Well, hello—and happy Friday!
I don’t know about you but over here, the days just keep blurring into one another. We’ve been trying to set aside “exciting plans” here and there to give us things to look forward to. One day it was “we’re going out for a drive and to get coffee.” The next time we did “a walk and grabbing lunch out.” And then tomorrow night it’s “date night in—with take-out and candles.” Lol. I kid you not. Honestly, it’s helping me feel like I have a routine and plans to look forward to. Give it a try if you’re feeling bored or restless for plans!
Anyway, today I wanted to talk about something that I’m sure tons of moms (new and experienced) can relate to — baby sleep and naps. It’s a “thing”, right?!
I can’t tell you how many blogs, videos, and articles I’ve read about this topic. (The mommy blog world is LEGIT, folks) Some stuff has really stuck with me and I’ve incorporated them into our routine, while other tips have not really served us in any way. And, a lot of it has just been trial and error with Henry until we have found what “sticks”. Of course, every baby is different and moms have their own preferences when it comes to this topic, but I wanted to share what has worked for us really well over the past nine months in hopes of it helping even just one mother out there during her exploration of sleep and naps.
1. Follow wake times
“Wake times” are the awake/active periods of time between a baby’s naps. For example, if Henry wakes at 7am, he is usually up for a 3-hour “wake time” before he takes his first nap of the day. This is a sweet spot of time. If he takes a nap too soon, he may not be tired enough to doze off. If he waits too long, he may get more fussy and end up skipping the nap all-together. We try to stick with wake times and they have worked super well for us for getting him to go down for naps without much fuss at all.
Here’s what our day looks like (and it can vary, obviously, if Henry is out and about/traveling/at daycare):
10am nap 1 (this nap typically ranges from 30 minutes-1.5 hours)
11am – 2:30/3pm wake time
2:30pm nap 2 (this nap typically ranges from 30 minutes-1.5 hours)
3:30 – 7pm wake time
This routine is what we aim for, but believe me, every day can bring on new challenges and surprises (hello, teething and growth spurts). Henry has totally taken naps in the car, in a stroller for a walk, or even in our arms. But for the most part, we aim to put him in his crib for his two naps a day. (We recently dropped from 3 to 2 naps and really like how it’s going so far. For a bit, his third nap of the day was basically just a cat-nap to give him rest before that last 1.5-2 stretch of the day, but now he can go about 3 or even 4 hours before bedtime).
Look for the sleep cues—Rubbing the eyes. Yawning. Daydreaming. Lower energy. That’s when your wake window is nearing an end. Get your baby cozy and place them down about 5-10 minutes before their “nap time” so they can warm up to their sleep space and are asleep by that “golden” time.
2. Napping and sleeping in the crib
We’re big on Henry sleeping in his crib for both naps and nighttime sleep. We use a sound machine (rainfall or white noise) for a soft sound to comfort him, blackout curtains (they really do help, especially with the mornings and nights being a lot lighter now), and keep the temperature at cool but comfortable (68 I hear is ideal for babies).
There are definitely times where he fights napping in his crib and ends up in his swing or last resort, on us, but 8/10 the crib is the spot.
I think consistency has been what has worked the best for us. Henry has been sleeping in his crib now since he was 6 months (we honestly just didn’t have room for one before moving to MA and were room-sharing), and before that, he was taking naps and sleeping in a bassinet (and sometimes in his Dock-a-tot).
We also don’t linger when we say “have a sweet nap” or “goodnight!” We keep it short ‘n sweet and close the door. As much as I’d love to cuddle and sing to him (I do miss those days), he has become so independent and used to his routine now, that it sometimes blows us away.
At 7pm, we change/massage him, dim the lights and read a story, kiss and hug him, and place him down on his back (with no blankets or toys). As soon as we close the door, he’s out like a light. And, he sleeps most nights straight until 5am (can’t seem to sleep in much longer yet, haha, but… not bad!).
3. Let them self soothe (if you want)
Babies have sleep cycles that last around 45 minutes each. Sometimes Henry will wiggle/cry/talk around 45 minutes into a nap or in the middle of the night, but we’ve found that if we wait it out for a few minutes or more (if that’s something you’re comfortable with), he usually soothes himself back to sleep. Believe me. This took me time to get used to. I was the first to jump up and go pick him up. But, as I’ve gotten more used to his tendencies and cries, I’ve started to trust in his independence. He more often than not can calm himself down and get back into a restful state.
