Thursday, 5 July 2012

The Art of Napping

I should start out by mentioning that I have been trying to write this post for about, oh two weeks. Ever since I have tried to get Kaitlin on a more regular schedule the topic of napping has been on my frazzled brain. Truth be told sleeping has been on my brain for the last three months or so, or whenever it was that sleeping through the night became uncomfortable and non-existant for my heavily pregnant self (and then we all know what happens once the baby actually arrives).

But what I wanted to talk about today was babies and napping. I thought I was the only one who had a newborn who didn't want to sleep. I had read all of these great things about newborns wanting to sleep all the time - it was interrupted sleep, but sleep none the less.  The only time Kaitlin wanted to sleep was when it was time for her to eat, which meant that I was constantly waking her up when all I wanted to do was let her sleep. Especially during those early days and weeks when it was critical for her to eat every couple of hours, for her health and for my milk supply.

go to sleep!
I have ready the book Becoming Babywise several times now cover to cover. I have heard first hand from a few people about how amazing the book is and how it really works. Once my head cleared from the fog of the first few newborn weeks I picked up the book again and was ready to start following it. Now, let me clarify that I am not following the book to a T. There are some things in the book that I don't really agree with and some that I find really helpful. I guess I am merely mixing and matching from a couple of parenting books which (in reality) is what most of us end up doing, isn't it? 

The main point and idea that I took away from the book is that babies and children thrive on routine. And this I have read and heard from many different sources, not just this one book. The second point that I took away from this book was the eat/play/sleep order of events. Once the baby is done eating (and gets a FULL meal, not just a snack here and there) there should be a few minutes of play time. The length of time isn't really the important part, its more about taking advantage of the baby being in a quiet alert state, when they are able to learn new things. Sometimes we read a book, sometimes we play with stuffed animals (OK, I play with stuffed animals), sometimes we do tummy time (after a few minutes of digesting, we don't need the previous meal ending up all over our beloved Boppy). After the baby is tired (which I am STILL trying to recognize all of the different signs) you put the baby down for a nap.


I never thought I could have such a love/hate relationship with this word. Me? I love naps. I think a siesta should be a part of every working day. Napping on weekends, napping on rainy days, napping an hour after you wake up in the morning - give me a nap of any kind and I am happy to have it! Kaitlin, on the other hand, is still learning that naps are a good thing. Lots of people have commented to me on how alert she is and how wonderful it is. This is true - I am very happy that our baby is healthy, curious and alert to the world around her. But getting her to turn the off button on her alertness (or, as I like to call it, her being nosey) is a fight that I have six times a day, every day.

finally napping peacefully

At a minimum it takes me thirty minutes to put Kaitlin down for a nap. Minimum being the key word here. Average time is about 45 minutes. Sometimes she doesn't get a nap because she just refuses to close her eyes. (side note - and thats OK too. She doesn't have to nap after every feeding, but it is critical for her to sleep at least every other feeding. For my sanity and for her health) To say that she is stubborn would be an understatement. Hhmmmm, I would which one of us she got that from? After a fair bit of rocking in the glider and/or in my arms while walking around the room, she will start to close her eyes. Depending on the day/time of day white noise, me singing (mostly made up songs because I am horrible at remembering lullaby lyrics) or talking to her helps to close her eyes as well. Just as those precious eyes are closed they POP back open and the crying begins. The volume/length of crying varies and has been changing as she gets older. Then the eyes close again. The rocking and singing resumes. Lather, rinse, repeat.

You can probably see how this gets old.

And sometimes it doesn't even work. Sometimes no matter what I do she won't close her eyes and go to sleep. When this is the case she usually she ends up in the swing, where she often manages to fall asleep (although sometimes when she is being particularly stubborn she stays awake). Car rides? No match for Kaitlins curiosity (and her screams). Going for a walk in her stroller? Very rarely do the gentle bumps and motion of walking lull her to sleep.

The part that kills me is that since she is still so young, she still needs to eat at regular frequent intervals during the day. My pediatrician recommends no longer than 2.5-3 hours between feedings during the day (at night she can sleep as long as she wants until she wakes herself up). Sometimes this means that I am just getting her to drift off to dreamland and thirty minutes later I have to wake her up to eat. Thirty minutes! All that work for THIRTY MINUTES?! 


I know that even these thirty minutes are crucial for proper brain development. Also, good sleep leads to more good sleep. If she can even get in a short nap at least she has gotten a little rest, and is more likely to go to sleep during her next nap (and most importantly go to sleep easily at night). I have seen the devil that is an overtired baby and it is not a pretty sight. And when she doesn't get any sleep (like those times when a nap is skipped in between feedings) it is that much harder to sooth her/get her to sleep during the next nap time.

overtired devil cry

I have to keep reminding myself that she is only six weeks old. She is still a newborn, still getting used to living in the outside world, and still needs lots of cuddling and love and encouragement. It is my job as a parent to encourage her to sleep, since I know that she needs it even when she thinks she doesn't. Mama (and Daddy) know best. And I have to remember that her sleep needs are constantly changing and that we will need to adjust to them as she grows. Sometimes she will need more sleep, sometimes she will need less. Sometimes it will be easier to get her to sleep, sometimes it will be harder. I am hoping that I can instill good sleep habits in her now (which is why a routine is so crucial) so that she eventually becomes a good napper. Knock on wood she sleeps pretty good during the night (much easier to get a baby to sleep when it's pitch dark outside), which I am thankful for.

Do/Did you have problems and challenges getting your newborn/baby/toddler to take naps? Did you find any great solutions that you care to pass along? Share your stories with me so I know I'm not the only one!

1 comment:

  1. Tracy! I could've written this post myself. I love having an alert daughter as well but man she puts up a fight at nap time! I've been feeling anxious all the time recently. If she's not sleeping she should be and if she is sleeping she'll be waking up - oh the torment I've been putting myself through. Thank you for sharing so all us mums of active babies can feel less alone.