How to get your baby to nap for a long freaking time…
and beat that dreaded catnap!
Ok, I’m not going to claim that I have figured out this enigma that is baby sleep. But I have been through at least two children so far, and I’ve battled the catnap with both of them. The one thing I know for certain is that every child is different. What works for one, may not work for another. What I talk about here may not help you. I’ve done countless google searches on baby sleep and “how to get your baby to nap for a long time” and kept running into the same, basic, unhelpful information that was either a “duh” thing (such as, “look for babies sleep signals to know when they are tired) or just didn’t apply to my child (i.e. see previous example – sleepy signals mean nothing to my kids). Every once in a while I would stumble upon a helpful piece of information that might start the ball rolling in the right direction and lead to my “eureka!” discovery of what would help my baby to nap for a long time. Those are blessed web pages to me and hopefully this post will be one of those for you!
I have two children. And what worked for my first, did not work for my second. So let me give you two different approaches and maybe one of them will be what works for your child. I wish I could assure you that one of these approaches would definitely work. I understand how frustrating it is to deal with little to no daytime sleep. I’m here to help! We literally have to be detectives to try and figure out these little people and what makes them tick. And the second we figure something out, they like to change it up on us to keep us guessing. Ah, such is parenthood.
Approach #1 – My First Child
I’m going to pass on to you some advice I received from MODG blog. It literally saved my life and my sanity. Her blog has since ceased to exist but this information needs to remain on the internet so here you go! I’m going to do my best to remember and relay it to you here. How to get your baby to sleep for a long, freaking time.
Number one piece of advice: stick to the schedule. What was that? Stick to the schedule!!! No matter what. What is that magic schedule? Wake up by 7 am. Still sleeping at 7 am? Wake that baby up. It seems cruel and will go against everything you feel is right in the world. It will make your mommy skin crawl to do it, but it must be done.
Number two: make your day a freaking party. Go outside, dance, act silly, do whatever it takes to wear out and keep your baby awake until that first nap at…10 am. Not before and not after.
What’s that? They only took a 30 minute cat nap? Tough. They will now wait until the second nap time at 2 pm. This is crucial. Don’t give in!! They will act SO tired by noon and you’re gonna wonder how they will make it TWO MORE hours, but you need to make it happen. No car rides should happen at this time, no stroller rides, nothing that would allow sleep to happen before 2 pm. Stick to that schedule! It’s important.
Ok you’ve made it to 2 pm. I’m not gonna say this is definitely gonna happen, but that first day, my perpetual cat napper, napped for two hours at that afternoon nap. And me? I got my sanity back.
After this second nap, car rides can be had, anything goes, but bedtime is 8 pm.
I think it’s helpful if you have also sleep trained your child to go to sleep on their own, but even if you haven’t, this can still work. This method is not for every child. But if watching for sleepy signs and timing wakeful periods hasn’t been cutting it for you, give this method a good solid try. A week of being consistent should be enough to know if it’s working.
Approach #2 – My Second Child
I must admit something first: I have been selfish about this kid’s sleep. I
want need a two hour (minimum!) break in the middle of my day. This requires both children to sleep at the SAME time. Is this possible? Yes. But it does require some flexibility on the part of said second child.
He is pretty different from his sister. One major difference is that his awake periods are much longer than hers were at this age. When I started stretching her awake periods with the above method, I was so concerned about how she would do. She was very easily overstimulated and would get overtired a LOT. I dealt with screaming and crying anytime that happened (although with the nap schedule, it seemed to wear her out just enough to sleep well). I’ve rarely seen this boy get overtired. Four hours awake has been no big deal to him for months. So after a couple of months struggling to get him to take his recommended TWO naps a day, he has pretty nearly dropped his morning nap at 9 months old. If we are out running errands or go for a morning walk, he may take a little snoozey catnap, but most mornings he doesn’t. He wakes anywhere between 6 and 7 am and he naps from about 12:30/1 pm until 3/4 pm, along with his sister. He slept through the night for the first time earlier this month and continues to sleep decently through the night, so I’m rolling with it.
The kicker is that I do allow him to take that long afternoon nap in MY bed. I usually lay beside him, savoring those quiet hours to watch YouTube/Netflix on my phone (with headphones) or take a small nap myself. It enables me to gently help him back to sleep if he stirs too early. I spent a week trying to sleep train him to nap in his crib and we made some great strides! Then we took a weekend day trip to the zoo. BIG mistake. We came back and the next day it was like we had started all over. I was done at that point. I WILL try again eventually. But one thing I have learned with this second baby is that my husband is right (don’t tell him I said that)…things will work out. He isn’t going to be napping in my bed forever. I am choosing to go with what works for us at this stage in our lives. I cherish his sleeping cherub face beside me and the relaxing hours of peace that help to replenish my nighttime sleep deficit.
So if what you are doing is working for you, but it’s not what you think you’re supposed to be doing – try not to worry about it too much. They’re only little once (TOLO!! *Yes, I’m corny. I crack myself up, even if no one else finds me funny. Lol.*) Good luck mamas!! May you get your happy hour (or two or three) that is naptime. You deserve a break and that baby deserves some quality, restorative sleep.