Almost all parents at some stage of their child’s life find naptime difficult. Some naptime issues include:
- Your child needs your help to nap;
- Your child finds it difficult to fall asleep at all; or
- Your child only catnaps.
There are many more nap problems that I haven’t included here but these are definitely the most common. If you are experiencing difficult naps, here are my tips for better nap time success:
1. Sleeping independently
This is a big one. What I find is if you are helping your child to fall asleep (rocking, patting, feeding, dummy, bouncing etc) to sleep, often these sleep associations have an expiry date of usefulness. With a newborn the rules are different. Feeding to sleep was fine, but eventually that will stop working for you, so you move on to say, rocking to sleep. Now your child is too heavy so you change to patting. Suddenly you realise that your ‘bag of tricks’ is empty and your child still isn’t sleeping on their own. Now it is time to place your child into the cot completely awake without your help so they can begin to establish their own tools to fall asleep. Easier said than done right? If you need some help, contact me here.
2. Provide a ‘sleepy’ environment
Again, newborns can usually sleep anywhere. Once your baby passes this newborn phase, it is important that the majority of the time they are sleeping where it is dark and fairly quiet. If you have a noisy house during they day, white noise can help. Try to make the room as dark as you can. Why? Darkness helps the body to produce melatonin that makes us sleepy. The temperature of the room needs to be on the cooler side (not cold). If you cannot change the temperature, dress your child in lightweight clothing. If your child is too hot, it is harder to sleep.
3. Send the message it is “sleepytime”
Most parents have the bedtime routine down pat, but forget to send the same message at nap time. Your child needs the cue that it is “sleepytime”. It may seem obvious to us the cot is there, so it must be “sleepytime”, BUT babies need time to unwind and understand what is happening at that moment.
Here is an example of a nap routine:
- Go into the bedroom
- Change nappy
- Sit and read a quick story
- Kisses and cuddles
- Say “it’s sleepytime”
- Into the cot awake
4. Allow time to resettle
Some children’s cries will go from nothing to hysterical in less than a minute. When your child wakes up after the first sleep cycle (30-45mins), he will cry out and you will run in immediately. This is part of being a responsive parent right? Yes totally but the problem with rescuing your child so quickly is that they are still tired and not finished napping. This is the reason they are so upset. Your child really wants to sleep more but they are not sure how too. If your child isn’t falling asleep independently at the beginning of the nap, then clocking on to the next sleep cycle without your help is difficult. Don’t be afraid to wait a little to allow them the chance to fall back to sleep. Always listen to the cries and if there are breaks, then just wait a little. If you are needed, try for 10-20mins to extend the nap by offering some gentle touch. This won’t be easy at first, but the more you do it, the better the chance you will be successful.
Combating naptime struggles are often frustrating and exhausting for not only you, but also for your child. Naps do take a lot of time to perfect, and just when you think you have it all sorted, it is time for your baby to drop a nap. If you wonder if your child is ready to drop a nap, download the “Sleepytime Guide to Mastering Nap Transitions” here.