have to hold her for all of her naps or have her in our bed so I didn't budge on this until she started sleeping well at night on her own.
I'll be honest at around 6 months I was VERY close to hiring a sleep consultant to help out with our short nap issue because I knew these 30 minute naps were not good for her. She would fight going down for the nap, wake up 30 minutes later cranky, and clearly wanted to sleep longer but she couldn't fall back to sleep on her own (unless I rocked her again). I knew she couldn't transition her sleep cycles and rocking was becoming a sleep association which was why her naps were so short. I was NOT into the idea of "nap training" because night training was exhausting and couldn't bring myself to do it.
Since her night sleep was great at this point, out of desperation I would sometimes let her nap next to me for one of her naps and she would be out for TWO HOURS. This was great and all (I love me some baby snuggles) but it wasn't sustainable because I couldn't move from my spot haha. As a stay at home mom, you look forward to naps so you are able to get something done for yourself or around the house but it was getting HARD to accomplish anything. Super long story short, we decided to pass on the sleep consultant and THANKFULLY a few days later Amira started napping for longer stretches in her crib. Legit miracle.
how we're currently handling naps
I decided to start implementing a "nap routine" to try and signal to her that nap time is coming. As she's developing, she wants to stay awake for all the fun stuff and sometimes tries to resist her sleepiness. So I had to come up with a way to get her to understand that once she shows a sleepy cue her routine starts and nap time is approaching. This is what's been working for us!
our Nap routine:
- Around 2-2.5 hours after she wakes I look for a natural sleep cue (which is rubbing her eyes or yawning). We're usually in the living room playing with her toys and I'll start to notice her loosing interest in playing once she starts feeling sleepy and then she'll give me a cue.
- I turn off anything stimulating (i.e musical toys, tv, bright lights, etc)
- I play the "Relaxing Piano for Sleep" playlist on spotify for a song or two on low volume. I noticed that the classical music just enhances her sleepiness and she resists it less (makes me sleepy too haha).
- I take her to her room and draw the blackout curtains and put on her sound machine
- Change her diaper and put on her wearable blanket
- Sing my favorite song to her while rocking her until she's super drowsy (for night time sleep Amira gets put down fully awake with no rocking). This usually takes around 5-10 minutes.
- I then transfer her to her crib. Sometimes she wakes when I do this which is good because she is aware of her surroundings for a split second before falling back asleep.
- If she wakes early I'll wait a few minutes before going in to get her. Usually she just falls right back asleep once she rolls onto her belly!