If you are ready to overcome nap challenges and win a good night’s sleep, then you are in the right place! This is all about new baby naps. We’re talking about how napping looks in those first months, 0 to six months and everything you need to do to get your little one napping to the best that they can in those early few months.
First and foremost, I just want to say that napping in the early weeks is pretty disorganized. It can be really quite haphazard. They’re napping. It feels like they’re almost napping 24 hours a day, and taking little sleeps on and off all the way through the 24 hour cycle. And that’s normal. So if you’re in that phase right now, don’t worry, it will get better and it will become more organized and more rhythmic, but it is quite common for it to be a little more disorganized in those early weeks. However, there are things you can do to help to get it a little bit more rhythmic and a bit more organized. Some little ones do fall into this quite naturally really early on. And I find that’s often when they are either on the larger side. So they have the capacity to sustain a bit more of their milk, and they’re not waking up so much from hunger.
If that’s the factor, it can play a part. So their capacity, their weight and their size can have a role in that. That said, there is no reason why a smaller and breastfed baby who obviously we know that breast milk doesn’t keep you feeling as full for as long, but there’s absolutely no reason why a purely breastfed baby on the smaller side, can’t sleep just as well as a larger baby or a formula fed baby. They all can do it. It’s just that there are sometimes factors that can play a part in how easy or how challenging it comes.
They may sleep little and often in the beginning and that’s okay. What we want to look for is, when can they do their longer stretch and ideally we want that longer stretch to be in the nighttime, not in the daytime. I’m sure some of you can relate to this concept of’ my baby is awake all night, but sleeps all day’.
You can help shift that. We want to get their body clock and their circadian rhythms firing up so that it recognizes, the system recognizes when it’s daytime, when it’s nighttime. And you can do that with environmental cues, just things like making sure it’s light and bright in the day and dark and dim at night. Those are simple signals to the brain as humans to know nighttime sleep, daytime wake up and light gives us stimulation and creates all kinds of chemical releases in the brain that we don’t have so much when it’s dark. Those things will help your little one to sleep better at nighttime and to feel more stimulated during the daytime. But that said, we do still want the daytime sleep to be there as well.
Other things you can do are to really think about rhythms and cues beyond just the light and dark. And you are one of those things, yourself and how you act and how you relate to your little one. So when it’s time for sleep, being in your kind of sleepy mode, which is to be calm, maybe quite placid, softly spoken to a whisper, quite subdued, sort of like nothing to see here, just one person, one on one, not lots of fussing and calm. You can be a sleepy influence on your little one, as opposed to when it’s wake time and you’ve got your full voice. And usually we talk quite rhymingly to our little ones and your face is probably animated with eye contact and all that energy that creates a stimulation and interaction with your little one. So that differentiates when it’s time to be awake, to interact, to play, to be stimulated. And when it’s time to cut the stimulation out and calm down, they will take a lot of that stimulation influence from you. So it’s important that you can adapt to which mode you need to be in.
Another thing that happens a lot with the younger babies with the naps is they often happen on the parents or on the go. And we hear from lots of parents who say, oh, I can’t get my baby down for the naps. They’re on me, on me all the time. Or they end up using slings and wearing their baby for all the naps because they know they can’t get anything done or have a life because they’ve just got to hold their baby the whole time. It’s very common and not in any way wrong at all, but what you can do if you’re finding that it is difficult, bearing heavily on you, or perhaps it isn’t giving your little one the sleep that they truly need, because perhaps they’re disturbed quite easily. For whatever reason, if it’s not perfectly working for you and you want to break away from that and find a way to get your baby to be okay, being placed down then working on that is really, really key, practicing.
I always say, practice. It doesn’t need to be perfect. It’s not to hold your baby to sleep or put them down and leave them to it. Whether they cry or not. It’s not that at all. It’s practicing, helping them to adjust to a safe, comfortable sleep space where you are too. You’re right there. You’re physically there. You’re audibly there. You’re visually there and they’re reassured. They feel safe. And at first of course they cry or fuss because it’s new. It’s different. It’s weird. What, where am I? This isn’t what we normally do and you’ll get resistance. But if you persist while showing that loving, calm, and comfort, they do get used to it. They go, oh, oh okay. Yeah, this isn’t so scary after all. Yeah. I’m okay. Because at no time have they got any sense of fear or distress, at no time do they feel abandoned or ignored because you’re right there, soothing your baby.
So practice putting your little one down for naps. And even if you only get a little bit of put down nap time, it counts. That’s another notch. That’s another bit of practice. And slowly that adds up and becomes something and the fruit of your labor will turn up. So my closing message to you on this is practice doing that. It is doing more than you think it is. So when you’re doing that, I remember doing this with my youngest and I remember going, I put her down and then I soothe her for a bit, but then she fusses.
So I have to pick her up and then I calm her and she’s calm. And then I put her down again and then she’s fussing. So I pick her up. It’s so easy to think well, what’s the point? It’s not working anyway. I’m just going to have to hold her or rock her. It’s so easy to think that, but actually the more intermittent I got with the pickup and calm, the longer those little stretches of see you’re okay. You’re right down here. It’s okay. The longer those stretches became, the better she got at it, the more she adapted to it. And as the weeks went by, I was like, oh, hang on. She’s all right for longer and longer and longer. And then amazing, she’s got it. Just like riding a bike.
So keep going even when it feels tough. You can do this. Naps can be crazy, but have a strategy, stick with it and you will get your little one napping really, really well.
Take care and sleep well.
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