Sleep, Baby, Sleep – Part Two

Are you ready for the longest post ever? For those of you without a baby, it’ll probably also be the most boring post ever, so feel free to skip. But, if you’re anything like me right now, you can’t get enough of reading about baby sleep – I want to know how everyone’s babies are sleeping, how they got them to do it, and how I can improve what we’re doing. We recently decided to nap train Jackson, and I’m pretty adamant that it was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. It’s totally changed the way we do things around here, and we’re all sleeping better as a result. So, let’s talk!

First I want to talk a little about why we chose to nap train, because I think it’s important to carefully consider what you’re doing with naps. Since about 6 weeks, Jackson has (had!) refused to nap in his crib at all. He’d sleep on me or Corey, he’d sleep in the Moby, and he’d sleep in a bouncer or swing at daycare (but never at home), he just wouldn’t sleep in the crib. We tried a lot of different things, but when I went back to work at 7 weeks it just wasn’t a priority. I hated being away from him all day long, so when we got home I was happy to let him snuggle up with me. And on the weekends, I felt like I needed to catch up on time spent with him, so it was no problem to spend half my day chained to the couch while he slept.

This worked for us for a couple of months, but towards the end of the school year I got really tired of it. I loved the cuddles, don’t get me wrong, but it was reaching a point where I had zero time that wasn’t being taken up by Jackson in some way, and Corey couldn’t ever get him to sleep as easily as I could so nap duty generally fell to me. I kept telling Corey we needed to do something about it, and we tried a few times, but he would just scream in the crib and I didn’t have the heart to let him cry (plus he was still so young, he definitely wasn’t ready to cry it out). Corey and I kept agreeing that we would wait until school got out to tackle it, because we were afraid that if we pushed the crib naps he wouldn’t sleep as well, which would affect night time sleep, which would affect our ability to function at work each day. Plus, if I sat down on the couch with him he would almost immediately snuggle up into me and fall asleep, so we didn’t want to mess with such an easy way to get him to nap.

One day, a couple of weeks before school got out, I was frustrated with being stuck on the couch with him, and he was about 4 months old (which some people say is a good time to start sleep training), so we decided to try and let him cry. It was a disaster. We lasted about 30 minutes (with frequent checks) before we decided it just wasn’t for us, ran in, and grabbed him. He immediately fell asleep in my arms, and was clearly upset. We both agreed we were never doing that again.

And then…

The weekend after school got out, Jackson’s naps went to hell. He suddenly wouldn’t sleep at all in my arms. I’d settle in on the couch like we had always done, and he would start arching his back and screaming. If I tried to rock him (which he usually loved), he would try to push his body as far away from mine as possible, crying the whole time. The only time he was calm? If I plopped him down in the crib.

The only problem was, he still couldn’t fall asleep very well in the crib. If we stayed in the room with him he was okay, but he just wanted to talk to us and give us smiles. But if we left, he cried. We tried the swing (nope), the bouncer (no way) and the Moby (fell asleep while Corey was walking outside with him, woke up as soon as they walked back in the door). One day that weekend he spent 7 hours with no more than a 15 minute catnap because we just could not figure out what to do.

At this point, we knew we had to revisit sleep training. He was giving us very clear cues that he was ready to nap in the crib, he just needed some help figuring out how to fall asleep. He was also showing us that if we were in the room, he couldn’t sleep because we were too distracting – and he was starting to fuss a bit before falling asleep no matter what, which gave us the idea that maybe he was a tension releaser, not a tension increaser like we originally thought.

So, after lots of thought and talking it over, we decided to re-visit crying it out. We gave ourselves one week and said we would stick to it for that long, but if it wasn’t improving we would ditch it and go for something else. I took notes on my phone and even made a graph (because I’m a data nerd!) of how his naps went over the course of the week, and we were pretty shocked at the results. I’ll share that in a minute, but first let’s talk about nap routines because, as I’ve said before, I think sleep routines and cues are vital!

Our nap routine is as follows:

– As soon as he starts to slow down/act tired (which was an hour and a half or so after his last nap when we first started, but is quickly moving towards two hours) we head upstairs. I close his blackout blinds and turn on his music.

– I change his diaper if it needs to be changed and put him in his sleep sack (we’ve officially transitioned over to this instead of the swaddle for all sleeping). We do this on the changing table and a use the same little phrases and games that Corey always uses with him at night. I think this helps him know it’s time to sleep, and it always gets a giggle out of him, which I can’t resist.

– I pick him up snuggle him for as long as he lets me. Usually this isn’t more than 10-15 seconds, then he starts arching his back and fussing until I lay him in the crib.

