Grrr! We know how frustrating it can be to have a tired grizzly baby who just won’t nap.
But the first question we always ask is, “Does your baby sleep well at night?”
Most of the books and sleep experts tell us that a baby who naps well sleeps well at night too. They tell is that a baby who does not nap in the day is more prone to fragmented night sleep. WELL! Here at Savvy Tot Sleep we have learned this is not always the case.
Many baby’s particularly those under 6 months of age sleep very little during the day but manage a good night’s sleep. So much for what “they say”. To be honest, if your baby manages a reasonably consolidated night sleep but only takes short naps and is happy during the day – then that’s fine.
We’ve met babies who will only nap in their buggy/car seat/on mum or on dad. Babies who will only nap in a sling or lying on the bed with mum close by. Babies who prefer silence and babies who prefer noise. Babies who will only sleep in the dark and babies who will only sleep in light.
As adults we know how sleep can be elusive in a new bed/bedroom. When staying with friends and family how we become easily disturbed by new sounds or even lack of them. If you’re used to the drone of a busy road as you drift to sleep the silence of the countryside can be infuriating. The creaking sounds in an old house are enough to wake those who live in a double glazed new build. The ticking of a clock can feel like the chimes of Big Ben if we’re not used to it.
Get the drift? As human beings we get used to the environment that we sleep in.
Are babies and children any different? Of course not.
Most adults have established biological clocks too. A few late nights and boy do we feel it. Let’s face it most mum’s with a baby of 3 months know they aren’t getting enough sleep and how it affects them.
So – it stands to reason that babies and tots feel exactly the same way as us when they don’t get enough sleep. Here are a few tips for happy napping;
Tips for happy naps 3 – 6 months
1. When establishing naps in babies 3 – 6 months (if you can do it before this you’re a genius) it’s best to consolidate what’s working first. Watching for sleepy cues and acting quickly before baby becomes over tired is key to successful naps. If the buggy is the only place baby will nap then we say do it!
Many mum’s are surprised when we tell them to take three walks a day to enable their baby to sleep at more routine times. This helps to establish some sort of daily nap rhythm. We say do whatever it takes to get your baby to sleep.
2. Many small babies find it difficult to “switch off” from the stimulus of their surrounding world. Having a mini “wind down” routine before naps such as a taking baby into a darkened room a little rocking/soothing to help baby become drowsy and then into cot.
3. Remember average “awake” times (found in our June 11 blog). If your baby shows no sign of being sleepy try a “wind down” routine after average awake time. Tired babies can often have “wide eyed” stares and it’s easy for us to assume they aren’t tired. In fact they are over stimulated and need parental help to shut the world out.
4. If baby needs a sleep when out in the buggy and is too interested in his surroundings try a black out shade on the pram.
5. Use the same sound/noise to help baby to sleep. This can be white noise in small babies or a musical lullaby. This helps create an association with sleep and can be a strong social cue for your baby to sleep.
6. From around 4 months babies will often fight day time naps. This is a key time to persist with “trying” to help baby to nap at consistent times. Try the shush/pat routine to help baby learn to settle in his cot without being rocked etc.
7. Small babies can nap through a hurricane! However, by 4 months many reach the stage when the hum of daily living is too distracting. You may find they need a quieter place to nap.
Tips for happy naps from 7 months
1. Don’t forget the 2 – 3 – 4 routine as a guideline for babies from 6 – 9 months. that is they need sleep 2 hours after “awake time”, then a nap 3 hours after “awake time”, then 4 hours “awake time”, before night time sleep.
2. Try and consolidate the early afternoon nap. A longer nap at this time of day helps regulate hormones for night time sleep. This is the best nap to have in the cot.
3. If you’re still feeding LO to sleep try the “Pantley pull off” method to guide LO to fall asleep independently. Best to start this method at the last night time feed – and day time naps will follow.
ELIZABETH PANTLEY’S – HOW TO STOP BABY FEEDING TO SLEEP
When your baby wakes, go ahead and pop his pacifier or his bottle in his mouth, or nurse him. But, instead of leaving him there and going back to bed, or letting him fall asleep at the breast, let him suck for a few minutes until his sucking slows and he is relaxed and sleepy. Then break the seal with your finger and gently remove the pacifier or nipple.
Often, especially at first, your baby then will startle and root for the nipple. Try to very gently hold his mouth closed with your finger under his chin, or apply pressure to his chin, just under his lip, at the same time rocking or swaying with him. If he struggles against this and fusses or roots for you or his bottle or pacifier, go ahead and replace the nipple, but repeat the removal process as often as necessary until he falls asleep.
How long between removals? Every baby is different, but about ten to sixty seconds between removals usually works. You also should watch your baby’s sucking action. If a baby is sucking strongly or swallowing regularly when feeding, wait a few minutes until he slows his pace. Usually, after the initial burst of activity, your baby will slow to a more relaxed, “fluttery” pace; this is a good time to begin your removal attempts.
It may take two to five (or even more) attempts, but eventually your baby will fall asleep without the pacifier or nipple in her mouth. When she has done this a number of times over a period of days, you will notice the removals are much easier, and her awakenings are less frequent.
“We got to calling this the Big PPO (Pantley-Pull-Off). At first Joshua would see it coming and grab my nipple tighter in anticipation — ouch! But you said to stick with it, and I did. Now he anticipates the PPO and actually lets go and turns and rolls over on his side to go to sleep! I am truly amazed.” –Shannon, mother of 16-month-old Joshua
If your baby doesn’t nap well, don’t trouble yourself with trying to use the removal technique during the day for naps. Remember that good naps mean better nighttime sleep — and better nighttime sleep means better naps. Once you get your baby sleeping better at night, you can then work on the naptime sleep. The most important time to use Pantley’s gentle removal plan is the first falling asleep of the night. Often the way your baby falls asleep will affect the rest of his awakenings for the night. I suspect that this because of the sleep-association affect that I explained earlier. It seems that the way in which your baby falls asleep for the night is how he expects to remain all night long.
4. Remember in older tots the time they wake up may set their body clock for the day. It may be really tempting to let LO have a lie in on Sunday morning BUT – you will pay for it later.
5. As LO drops day time naps remember to adjust other sleep times. For example – you may need to bring bed time forward a little.
6. Being CONSISTENT in your routine and approach to LO’s naps is the key to successful napping.
As we said – some babies and tots won’t nap the way “they” (sleep experts) say they should. All you can do as a parent is give them the opportunity to achieve healthy sleep patterns.