Naptime for a baby is necessary. It is a time for them to rest but also time for parents to get some work done. However, sometimes getting a baby to sleep for a nap is not always easy.
For some parents, their baby is already exhausted, fussing, and still not falling asleep. For others, their baby only starts crying as soon as they are set down for a nap. When that happens, a parent has three choices.
They can skip naptime (which is usually not the best idea), stay with the baby until they have fallen asleep, or let them cry it out.
Why Naps Are Important
Any parent will tell you that they are more irritable and struggling throughout the day when their child has missed naptime.
They may also have feeding issues, meltdowns, and challenges with bedtime later at night. When children become sleep-deprived, their stress hormones increase.
This creates the opposite effect as it energizes them and causes them to stay awake longer into the night.
Naps are also known to improve learning. Studies have shown that infants and pre-school-age children develop better memory skills when they nap.
Not only do their memory skills improve, but their ability to learn words and understand their meaning will increase.
Improved Nighttime Sleeping
When a child is a frequent napper, their nighttime sleep is improved.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a baby needs around 12 to 16 hours of sleep each day (24-hour period).
This number includes both naps and nighttime sleeping. Of course, this is only a guideline but keep this in mind as you begin using any sleep training method.
Common Nap Time Problems
Lack of Nap Time Routines
Finding a sleep routine that works for your baby can be difficult, and napping becomes irregular. Implementing a schedule will help create a routine to follow each day.
The author of Twelve Hours of Sleep by Twelve Weeks, Suzy Giordano, suggests a morning nap about two hours after they initially wake up.
A second nap begins about two to three hours after the first nap has ended. Once this routine is in place, you can make some adjustments according to your daily schedule, but establishing a guideline will make nap time easier each day.
Another common problem is that your baby is overtired. Maybe you were at the grocery store and got home late. Your baby did not get a good morning nap and is now screaming in the crib, unable to fall asleep.
To remedy this, try holding them in a dark room or swaddling them. This may soothe them to sleep and allow them to still benefit from a nap.
Sometimes establishing a pre-sleep routine will help your baby quickly fall asleep. If they are not settling down, starting the pre-sleep routine can trigger their brain that it is time to sleep.
It might include reading a story, singing a lullaby, or turning out all the lights. Complete your routine at nap time and bedtime to help your baby have an easier time falling asleep.
Naps Are Too Short
An additional problem is that your baby only naps for 15-minute stretches. Short sleep cycles can mean they are not achieving REM sleep.
45 minutes is the key to a fully restorative nap. Sometimes it helps to trick a baby’s brain into thinking it is night. You can achieve this by turning off all the lights in the room and placing the infant in the crib when drowsy.
They may cry it out for several minutes. Eventually, they will fall into the routine and start taking better naps.
Napping in The Car
Napping in the car can disrupt an infant’s sleep schedule by not providing enough time to reach REM sleep.
A 20-minute nap can give them enough energy to think they are ready to play for the rest of the afternoon. If you can, complete your errands during the scheduled awake time to eliminate sleeping in the car or limit your trip to a 15-minute drive.
You can keep your baby alert by singing songs, playing upbeat music, or calling out their name. If they still fall asleep, try to move the car seat indoors to keep them asleep for a few extra minutes.
Cry It Out Method for Nap Time
While letting your baby cry for an extended period may seem harsh, there can be a few benefits to this method.
The goal is that it will break poor sleep patterns and establishes boundaries as a parent. It teaches them new skills and how to put together sleep cycles.
For this method, parents put their children down to sleep and leave the room. Most likely, they will not stop crying right away. But it would help if you let them continue to weep for several minutes before checking on them.
Gradually, increase the amount of time between checks until your baby falls asleep. Sometimes continually checking on the child will not soothe them but continue to escalate their tears.
This method may be difficult for parents because they do not want to hear their child in distress.
However, it is one successful way to help them learn to self-soothe, take a nap, or sleep through the night.
How Long to Let Them Cry?
Every parent will determine their limit for letting their baby cry, and parents must decide together.
Additionally, how long you let your baby cry will depend on their age. Most couples will choose a 30–40-minute period.
Since nap time is shorter than bedtime, if your baby has not fallen asleep in about an hour and a half, get them out of the crib.
You can return to your routine and try the nap again in approximately 45 minutes. If they begin to show signs of being tired, return them to their crib. They will be able to soothe themselves to sleep from this point.
While using this method to sleep train, every time you place your baby in the crib for a nap could be different.
Results from surveys done suggest that days three to five are the worst, but they start to see positive effects by the end of a week.
You will know if this is the best method for your baby if the crying decreases after 3-5 days. Be careful not to miss cues that long crying spells could indicate another need, such as teething, hunger, or illness.
Tips For Nap Time
To help make it an easy transition for your baby at nap time, you can try some of the following tips.
- Create a nap time environment. Wherever you are putting your baby down for a nap should be a dark, quiet environment. If you are at home, the ideal place would be their crib with the lights out. But since life happens, provide as close to a perfect environment as possible.
- Lay them down while they are still awake but drowsy. You will see the signs that your baby is ready for a nap. At first, they might get fussy, yawn, rub their eyes, or begin to stare into space. When they reach this stage, it is the best time to place them in their crib or nap time area.
- Create a safe space. Your baby should be in their sleep area on their back with no blankets or toys surrounding them.
- Be consistent. Try to complete the same routine each day. Providing a consistent nap time routine will alert your baby that it is time to sleep. When they know what to expect through consistency, they are more likely to nap around the same time each day.
While none of this provides an instant way to solve your child’s sleeping problems, trying at least one of them could help.
No matter what, there is sure to be an adjustment period. If you are using the cry it out method, choose an amount of time to let your baby cry and stick with it.
Inconsistency will not make sleep training easy! Once you have had success with sleep training, it does not mean your baby will always go down easy for naps or not wake up in the middle of the night.
They may still need food, be uncomfortable from teething or happen to wake up naturally. But once they have learned how to soothe themselves back to sleep, nap time