Oh, the baby naps… Is there a parent who wouldn’t want more of those? Minutes (if you are lucky enough – hours) of blissful silence during the day, a slice of time you can devote completely to yourself.
Nap time is my favorite time of day and I bet it’s yours too. But how to properly train a baby to take naps? This is a rather challenging endeavor, given the fact that your little one will go through several nap transitions in his first years, gradually needing fewer and fewer naps as he grows older.
Here are some pieces of advice that will help you get the basics of baby nap training and (hopefully) lead to a well-rested baby… and a happier mama:
Proper timing is everything
If I had a dime for every time I put my son to (daytime) sleep when he was sleepy but not yet overtired, I would have… 3 dimes. Or less. Reading the signs that baby shows for being ready to take a nap is hard but not impossible. Just watch carefully for sleep signals like rubbing eyes and getting fussier.
Once you see them, drop EVERYTHING and put him to sleep. In a few days (you can even keep a record), you will know at what time he is ready for a nap. When you know this, you will be able to even predict when the signs are there and start the nap routine ideally 15-20 minutes before your little one shows them.
Develop a regular nap pattern
A nap pattern will be different for a 6-month-old baby who needs 2-3 naps a day and for a 2-year-old toddler who only needs 1 nap in the afternoon. Sticking to a schedule certainly doesn’t mean taking a sample schedule from the Internet (or “borrowing” one of the mom-next-door whose baby is apparently sleeping like an angel) and trying to apply it to your baby.
Remember that your baby is an individual with his own needs. See what napping schedule works best for him and make everything possible to stick to it. Trust me, even one afternoon at the zoo that coincides with his napping time can lead to a whole-week sleepless and fussy fiasco. Don’t ask me how I know.
The naptime routine
Just like the nighttime routine, the naptime routine has its power in helping your child relax and prepare for his nap. Don’t think of a naptime ritual as of a 3-hour Shakespeare play though. A simple set of soothing activities like a story and a hug (or anything both you and your baby enjoy) will be enough to prepare your napper for the world of daytime dreams. And you can finally have some rest as well. At last!
A bonus hint for dads
Dear dads, when we say quiet play before naptime, we certainly don’t mean wrestle with baby in bed till his adrenaline hits the roof. Now, get baby off your clutch and let’s start all over again.