The title seems somewhat arrogant, but I feel I deserve some self-encouragement because I’ve been pulling my hair out with the nap thing lately. Up until now, I was completely fine with letting her nap on her own terms, as long as she slept at night (and lately through the night). I would monitor her feeding times a little, but other than that, she seemed to nap when she was tired, be put to bed (with some crying) at 7:30pm, and wake up at 7:00am. It was a great deal. Then…she stopped napping. Almost entirely! How does an almost three month old live on a couple thirty minute naps a day? Answer? Badly.
Here’s my opinion: babies don’t always do what’s best for themselves…thats why we’re here! This girl will keep herself awake to the point of over-tired exhustion. Even beyond the capacity to calm herself with a feeding. And I keep her in the house most of the time, free of distractions and overstimulation. And even then, I’d let her cry for awhile to tire herself out, and she’s scream her tired little head off for what feels like an eternity. And still not sleep. What must I do?!
I started letting her catnap through feeding times, hoping she’d get the rest she needed. Didn’t help. It got to the point that she would scream through her last feeding of the night. We thought she was sick–maybe an ear ache…maybe evening reflux. We determined she was too tired to eat. We just swaddled her up and put her to bed. Which meant her last feeding was around 5pm…which meant she woke up in the night…several times. I was back to middle of the night feedings. Blast! She was completely capable of sleeping through the night, I knew, she just needed the tools.
I still hated Babywise, so I decided to have a goal of 3 (planned) naps per day: morning, mid-day, and afternoon. It was tough, but in retrospect, a good place to start. I tried to replicate bedtime routine by swaddling her, but I wanted to break the habit of her sleeping ON me all the time. I LOVED it, but of course, nothing got done. And I didn’t want her to become a two year old who could only sleep on her mommy and daddy. Not sustainable, as my husband Eric would say.
The main problem I faced was second-guessing myself when I put her down for a nap. I wanted to be absolutely sure she was tired, so I wasn’t torturing both of us when she wailed for an extended amount of time. Whenever she started to doze, I would swaddle her up and put her in her crib. Then she would be wide awake, slightly annoyed at her straight jacket, and I stood there, waiting to see her “act tired” again before I left. Sometimes I would let her fuss, then stick my finger in her mouth, and her eyes would get heavy. Then I left. Then she screamed…for a long time. Full on bloody murder for a full fifteen minutes. Then she would be silent. Success! Then 5 minutes later, she’d scream. For another ten minutes. Then silent for 15 minutes, then scream… This went on while I stayed downstairs blasting my music so I wouldn’t burst into tears. An hour later, I got her up. She probably got around 20 minutes. Not even a sleep cycle. Honestly, this is how it went for awhile. I was determined not to give her my help as much…but three days later…I was exhausted. She was still exhausted. And still screaming through her last feeding. It became regular habit for Eric to feed her a bottle at night. She would do better with that since she could sit upright and not get distressed laying flat on her side to breast feed. Even then, her nighttime sleep would be disrupted somehow.
I decided to change my strategy. I realized I was doing one too many things at once:
1.) Starting her on a nap schedule
2.) Teaching her to soothe herself to sleep during the day.
I thought they were one in the same, but I began to suspect that was too much to expect from her all at once. So I gave her a little more help–I let her sleep on me in the morning the next day. She slept two hours! She managed to sleep only about 30 minutes for the other two naps that day…and her evening was still bad, but just a little bit better. She slept until 5am! Good progress. I continued to help her to sleep–sometimes nursing her for five minutes–just to see her eyes start to close. Then put her down. She still wouldn’t sleep more than one sleep cycle (35-ish min). Then yesterday, I put her down in the afternoon, and she slept three hours. Seriously. I didnt wake her up, hoping this was what she needed. By the time she woke up, it was time for a feeding, then bedtime. She was still pretty fussy, even after sleeping three hours, and took the bottle a little before bed. Still woke up a few times. I got up at 2am to feed her. Then she slept until 7:45am. Ok.
I began to think: if she only naps one sleep cycle, then she needs more naps! Between yesterday and today, I (by accident!) fell into the suggested routine outlined in Babywise:
2.) Wake Time
I don’t wake her up from her naps, though. She eats every 2.5 – 3 hours, and has gone down for evey nap today so far for 45 min-1 hour. One huge thing I’ve noticed from today. DONT WAIT UNTIL HER EYES GET HEAVY. Noticing the sleep signs early helps her go to sleep quickly and sleep better. As soon as she starts to fuss (thats her major cue. Your child’s might be different), its almost time for the nap. I kid you not…I put her down, wide awake and smiling at me, and she only cried for a few minutes before sleeping all the way through her nap. Its been amazing. I haven’t needed to nurse her or pacify. Its a great feeling.
But it might change… we’ll see. I don’t even know how she’ll sleep tonight. I’m guessing it will be better…
I guess my big piece of advice to others is to trust yourself. You are the one who knows your kid the best. Ask a lot of parents advice, read some books, and take what you need. Your kid is not a text book. What works today will change tomorrow. Good Luck!