– I lay him down and sit down next to the crib. Then, (and you’ll laugh at me for this one…) I read him a few pages of Harry Potter. Sounds crazy, but it works. We realized early on that for naps he’s soothed by us talking to him or reading to him, but if we read one of his books he’s too stimulated by the pictures or the poetic rhythm. I grabbed Harry Potter one day when I knew he wanted to hear my voice but I didn’t have anything to say, and I read out loud to him for a while. It worked like a charm. So now, instead of a nap time book we read a few pages from Harry Potter.

– After I read, I give him a kiss, tell him I love him, and leave.

I have to admit, I miss this!

Once I leave, we’re basically doing a modified Ferber-style approach – when (if) he starts crying, I check the time, and I go peek in on him after about 5 minutes. I give him his pacifier back if necessary, pat him a few times, and kiss his forehead before leaving again. We’re not super consistent with the check-in times. Sometimes I’ll do a few 5 minute increments before going to 7 minutes, then 10, sometimes if he’s just fussing I go straight to 10 minute increments. It all depends on how hard he’s crying and if I think he’s about to fall asleep, but at this point he really only fusses if he loses the pacifier in the first few minutes, so I’ll pop it back in and he goes right to sleep.

Okay, let’s get to the fun part – the data. When we first started nap training I couldn’t get enough information on how this had worked for other people, so I’ll give a rundown of how things went for our first week. We were pretty surprised at how quickly it worked, which to us just confirmed that, as we suspected, Jackson was ready for this!

Here’s the graph that shows how long he cried for and how long he stayed asleep:

As of now (a little over two weeks in), he’s crying no more than 5 minutes when I put him down, and the vast majority of the time he doesn’t cry at all.

And here’s the graph that shows how long his naps lasted over the course of the week (again), along with the interval from waking up to going back to sleep.

The interesting part is that the nap length varied quite a bit for the first week, but by the second week (last week) naps were getting consistently longer and longer, and now it’s looking like he’s getting ready to consolidate down into three long naps a day. We’ll see what happens!

But, what was most interesting to me was the night sleep. Right before we started this we were having some really rough nights, so I took notes on how things looked once we were nap training. Here’s how it went down:

Night before we started:

– Was so tired we put him to bed at 6:00, much earlier than usual.
– Woke up three times for his pacifier between 6:00 and 10:00
– Up at 2:30 screaming. Obviously hungry, I was in there feeding him until about 3:30.
– Up again a few minutes after I got in bed. Corey spent about an hour in his room with him before he went back to sleep.
– Up for the day at 6:30.

Night One:

– Down at 7:30ish
– Woke up for pacifier three times between 9:45 and 11:30. One was my fault – was fussing in his sleep and I accidentally woke him up.
– Up for the day at 5:30.

Night Two:

– Down at 7:30
– Woke up for pacifier at 1:30 and 5:10.
– Up for the day at 5:30.

Night Three:

– Down at 6:45
– Up at 7:30 because he rolled into the side of his crib. Went right back to sleep after I moved him and gave back pacifier.
– Up for the day at 5:15.

You get the idea – nap training very quickly fixed the issues we were having with night sleep, and things are still going strong. I think he’s in a transitional time with sleep right now because it looks a little different every night, but now he’s going down between 6:30 and 7:00 every night, waking no more than 2 times throughout the night for his pacifier (and going straight back to sleep, so it takes us under a minute to actually deal with), and then getting up around 5, then eating and going straight back to sleep until 7 or so. A few times he’s slept straight through for the whole 12 hours, so I’m hoping that becomes the norm!

His new favorite way to sleep. Scares he hell out of Corey and me, but it’s kind of adorable. We try to move his head, but he just gets mad and moves it right back! 

Long story short? We nap trained, it was a fantastic decision, I have my life back, and everyone is happy. Until the next sleep regression hits us, but let’s not think about that yet.

Anyone else want to chat baby sleep? How are things going in your house? Anyone else have a baby that loves to sleep in ways that terrify you? If you don’t have a baby and are sleeping all night every night, tell me about that too…I want to live vicariously through you!

This entry was posted in Baby.

7 comments

  1. Eve says:

    These have been interesting for me to read, as I’m half-way through our first pregnancy, and sleep is a #1 concern of ours (clearly!). I was an infant nanny for a number of different families, so feel like I have at least some idea of sleep schedule/nap training as I go into this. However, I hit a sore point with my brother and SIL yesterday, as they are absolute slaves to my 15-month-old nephew’s naps at home. They refuse to let him sleep anywhere else, including the crib my parents have at their house for him. I mentioned it was a goal of mine to make sleep “happen” on the go if need be, and they told me (according to their pediatrician) that I’d basically be ruining my child’s future sleep success for the rest of his life if I did this. I rolled my eyes, but it got me thinking about sleep.

