For First-Time Parents: Nap Time

 Here’s part two of the First-Time Parent series which addresses topics common to all parents. Part One was about night-time sleep.
BB napping on PB
As a first time mom, I really struggled with getting my daughter to take regular naps of decent length. When she was very young, she would fall asleep on whoever was holding her at the moment. No one minded because she was new and everyone wanted to spend as much time with her as possible. When all of our help left, she still preferred to nap on people (usually me, because I was home all day) and often immediately after feeding (also me because I was breastfeeding). For a while it was fine because I would usually choose to fall asleep with her, during the exhausted phase of having a young child.
Eventually I decided that I’d like to be able to do other things while BB napped besides sit in a chair with her in my lap. I thought I’d try to transfer her from my arms to her crib. This was rarely successful. She would wake up within ten minutes of being laid down.
As she got older and stayed awake after nursing, I would rock her to sleep and then try to lay her down in her crib. Sometimes this ended in a 45 minute nap but I couldn’t get those 1.5-2 hour naps I had heard about from others. I chalked it up to her not being a good napper.
It’s been long enough that I do not remember much between then and when BB transitioned to a one-nap schedule around 18 months. I do know that eventually I put her down awake (probably because my arms were getting fatigued from all of the holding and rocking) and eventually she took a 1.5-2 hour nap in the early afternoon.
When she was close to two and a half, we moved BB into a big girl room with a regular bed and side rails. She did well at not getting out of bed, but she didn’t always fall asleep at nap time. Some days she would lay in bed and sing or talk. When it became apparent that she stayed awake more often than she napped, we turned the afternoon nap into “quiet room time” (fondly referred to as QRT among the adults). She was allowed to play with her toys but she could not leave her room. This has been a great mommy break, especially now with two children.
Armed with experience (and the knowledge that I couldn’t hold LB all day while he napped because I also have another child to care for), I started early on to lay LB down for naps in his crib (after our grandparent help left). I tried to lay him down awake as much as possible. When he was really little he slept hard, so it wasn’t always possible. When he was awake, I would let him soothe himself to sleep. In the beginning it was difficult to endure the ten to fifteen minutes it took him to fall asleep, but seeing him successfully go to sleep on his own kept me hanging in there. We used a white noise machine to help cancel out some of the noise of our then-two-year-old during the day.
LB’s nap schedule has changed as he’s gotten older. He is down to two naps each day. He still fusses for a few minutes before he falls asleep, but he has at least one nap of 1.5 hours or more. I think it helped that I used a schedule of sorts that dictated length of awake time. I paid attention to his tired cues (yawning, rubbing his eyes) as well and remained flexible. He’s nine months now and his nap periods are generally at the same time each day.
With the addition of LB, the QRT has changed the time of commencement to coincide with one of LB’s nap times. For awhile, LB’s longest nap was his third one, so QRT was in the late afternoon. BB was taking naps at QRT but she was wired when bed time came because her nap had come too late and lasted too long. We are now in a decent rhythm with QRT being at LB’s second (and now final) nap which is early afternoon. Sometimes BB naps and sometimes she doesn’t. Either way, we all get some time alone to relax or be productive (I tend to alternate activities between days – exercising, writing, cleaning, reading).
Did you have any tried-and-true methods to get your kids to nap well?

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