4. If they miss a nap throughout the day or seem a bit fussier than normal, push up bedtime by 30-45 minutes.
This has worked well for us. Say there’s a day Henry fought a nap completely or he only got about 20 minutes of shut-eye (sucks so bad, lol), we’ll put him down around 6:30pm. I know it seems super early, but to me, there’s no point in us trying to stretch his bedtime if he’s struggling to stay up or seems fussy. We just end the day early for him and call it a night. The blackout curtains help a ton in this situation because he has no idea if the sun’s still out. Dark room = comfort = sleep time. (I read if you can see your hand in their room, it’s still too bright.) For the longest time we didn’t have blackout curtains and we totally made it work, but I do think now that they have been a real game-changer.
5. Make sure baby has had plenty of food, fresh air and activity throughout the day
It’s a fact—babies who are active and have full bellies do sleep better. Once again, just like us. I try to get Henry moving with some song-and-dance and a stroll around the park as much as I can (while working from home full-time… oyy, it’s a challenge some days). I also make sure he has had plenty of milk and food before naps and bedtime because he sleeps way better that way.
Think about it, could you fall asleep starving? When you work out, don’t you rest more peacefully and soundly?
6. Sleep training
Wow. She went there. I did, lol.
Listen… sleep training is not for everyone. I get that. Please do what’s best for you and your family.
But, back in California, before I went back to working full-time, I knew we had to try it out with Henry so that we could try to get more sleep back into our lives before our schedules became crazier than ever.
We did a soft version of Ferber sleep training where we would check in on Henry in intervals until he fell back asleep. Night 1, the intervals are short, and then they elongate. The first few nights can be super rough and require lots of back-and-forth check-ins, but it did get better, and Henry started to learn how to self soothe wonderfully.
Hearing your baby cry SUCKS. I hate it. It’s heartbreaking. But I think what helped was being on the same page with Sam and supporting each other. Some nights we caved in and broke the intervals completely. But then we would start over the next night fresh, and give it a go with a positive outlook.
Another level of sleep training can include dropping sleep crutches like pacifiers, swaddles/sleep sacks/nursing or rocking to sleep… the list can go on and on… A sound machine is another sleep crutch and we still use it—so do what works for you. (*Henry doesn’t sleep with a sleep sack anymore—we dropped it at around 4/5 months—and he never took to a pacifier… he’d just spit them out haha.)
I think the sleep training we did helped Henry to become the great sleeper that he is today.
7. Put baby down drowsy but awake
THIS IS KEY. If your baby is already asleep when you put them down for a nap or the night, it will take them longer to learn how to fall asleep on their own. This is an important skill to learn.
When I see that Henry is tired, I move him to his crib and let him do the rest. He now knows that crib = sleep. He loves it there! I allow him to make sounds, roll around and get comfy in his space. Sometimes he cries. I will check on him and provide comfort. From there, he leans in and welcomes sleepy time on his own terms.
8. Roll with it
Somedays, naps and sleep are GREAT. Others, they are freakin’ HARD and nothing seems to be working right. That’s OK. There are times where Henry needs to be held to sleep (super rare but it happens), or where he needs music and the swing. Sometimes he just wants to lay with us in our bed. We let it happen when it helps him. No baby is going to nap and sleep perfectly 100% time. They’re only human, like us. Adjust where you have to. Take it a day at a time. They’re constantly growing and developing, and they may need more help some days to drift off. I think trying to remain consistent with what works for you best is key. Then when you have an “off” day, it’s really not so bad because they are few and far between.
Also, having a supportive and helpful partner seriously makes all the difference in the world. Sometimes Sam and I just look at each other like DAMN, this is tough. That’s sometimes all I need that day—compassion and mutual understanding.
Linking my favorite items here from birth until now (9 months):
Portable Baby Blackout Blinds
Hatch Rest Sound Machine
HALO Sleep Sack
Infant Optics Video Baby Monitor
Fisher-Price Cradle ‘n Swing
Well, that’s it guys. I really hope these tips helped some of you out or at least has showed you what has worked well for our little family.
I’m always here if you have questions or have some advice to share on this topic yourself. There is SO much to learn. I’m always soaking up baby knowledge left and right.
Please know we’re all doing the best we can. I’m no sleep expert. I just like to share what I’ve learned.
Have a lovely weekend,