    Would you consider letting Jackson sleep anywhere other than his crib now that you’ve been through this? Clearly he’s still a super little guy, but I’m wondering if you agree after this journey that it’s stupid to try and let babies sleep outside of their regularly routine and bedroom? if you were away from home, would you let him sleep in the car seat/baby carrier, or insist you came home to sleep? Thanks for any insights you might want to share:-).

    -Eve

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    Amanda Reply:

    Oh goodness, I would think it would be just about impossible to never let him nap anywhere but his crib! Our big goal was to get him capable of napping in the crib, so that we weren’t constantly fussing with getting him to sleep. Now that he can do that? We’re good with him sleeping wherever – we aren’t the type to put our life on hold just because baby needs a nap. For example, we had errands to run this morning, so his first nap was in the Ergo on me (and I transitioned him out of it and let him nap on my chest for a while), and his second nap was in his carseat on the way home. He just went down for his third nap of the day, in his crib.

    Now, I will say that now that he’s napping in the crib it is much harder to get him to sleep elsewhere, and he doesn’t sleep as well in other places. I don’t know how well he would do if we tried to get him to sleep in an unfamiliar crib, but I think it’s something he could definitely learn to do! But long story short, no we don’t drop everything and come home every time he needs to nap – sometimes he gets a bit cranky or doesn’t take as long of a nap, but we try to be flexible about teaching him to sleep anywhere, not just in the crib.

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    Eve Reply:

    Thanks for your thoughtful response! I agree-most sleep at home in a controlled environment is optimal for a well-rested kiddo, but out-and-about naps happen sometimes!

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  2. Lauren says:

    First, I’m mildly obsessed with that picture of him sleeping on his face. Miles is primarily a side sleeper but is usually on his stomach when we get him in the morning (though not on his face). I’m very interested in nap training but can’t pull the trigger. Miles only naps well at home & usually laying on the boppy in my lap or in the mamaroo. He gets tired every 2 hours like clockwork but if we’re out and about he only sleeps about 20-30 minutes where if we’re home I get 40-90 minutes. I’m worried if I crib train him for naps I’ll never be able to get him to sleep outside of the house… He’s pretty easy at bedtime, a nap, bottle, sometimes a book or music and down he goes but I’m not sure how much or little of that to replicate for naps…ugh

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  3. Christina says:

    My daughter wanted to sleep with her face down in the mattress at this age as well, and I was super freaked out about it. Let me assure you that nothing bad will happen if you just let him be. I too snuck in her room to move her head and ruined many a good nap! Baby sleep is hard. It changes so much in the first year. My daughter would only nap while held as a newborn, then only in the mamaroo, then she finally moved to the crib. Night sleep was a whole other ballgame. She is almost a year old now, and still wakes up once/night to nurse. I probably could let her cry it out, but I love the snuggles. It sounds like you are doing an awesome job of following your baby’s cues and needs.

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  4. Lyndsey says:

    So glad that you’re finding something that works for you!! And Jackson is so adorable :)

    I feel really super incredibly grateful that for all the many challenges we’ve had since our LO was born, sleep has not really been one of them (knock on wood, and we’re only at 6 weeks so I know it can still all go to shit). Fiona has always been a good sleeper at night, and she does okay during the day too. I don’t think we’ve really DONE too much to get good sleep, I think we just lucked out. At this point she usually sleeps from around 10:30-6:30 with just one wakeup to eat. Her daytime sleep was a bit all over the place because we didn’t really ever attempt to get her to nap, just let her fall asleep whenever. About a week ago I started actually trying to get her to nap on a schedule (aiming for about 1 hr nap every 3rd hour), but she doesn’t sleep a ton during the day. But the nice thing is that she sleeps fine in her bouncer (never tried to put her down in her bassinet for naps actually!) and is pretty happy between naps so we sort of just let her go.

    I don’t really know much about baby sleep so I’m not sure when we’ll try to have her consolidate naps… but I think for as long as she’s pretty happy and sleeping okay we’ll probably just follow her cues.

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  5. Shoshanah says:

    We’re expecting our first in December, and out of everything I’m most nervous about sleep, so I love reading your posts on it. I NEED my sleep now, and can’t imagine how I’ll be able to function without it. I know I’ll adapt, but still… I’m really not looking forward to it,.

    And just wanted to chime in and say that’s it’s amazingly adorable that you’re reading Harry Potter to him. I wonder how far you’ll get before you guys stop doing it…

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