I was going out of my mind.
My son, William – my sweet, loving, adorable son – would not nap in his crib! At 6.5 months old, I was spending hours out of my day holding him while he slept. He would fall asleep nursing and then wake up almost every time I put him down. Occasionally, I was able to gently lay him on our bed or on the couch and he would stay asleep. But that still meant that I needed to hover over him constantly to make sure he didn’t roll off. So I was spending all day playing with him, feeding him, or watching him sleep. While there is nothing I love more than spending time with my baby, and I feel so lucky to be able to stay home with him, I wasn’t getting anything done. I’m still working on a couple of cases and was having trouble getting any work accomplished, not to mention chores, or having any time to myself until my husband came home from work.
I decided he had to learn to nap in his crib. Not only did I need the break, but I knew that he would sleep better and feel more rested that way. I also wanted other people to be able to put him down for a nap, if I left him with my parents or a babysitter. So I Googled “nap-training.”
I found a lot of great advice and opinions, some of which I chose to follow and some of which I did not. Almost everyone said that some version of “crying it out” would be necessary.
A word about crying it out, which I know can be controversial: I had never really let William cry himself out. Sometimes he did it inadvertently when he fussed in his car seat and fell asleep before we got home, but other than that, he has always been picked up right away when he is upset. And I believe that is the way it should be, most of the time. But I wanted him to be able to go down in his crib and know that, even if he got upset, it would be okay.
One of the most extreme articles I read cited one mom who just put her child down in his crib twice a day for two hours and never went to check on him. Barring any illness or injury, she never went in his room, even if he cried the entire time. I knew immediately that that was too extreme for me. My mommy heart couldn’t take it.
So I made a decision that lined up with some of the more moderate approaches I found. I wouldn’t put him down at certain times; I would look for signs that he was sleepy. I would put my baby down sleepy, but awake, turn out the lights and put on his sound machine. And then I would leave the room and set a timer for 20 minutes. If he was still awake and unhappy after that time, I would go get him and try again later. Unless he got completely hysterical, though, I would not go in there until 20 minutes were up. Twenty minutes sounded long to me, and I wasn’t sure I could do it. Fortunately, I didn’t have to. The first time I tried it, he whimpered on and off for about 10 minutes, and then stopped. When I peeked into his room 10 minutes after that, he was asleep! To my amazement, he slept for almost an hour and a half! I was sold on nap-training.
For the next week, I did this twice a day. Some days were more successful than others, but I was determined to stay consistent. And it worked. Most days, William sleeps for at least 45 minutes twice a day in his crib. Often, he’ll sleep for well over an hour! As any mom knows, no day is the same and occasionally he refuses, but we have come a long way in a short time. Now, I can answer a few emails or make some work calls, clean up the kitchen, do some laundry, or yes, even sit and watch some TV or read a book ALL BY MYSELF. William is happier and seems less cranky during the day as well.