When you are sleep training, naps are a whole different ball game than nighttime sleep training. I always recommend training for naps and bedtime at the same time. Consistency is key. Be consistent day and night and your little dreamer will sleep better faster. Plus, the last thing I want to do is sooth my baby to sleep during naps just to give them enough rest to really resist the new bedtime routine. No thank you. If you would like more information on how to get started with nighttime sleep training I would suggest reading this, this, and this first.
But being consistent will look different at bedtime and nap time. Today, I am sharing with you my secrets about what consistency looks like while sleep training at nap time.
The right schedule makes all the difference! I can’t stress this enough. Being on the right sleep schedule is so important. Too many naps during the day and your baby could miss the appropriate bedtime window and end up going to bed too late, waking frequently at night and making your life difficult. Not enough daytime sleep and your little dreamer is likely to resist sleep and wake more frequently. When I begin sleep training I like to start all my babies out on a sleep schedule focusing on awake times and sleepy cues. But as we work together we begin to transition to naps by the clock if the baby is over 5 months. If you aren’t sure what schedule is right for your child, I am happy to help! I host a free Q&A every Tuesday, and you can submit a question at any time to be answered there. Click here* to submit a question.
Lie your baby down 15 minutes before you want her to be asleep. I think I can safely speak for every parent when I say hearing your child cry is not pleasant. In fact, it may very well be one of the worst sounds out there. I want your little dreamer to be able to gently fall asleep without any crying! In order to do this, your baby needs to be put in bed for naps before she is actually ready to be asleep so that she doesn’t have to get fussy to fall asleep but can instead gently fall to sleep. While sleep training I recommend lying your baby down 15 minutes before you want her asleep. This is usually the perfect amount of time for a baby to get bored and self-soothe to sleep without getting fussy.
Try for at least an hour. Once your little dreamer goes down, I recommend giving him at least an hour to fall asleep. If your child is consistently resisting sleeping in that hour, or perhaps is slightly older and on a one-nap schedule, you may want to consider 1.5 hours. While you can continue whatever sleep training method or checks you are doing at night, I would strongly encourage you to space them out or eliminate checks all together during nap time. The need to sleep is much less during the day, and each time your baby sees you he will become more awake and engaged, likely upset as you leave, and push sleep further away. Give him his space and let him work it out. If you need help choosing a sleep training method check out my guide here.
If your child doesn’t fall asleep, try, try again. If your child resists the entire hour or hour and a half, go get her. Feed her, play with her, love her. Just don’t let her fall asleep out of her bed. Then you will want to lie her down about 45 minutes later to fall asleep in her bed. You are teaching her that you, both of you, sleep in your beds. You are being consistent by anticipating when she needs to sleep and providing her the right environment to fall asleep in. And you are showing that even when she initially refuses to sleep in her bed, she will get to go back and try again.
Short naps mean shorter wake time. Maybe your little dreamer does in fact fall asleep, but before you get around to celebrating, he wakes up after a short nap. First, I would still allow your little dreamer the chance to fall back asleep within the hour or hour and a half. But if that is not happening, you will want to aim to put him down for his next nap or bedtime 15 minutes earlier than you originally planned. Even a nap that is only 20 minutes long restores a baby well enough to almost keep him up until the next regularly scheduled sleeping time, but not quite enough so make sure to adjust accordingly. Remember a short nap is anything shorter than one hour.
Resistance usually means too tired. The biggest reason your little dreamer is resisting nap time is because nap time is too late. Even though, it sounds counter-intuitive to put your baby to bed earlier when she didn’t even fall asleep the day before, just trust me on this one. Even putting her to bed 10-15 minutes early can be enough to make the difference. But I have also seen cases where the child has needed to go to bed hours earlier.