It takes a lot to actually muster the courage to post about naps, given that it seems as soon as you come out and state something about your baby, things totally change, but I’m going to live wildly.
It’s taken a month, but I feel I can now say with some confidence that I’ve managed to transition E. to taking most of his naps in the crib. The vast vast majority of them are still short (usually 45 minutes to the minute unless he was wildly overtired, in which case they’re closer to 30), but he is consistently taking two or three in there. And the time it takes to get him settled has shortened as well. Now I’m usually out the door in 15 minutes or less. And if I’ve read him incorrectly and he’s either too overtired or too undertired to go to sleep, I can pick that up in under five minutes, so we spend a lot less time up in the bedroom fighting with each other.
In the last couple of weeks E.’s taken four naps that were longer than the 45 minute sleep cycle (the best one was two hours- of course I didn’t get much done because I kept expecting him to wake up!). This tells me that he can get through that transition, and offers hope that he will be a better napper in the future. The two key points seem to be that a) I MUST start the nap process when he is tired- not overtired and not undertired and b) I MUST get him in the crib when he is sleepy but still awake, so that he puts himself to sleep and can therefore do it again when he hits the transition.
These are fairly obvious points. I probably could have predicted them myself even before having a baby. Of course you should put the baby down when he is in that tired window. Of course he should put himself to sleep in the crib. It all looks so simple. So why has he only managed to take the longer naps a handful of times?
Achieving points a) and b) listed above is possibly the most difficult thing to do as a parent. E. has, I swear, a tired window of maybe THREE minutes where you can catch him at that perfect moment to set up a great nap. And sometimes I’m positive I’ve managed both, and yet he wakes up (usually without crying) at the 45 minute mark and is ready to party again. I watch the clock, and I watch my baby. Often he is tired around an hour and fifteen minutes or an hour and a half after he wakes up. Sometimes it is an hour. Sometimes it is two hours. Sometimes he is up for three and a half hours and then FINALLY shows some tired signs, but wakes up after thirty minutes because he was overtired, and therefore I must have missed a sleep cue in there somewhere. Sometimes he yawns once and that’s all the warning you get. Sometimes he yawns seven times, but fights me when I go to put him down, so I keep him up for another fifteen minutes or so until we get a couple more yawns, and then he goes down in two minutes.
He is completely, utterly unpredictable. And finally, FINALLY, I have come to accept this, and to stop worrying. One day (the day of the two hour nap in the crib) he had FIVE hours of daytime sleep over four naps, and I was so happy because he was finally getting close to the amount of sleep “they” say three-month-olds should be getting. Well clearly that filled his tank up just fine, because for the next three days he only slept for 25 minutes at a time, and did that three times a day, waking up each time cooing and happy.
Because I can tell so quickly now whether or not he’s going to go to sleep, I no longer dread trying to get him in the crib. On those rare occasions where I get the timing exactly right, our routine looks like this: I take him upstairs, turn on the fan for white noise, swaddle him, put in my earplugs, and say to him, “It’s time for a nap. Mummy loves you very much and she’ll see you when you wake up.” Then I kiss him on the cheek, pick him up, and put him over my shoulder. I pat his back and shush in his ear, but I stop the patting as soon as he is calm. I shush him all the way into the crib, and then I will either sit on the bed for a moment to make sure he is settling, or just head out the door after I put on the baby monitor. If I’ve got it exactly right, there is virtually no crying, and the whole process takes ten minutes or less.
If, on the other hand, E. is either slightly overtired or undertired, but not so much so that he won’t be able to get to sleep eventually, our routine looks like this:
Me: “It’s time for a nap. Mummy loves you very much, and she’ll see you when you wake up.” Kisses E. on the cheek.
E.: beams- HUGE smile. Look at me! I’m not tired!
Me: I pick up E. and put him on my shoulder. I start to pat and shush.
E: Wait! What’s happening? Why are you trying to get me to sleep? I’m not tired! Starts to cry- a very very obvious ‘mantra’ cry. I’m not TIRED! I’m not TIIIIIIRRRRRREEEEEDDDDD. There’s stuff going on downstairs. I know it! I’ll miss it! I’m NOT TIIII- crying breaks off as E. has an enormous yawn, and then resumes– RRRREEEEEDDDDD.
Me: Still patting and shushing.
E: Puts head on my shoulder, closes eyes for a moment, and then jerks his head upright again. I told you! I’m not tired! I’m not sleepy! More yawns ensue.
Me: Give it up, little guy. I know you’re tired.
E: Opens eyes wide and coos excitedly, looking around and often smashing his head into my jawbone repeatedly. See! I told you! I’m not tired! I’m ready to party! I’m not going to miss anything! The mantra cry starts up again. Why don’t you listen to me, Mummy? I’m not tired! I’m NOT… Head collapses onto my shoulder. Eyes close. Breathing becomes regular.
Me: Stands up. Puts E. in the crib. He doesn’t move. Turn on monitor, head out the door for my forty-five minutes of freedom.
This kid cracks me up.