Nights and Naps Are Connected More Than You Think
Would you believe me if I told you that it was important – no, critical – to teach your baby how to nap at the same time as you teach them to sleep through the night? And that waiting to nap train until things are settled at night is going to make things much harder for you and for your baby?
If this is news to you, I’m not surprised. Many parents don’t know this trick, and it’s not their fault. Popular sleep training books often advocate night training first and only after, working on naps. Parents are also often told by (well-meaning but) misinformed family members that babies just don’t nap well before 6 months of age. Based on all of this advice, its no wonder that so many moms have babies that sleep well at night but nap poorly, or don’t nap at all, during the day.
The worst, worst, worst sleep training advice you can get is to have someone tell you “first work on the nights, then worry about naps after that.” That’s really bad advice. At best, it will hamper your sleep training process overall, and at worst will prevent any sleep training from working at all.
It is true that in the early weeks of life, naps can be extremely erratic and hard to keep track of. But once the newborn stage has passed, things are different. At that point, good sleep is nothing more than good habits, and poor sleep is nothing more than poor habits. This applies equally to night sleeping and naps. Naps can be more temperamental and sensitive due to sunlight and daytime noises, but daytime sleep is crucial for babies and shouldn’t be neglected.
Sleep is a learnable skill. And like any skill that you teach your baby, you don’t break it up into different times of the day. No one teaches their newborn baby to nurse only in the morning and waits till they get that down pat until they start nursing in the afternoon. You jump right in and practice the skill as often as you can throughout the day and soon enough, your baby is nursing like a pro. A few months later, when baby is learning to roll over, parents don’t stop baby from rolling over when it’s not playtime. They let the baby roll over whenever they want to and encourage it even when the baby doesn’t want to! Practicing a skill as often as possible is the fastest way to learn it and make it a part of their routine.
It’s important to teach your baby how to sleep during the day at the same time that you teach them how to sleep at night so that they can practice the skill as often as possible and master it quickly.
However, there’s another, a much more important reason to nap train and night train simultaneously.
Sleep training is all about teaching your baby to transition from being awake to asleep without your help. If you eliminate any help you have been giving your baby to fall asleep at night, such as nursing or rocking to sleep, your baby will quickly learn how to fall asleep on their own. BUT! If you don’t nurse/rock/hold/bounce your baby to sleep at night and then go on to nurse/rock/hold/bounce them to sleep for naps, you are you are undoing anything your baby has learned about putting themselves to sleep without your help. Refusing to help your baby fall asleep at night and then helping them during the day is totally confusing to your baby.
Your baby doesn’t understand that at night you won’t nurse him to sleep but for his 10 am nap you will. He’s left confused and is devastated when you won’t help him at night after you’ve helped him during the day.
Why does mommy let me nurse to sleep one time and then take it away the next time? Life is so unfair!
If you are going to teach your baby to sleep, you need to teach them how to sleep. When you are inconsistent, it’s confusing to your baby and detracts from the lesson you are trying to teach.
Consistency is the key to sleep training.
When you are inconsistent with your sleep training during the day, you are not only confusing your baby, you are undoing all the hard work you are putting in at night.
So, tackle your naps within the same few days that you work on the nights. Create a 5-minute soothing naptime routine, similar to your bedtime routine, but shorter. Make sure you are strengthening your baby’s sleep skills during the day, and not undoing everything you’ve worked so hard to teach.
If you know any sleep-deprived and exhausted moms in your life, please share this article with them. It may be the first step they take towards better sleep for their family!