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The Three Biggest Nap Time Mistakes

Fotolia_87018116_SGood old nap time. The absolute queen of mixed blessings.

When it all goes according to plan, you get a little downtime. (And what I mean by that, of course, is that you might get a little time to catch up on the millions of side duties that are outlined on the parenting job description.)

But when it doesn’t, oh mercy, when it doesn’t, you’re looking at at least a couple of hours of frustrating, unrewarded efforts, usually culminating in your baby being crankier than she was when you first tried to put her down.

A lot of my clients over the years have seen nap time as a bit of a “roll of the dice.”

“Some days, she goes down in a couple of minutes, and some days she just won’t go down at all,” they tell me. “She’s completely unpredictable.”

When I dig a little deeper into their nap time routines, however, there’s usually something that jumps out at me where I have a real, “A-ha!” kind of moment, and can diagnose the problem.

So with the hopes of providing your baby with some restful daytime naps, and you with a few daily hours to try and regain your sanity, here are a few of the biggest mistakes I see parents making when it comes to daytime naps, and how to avoid them.

  1. Missing the window
    A really common misconception is that the more tired you are, the longer and deeper you’ll sleep. This is occasionally true in adults, but kids have a very specific window of time during the day where their bodies start making preparations for the wonderful nap to come. If they don’t get to sleep during that window, they get overtired, and I mean fast.

    That might sound like a good thing, but in fact, overtired children are typically wound-up and hyperactive, which is obviously not conducive to a willing, peaceful nap.

    This is one of many reasons why I’m so big on tight sleep schedules. With a little practice, the body can recognize the pattern you’re setting for it and adapt accordingly. A regular nap schedule, strictly adhered to, solves a ton of problems.

  2. Location, location, location
    There’s a big difference between sleeping and resting. When kids “nap” in a car seat or a stroller, they may look like they’re getting some rest, but it’s a clever deception, designed by your baby with the specific goal of frazzling your nerves and aging you prematurely.Alright, that’s an exaggeration, (Or… or is it?) but when kids sleep while they’re in motion, their brains keep them from getting into a deep sleep. They’ve got their eyes closed, sure, but they’re not getting to that all-important third stage where they’re actually getting the benefits.

    I know that we, as parents, all have very, very hectic schedules, but trust me, you want to schedule your running around for opportunities other than baby’s nap times. They’ll get much more rest and wake up in a way better mood if they take their naps in their crib.

  3. Don’t do it for them
    As tempting as it may be to rock, nurse, or sing your baby to sleep, I promise you, it creates more problems than it solves.
    These methods are typically referred to as “sleep crutches” and they’re deceptive little monsters.

    What ends up happening is that your baby associates the action with falling asleep. All good so far, yeah? But then, when the action stops, and something wakes her up a little, she needs that action back in order to fall asleep again. Suddenly, you’re back in the bedroom starting the process all over again.

    What you want to do is teach her how to fall asleep independently, so feel free to soothe her with those techniques I mentioned, but make sure she’s awake when you put her in the crib. That way, when she wakes up during her nap, she’ll look around, see that she’s still in her crib, and think, “Hmm… still a little sleepy. That’s okay. I know how to do this. I just roll over and close the old eyes here, and…”

    OK, well again, that’s a slight creative liberty on my part, but that’s the general idea behind it. Teach them to fall asleep on their own and they’ll be able to get through those little mini-wakeups without having to cry out for you.

There you have it. Follow those three rules and I can guarantee you you’ll be seeing longer, happier naps. Your little one will get more restful, rejuvenating sleep, and you’ll get to maintain your mental health.

(*Disclaimer – There may be many more reasons your child might drive you completely off the deep end. I take no responsibility for your state of mind after she smears Penaten cream all over her brother, or slides a grilled cheese into the Blu-Ray player.)


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Dana’s Sleep Blog

Straight talk about sleep, parenting,
babies, toddlers, relationships… and
just about anything else!
My blog is a great place to find opinions, advice, the occasional rant, and some great videos about sleep.

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