how we got our nap fighter to nap well
First off, I want to preface by saying, every baby is different, every family is different, and everyone's needs are different. I do not believe there is any sort of one-sleep-method-fits-all. What we chose is what worked for us and for ours and our daughter's needs. If this isn't your cup of tea, that's totally fine! No judgement here.
Nora has been sleeping through the night (6 to 8 hours) every night for at least the last month (she's now two months old). Even around 3 weeks we had some nice long nights. The trick? Reading and learning our baby. Paying attention to tired signs and not keeping her awake too long. Some babies can stay awake for longer periods of time, but Nora gets really fussy and angry and then inconsolable when she's awake too long. We've learned she can pretty much only stay awake for an hour without having to deal with big-time crying.
We've learned SO MUCH from this book. We knew from the beginning (meaning, before Nora was even born) that teaching her to sleep was important to us. We didn't want to be naive and assume she would be a good sleeper from the get-go (though some babies are!). We also knew that we wanted to start as soon as possible, so that we didn't have to worry about breaking bad sleep habits later on. It's always easier to just begin with good habits. We have lots of nieces and nephews and see the difference in babies who were taught to love sleep, vs those who had more trouble with sleeping. To each their own, but sleep is very important to us. DJ works full-time, and I'll be working again soon, so we need real rest to be fully present in our environments, for each other, and for Nora. And truly, babies are so much happier when they are well-rested; at least we've seen drastic differences in Nora when she is sleeping well.
We got our night sleeps down much easier and quicker than our naps. Which honestly, was a huge blessing. Days were exhausting before we got naps down, but still, we were sleeping through the nights with a thriving, healthy one/two month old. Win!
Our evening routine: we do a warm shower together or her own bath in the sink. She loves both, really it just depends what the night is like, and which is easiest. She may be fussy, but immediately when she's in the bathroom she will calm down. The white noise and consistency in "this is our nighttime routine" really helps put her growing mind at ease, and the added warm water and skin-to-skin works wonders. We dry her off, massage her little body with all-natural lavender baby lotion, and put on footie pajamas (these are our absolute favorite), and swaddle her nice and snug. She's usually pretty gassy, and deals with some minor reflux. We swear by this gripe water. Makes a huge difference in her little tummy! I feed her while sitting in the rocking chair with dim light, and daddy reads her a story. After burping, we kiss her and lay her in the crib with pacifier (or rock n play if she's super gassy or spitting up a ton), and she falls into dreamland with no fuss, and no crying. It's pretty great.
Our nap time routine: this one is new, and we literally just got it down in the last four days. I'm sure naps will change a bunch as she grows and her feedings change, and all the things. It's inevitable to change, but the routine aspect will likely stay the same.
We keep it super simple, as our goal is to have her be able to fall asleep anywhere. Whether at home, at my parent's, at the home where I nanny, in the car... we just want to her to be able to fall asleep soundly with little to no help when it's time for her to sleep; that's the goal. Like I said earlier, this book is a HUGE help. It's big. It helps you figure out what method will work best for you and your baby. It helps you understand where they're at developmentally, and factors in age, and even if they're a fussier baby, or a calmer baby... so like I said, you have to figure out what works best for you and your baby.
For us, we had to let Nora cry just a little bit. But, a little bit of crying turned into a lot of solid sleep, and a whole ton of smiles and even some laughs. Our routine is to swaddle, turn on the fan (white noise) and lay her down after a hug and a kiss (after she's been fed/changed). That's it. But the catch is - to do this before she's overtired and fussy. In the book it talks about putting your baby down for sleep is like catching a wave to surf. Once you get that sweet spot, there's no struggle, and you can ride the whole wave seamlessly. (aka - learn your baby, watch for cues, learn how long they can realistically stay awake, and get them ready for sleeping before they even seem tired).
For Nora, we fit in feeding, changing, playtime (sometimes this literally just means laying on our bed together and smiling and talking to each other) all in one hour. As of now, if she's awake longer than that, then she cries and cries and won't go to sleep even though she's overtired. It was so hard dealing with so much crying initially because I had no idea what was going on. I knew she was tired but was so confused as to why she wouldn't sleep. When I finally realized her wake time bandwidth, our world changed, and is SO much happier!
For nap times, sometimes she will fuss for like ten minutes before falling asleep. Somehow, it's just her way of putting herself to sleep. Other times she won't fuss at all, and will just stare at the ceiling fan until she falls asleep (from what we've learned, the fussing should stop altogether after a little while, when she's more used to the routine). We stopped doing so much rocking and bouncing, because we learned that that can actually cause more stimulation, and though it was comforting and would put her to sleep in our arms, her mind and body were still going, thus causing the "waking up as soon as I put her down" situation. We put her down before she's asleep, and her calm, mostly still body has a chance to relax and unwind.
It's been amazing to learn our baby in this way. It causes us to be more intentional during her wake time, and truly pay attention to her and all her cues so we don't miss when she's ready to sleep. When she wakes, she doesn't usually cry (unless she gets woken up before she's fully rested). She talks and smiles more than we've ever seen. It's amazing to truly see the fruit of teaching our baby. We didn't get lucky, we taught her to love sleep and we're all so much happier and healthier because of it.
Again, this worked for us. I LOVE when Nora falls asleep on me. It is absolutely the sweetest most precious thing, and I don't ever take it for granted. It is important to my husband and I to create an independence in our girl, and so we made choices that are best for us. We love our baby girl beyond words, and we are grateful we can give her the gift of sleep. Healthy sleep = happy baby (which also = happy parents).
I hope this is helpful to someone who reads! So many have asked our "tricks" or "secrets" and it's no secret, so I hope sharing really is beneficial for someone out there :) and seriously, I'm not paid or sponsored for anything mentioned in this post, I just truly believe in the BOOK mentioned, and the other products as well.