I am a mom who needs my sleep at night. I started sleep training my child at a very young age, and he was sleeping for seven or more hours at night by nine weeks. Part of this I attribute to the Sleep Lady, Kim West, and her book, Good Night, Sleep Tight. The other part I attribute to God knowing that I needed a baby who liked to sleep at night, because I can’t function for long without my eight hours.
As great as I was at setting the nighttime routine and getting my baby on a nightly sleep schedule, I was horrible at setting nap schedules. I was a stay-at-home mom who couldn’t just stay at home all day. I was always taking my baby to Mommy and Me classes, library story-times, and lots of play dates. My poor son got his naps where he could. He fell asleep in the car, he crawled in my arms and fell asleep while the other kids were playing, and a few times he even fell asleep right on the floor where he was playing. After he fell asleep, I would pick him up and put him in his crib or a pack-and-play if we were at a friend’s house. Still, these naps were not sufficient. The result was I had a pretty whiny and fussy child around 5 PM everyday and we were still three hours away from bedtime. Thankfully, I have a very even-tempered, easy-going child. A lot of babies just would simply not have put up with this.
As he approached ten months I was really starting to wear thin. I couldn’t get anything done when he was awake. He was into everything and required constant supervision. Nap time needed to start happening. Not only for his own benefit, but for Mom’s too. This is when I really started paying attentions to the signs that he was getting tired. I did what I should have done much earlier. When he started getting clingy, rubbing his eyes, or running his fingers through his curly hair then we didn’t go out. If we were already out then we got in the car and came home. I put him in the crib and let him put himself to sleep. After a few days of paying careful attention to my son’s signs I noticed that he started winding down around the same time everyday.
So around 12:30 after lunch everyday I just put him in the crib. In the beginning, there was a little bit of fussing and crying on some days, but for the most part, he went right to sleep and stayed asleep for around an hour and a half. My baby was a napper! I felt so free because by knowing what time my son’s nap time was then I could plan the rest of the day accordingly, and have a much happier toddler along for the ride.
I’ve talked to other parents and they have all agreed. Babies will set their own nap schedule. They just need a little help from their caregivers. Pay attention to your child’s signs that they’re getting tired. Put them down drowsy, but awake, just like you would during nighttime sleep training, and let them put themselves to sleep. You can’t decide that your child’s nap time will be at a certain time. You really have to let their own little bodies be the judge of that.
Napping is important for young children. It helps them with their growth and brain development, and it improves their disposition remarkably. Caregivers also need a little time for themselves during the day. Keeping up with toddlers is hard work! Start early with nap times, and let your child take the lead.