My husband doesn't quite understand why I am so obsessed with her naps. But if you are home all day with an infant you understand that naps are super important. And naps that occur in a safe space for baby like the crib are even better (my opinion) because it gives you a minute to get something done. Plus I had had a few days where Avery wouldn't sleep but 15 minutes in a day (YIKES!) because she was so wired. Sleep begets sleep...and no sleep means less sleep!
I knew I wanted to "sleep train" Avery from day one, but wasn't sure how to go about it. I thought I could let her cry it out, which I will get to in the next sleep training post, at about 2.5 months and watched the calendar just waiting for that day to come. It did come, and it went without letting her cry it out. Guess I wasn't as strong as I thought.
So I asked her pediatrician how I should start and her advice was to start slow. Start with the first nap only. This way Avery is well rested from her night sleep, she is fed, and has a clean diaper. The pediatrician said to put her down after some sleepy cues, which for Avery were low moaning sounds, yawning and a little eye-rubbing. I also had read in Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child that one to two hours of wakefulness is about all an infant can handle. After that point they can get wired and have a hard time falling asleep without a lot of crying. I started to notice that Avery's sleepy cues were around the hour and a half mark (and still are). The Dr. also said to put her down awake, which was quite different than the walking around singing to her and hoping she would fall asleep in my arms and stay asleep when I put her down.
I decided to add one more thing to the mix and that was a bit of a mini-routine. We always read a story or two before she goes down for her nap. I put her on my lap, pop a pacifier in her mouth and read to her while rocking. When I am done with the stories I put her in her crib, swaddle her, kiss her and tell her I will see her after her nap. Surprisingly she went down for that first nap without much fuss. I think the longest she has ever cried in the last month for that first nap is 9-10 minutes. Most of the time there is some moaning, but no crying and she falls asleep. I was pretty amazed. The few times she did cry I tried to resist going into her room. If I felt like it was loud and crazy enough that there may be a wet diaper or she needed me I would go in, pop the pacifier back in, rub her belly and shush her for a couple of minutes, but that doesn't happen often.
Then we moved on to all naps (and bedtime, but again that will have to be in another post). She cried more for the other naps, but still ended up falling asleep within that 9-10 minutes. I found that if I busied myself with something around the house and just checked the time every now and then it was better than standing outside her door and constantly checking my watch to see when I could go in and rescue her.
The other thing that might be helpful to know is that I do not nurse her to sleep unless it is in the middle of the night (or if her schedule during the day gets way off). She eats pretty much when she wakes up from her naps. Anyway, the Dr.'s view was that if I start with the first nap Avery would be much more successful at falling asleep without me and learning to cope on her own. And then when we moved on to other naps and night sleep she would have some skills to help her fall asleep/stay asleep.
Avery takes about 4 naps a day. They last anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours. Usually 1 really long nap mid-day and the rest are pretty short. With the really long nap she tends to wake up once, let out a quick cry or two and then go right back to sleep. So now we she first wakes up from any nap I give her a minute or two to see if she is really awake or if she will go back to sleep. We try to get her to bed at night around 8-8:30, but depending on when her last nap was that time can be as early as 7pm or as late as 10:30pm.
Hopefully this is helpful to someone. It is so overwhelming, especially if you read a bunch, it can be downright confusing. All babies are so different. I ran into a family whose little one is 10 months and he has only been taking 2 naps a day since he was 3 months and functions just fine. Avery would loose her sh*@ if she only had two naps in a day...and she has!