Our Journey with Nap Training

Nap Training Tips

A few weeks ago I shared our sleep training journey. The first post was all about bedtime, but today let’s talk about naps.

As a reminder, Phoenix was not a particularly content newborn. He was fussy and cried a lot. After the first two weeks, naps were rarely longer than 30 minutes unless I wore him. Even then, he didn’t peacefully drift off. He cried himself to sleep while I walked him in his Ergo. He woke up crying, like clockwork, every two hours during the day to eat.

I tried Babywise’s routine of eat-play-sleep. I’d witness it work with other breastfed babies (though usually it with formula fed) and thought it made sense. Except Phoenix was hard to calm down. So, instead of nursing him to sleep, I often drove around or took walks. Both of which are sleep associations. The stroller naps worked until around two months when he became more alert. This started a challenging season where, for a few months, the only way Phoenix napped was if we wore him.

This, of course, isn’t and wasn’t sustainable. Phoenix was even more irritable because he never received sufficient, restorative, sleep. At 3.5 months we started sleep training with nights and slowly worked our way towards naps.

I learned a lot along the way.

Nursing to sleep is completely different from nursing close to nap time. The eat-play-sleep worked when Phoenix’s wake times were shorter, but as I dropped naps and extended his wake times, we struggled to balance the length between feeds. He woke up because he was hungry. I realized Phoenix is a grazer. He enjoys eating and the more I nurse him during the day the more content he is and the longer he naps and sleeps at night. While, we have a nap routine we no longer schedule feedings.

Between 4 and 6 months I slowly dropped from four to two naps a day. When we were down to two naps, things really started to fall into place. During the transition, I focused on Phoenix sleeping in his crib for the first nap. This involved several weeks of rubbing his back as he fell asleep (instead of wearing him). If he woke up before a full hour of sleep, I left him in his crib even when he was crying. During the transition, I wore him for one nap to make sure he got some day-time sleep.

At 6 months, when I thought we had made progress, we hit a major sleep regression. Phoenix learned to sit up and spent his entire nap time crying because he wouldn’t lay back down. It was exhausting! I knew it was time to move forward on creating a nap schedule that would take us until he is down to just one nap a day (usually around 15 months). I also made sure we were home for both of his naps.

When Phoenix was 6.5 months old we officially dropped his third nap and started the three-day sleep solution’s nap training method. I joined a sleep group on Facebook and a PDF of the three-day sleep solution was in their files (I can point you to a copy if you’d like). This is a rough summary.

Allow your baby one hour to fall asleep. Once your baby is asleep, wait until it’s been seventy-five minutes. This is in hopes of them learning to connect their sleep cycles. 

Letting your baby cry for an hour might sound extreme, but Phoenix already cried a lot and he doesn’t handle being overtired well. Nap training, for us, was necessary.

This is where it’s best to gather as much information as you can find and pick and choose the best method for your child’s personality. Also, familiarize yourself with appropriate wake times for your baby. Wake times are key, there is a balance of being tired enough to nap but not so tired they can’t settle down.

It took about less than a week for Phoenix to fall asleep with a minimal amount of tears (if any) for his naps. I still sometimes rub Phoenix’s back to settle him, as he’s moving all around, but for the most part he prefers his space. The first nap is usually a solid 90 minutes. I’m still playing around with the timing of his second nap. It seems he prefers to take a long first nap, a shorter second nap and go to bed early to make-up the deficit. I no longer force the 75 minute rule on his second nap.

This is Phoenix’s current schedule. I roughly follow the 2-3-4 wake-time modal (though it’s often 2-2.5-4).

  • 6:30-7 – wakes up
  • 9-10:30 – nap
  • 1-2 – nap <– This is why Phoenix consistently goes to bed early. He can’t quite seem to sleep a full hour for his second nap but because he makes up for it at night, I’m not overly concerned.
  • 5:30/6 – bed <– I imagine he will be able to stretch this wake time to be a full four hours soon.

Sleep training isn’t as easy as it sounds in a book. You will try something for a couple of days and realize it’s not working, but don’t give up! One day you will find a system that works for you and your baby!

I hope you found this helpful. Leave a comment if you have any further questions.

4 thoughts on “Our Journey with Nap Training”

  1. I don’t have a baby, but I did work in the infant room at a daycare. A lot of babies were brought in around 3 months old, and they could NOT sleep unless they were being held. It was torture for them, torture for us, and we didn’t want to tell moms because we knew it would hurt. Letting your baby “cry it out” sounds horrible, but it helps them in the long run. Any mom who drops your baby off at daycare: As much as we love them, usually the ratio is 4 infants: 1 teacher. We literally cannot hold your baby at all times, so they may cry (especially if they’re used to being held a lot at home). You are not doing your baby a disservice by putting him/her down for a while. (Related: most babies hate tummy time at first!!)

  2. I love reading about other people’s experiences with sleep training. We had a similar journey with naps. I am the same way about her crying- if I know that she is fed and tired then I don’t really feel bad if she has to fuss a bit before going to sleep. Luckily as she’s gotten older this is usually like 5 minutes or less. We are on a similar schedule although it all seems to be dictated by what time she wakes up, which can be anywhere from 6 to 7:30. I am finding it hard to schedule things around nap time since this can change day to day.

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