Many parents struggle with babies or children who just won’t nap in their cribs, but sleep well overnight. They may protest when put in their crib, don’t sleep very long or need to be rocked, soothed or pushed in the stroller to get to sleep. It can be frustrating to not know why they can sleep reasonably well overnight in the crib, but not during naps. The good news is if your little one is able to get themselves to sleep in the crib at night, then they can certainly learn how to do the same at nap times.
If you see your little one having trouble with crib naps, then it is really important to address it. Not only is it just not sustainable to always be rocking, soothing or strolling with your baby for the foreseeable future; if your baby isn’t sleeping well over an extended period of time for their naps, then this will start to impact on their night sleep as well. If you are spending hours a day rocking, holding or pushing your little one in a stroller while they sleep then they are also not sleeping as well as they could if their nap was taking place in their crib. Being held, rocked or pushed in the stroller causes lighter sleep, which means your baby isn’t getting the nice restorative sleep that they really need.
The reason your little one maybe struggling with the ability to fall asleep, or stay asleep in the crib is because they have become accustomed to something, or someone helping them to get to sleep, and stay asleep. Whether it is the motion of the stroller or rocking or the yummy mommy cuddles. If this becomes a regular daily thing a child or baby will begin to feel like they always need this to fall asleep for their naps and will protest and cry when they are not getting these things once they are put in the crib. Now, you may ask: why does my baby fall asleep so well at night in the crib but not nap time? This could be for 2 reasons: a) they can differentiate between the different circumstances around bedtime and naptime and 2) the drive to sleep is a lot more intense at night, making it easier to fall asleep.
So, how do you help teach your little one to LOVE sleeping in their crib?
Follow appropriate nap times.
It is important to make sure you are putting your little one down at the right time for them to be ready to nap. If you put them down too early they won’t be ready to sleep and if you put them down too late you’ll find that they will become overtired and wired and find it harder to fall asleep. For a baby who takes 2 naps a day there are also windows of time when their little bodies are primed and ready for sleep, following these times will make it much easier for them to fall asleep when you put them down. I suggest aiming for naptime around 9 am and 1 pm. For a child on 1 nap a day, you should be aiming for their nap to happen right after lunch.
Institute a nap routine.
Just like bedtime, it is important to have a consistent naptime routine. The routine really only has to last for 10 to 15 minutes and can be an abbreviated version of your bedtime routine. You can choose whatever elements you want in your routine e.g. a feed, diaper change, song, book, or quick rock. This naptime routine, if done consistently the same way every day, will act as a cue that sleep is coming,
Ensure the bedroom environment is conducive to sleep.
Sleep during nap times is lighter compared to the deep sleep children and babies experience in the early stages of night sleep. This means that their naps are more susceptible to environmental disruptions. Having white noise going and blackout blinds to make the bedroom completely dark will help ensure environmental disruptions are minimized and your little one can concentrate on falling, and returning to sleep at brief awakenings during their naps.
Teach your child to fall asleep independently.
The main key to a successful crib nap will be to help teach your child to fall asleep independently in their crib. This means that they go into their crib awake and fall asleep by themselves. This will help them sleep well, and for a good solid amount of time, in their crib. How you teach them to do this is totally up to you and what you are comfortable with. For parents of younger babies, you may wish to do a small amount of rocking or soothing but put them in to the crib when they are drowsy but awake. By doing this they complete the falling asleep process on their own. For older babies and toddlers, it is best to put them in their crib awake, but at a time conducive to sleep. You can expect that they will cry or protest at the change from rocking or being in the stroller. This is perfectly normal. They are making their feelings known about this new way of doing things. You will need to decide how you want to handle the cries and protests. Do you want to give them a few minutes to calm down and try and fall asleep before checking on them or just leave them entirely? This is up to you and your comfort level and also your knowledge of your child. Be very consistent with how you handle teaching your child to fall asleep independently and be prepared to really concentrate on naps for a few weeks. Things will not necessarily come together after 1 or two days. You may wish to keep a log, so you can see all improvements. And celebrate your successes, no matter how small!
If after reading all of this and implementing my suggestions you are not seeing the improvements you thought you would, please do not hesitate to reach out for help. Engaging a child sleep consultant just might be what you need to help improve your child’s sleep. I offer packages to suit all needs and budgets. Have you had a chance to join my free community where parents come together to discuss child sleep issues? Join here!