No! Sleep! Till bedtime!
January 16, 2014 6:44 AM   Subscribe

Babysleepfilter: how can I get my son to take longer naps?

Baby McCatburglar is five months old. He was a fantastic napper for the first 3.5 months, and then we hit the lovely four-month sleep regression and it all went to hell. He went from two 1 to 2-hour naps a day to between three and five 15-minute naps. He rarely sleeps more than half an hour, and maybe once every two weeks he will sleep for 45 minutes. I tried to believe that everything would go back to the way it was, but now that we're coming up on two months of sleep regression I'm afraid that this is the new normal.

When he wakes up from these micronaps he is always wide-eyed and happy, never crying, and I've found that I can nurse/rock him back to sleep pretty easily... for another fifteen minutes. He will also sleep for much longer stretches (over an hour, sometimes an hour and a half) if I keep rocking him, or if I lie down with him in our bed. I'm not keen on either option, not being much of a napper myself, not to mention wanting to do other things.

Additional info that may or may not help:
- he almost always goes to sleep for the night between 8-8:30pm and wakes for the day between 7:30-8 am.
- we cosleep, but he goes down for naps in his crib in his own room with white noise, and also for the first three or four hours at night (during which he wakes up once for a feed)
- he wakes up regularly at night to eat, but I am only half-awake when this happens, so I'm not exactly sure how often/when (but it sure isn't every 15 minutes, maybe something like 3 times between midnight and 8 am)
- he always goes to bed easily. Five minutes of breastfeeding/rocking and he's out, and doesn't peep when I move him to his crib.

I am ok with his nighttime sleep for now- cosleeping and breastfeeding in bed allow me to get enough rest. My question is, how can I get him on a better nap schedule? I know that babies need several hours of sleep during the day, which he is not getting. Should I try to rock him back to sleep each time he wakes up? Or should I just accept that this is the way things are now? I long for the early days again, which, while they were much harder in some ways, at least gave me a few blissful hours to myself during the day.

Science, anecdata, books, online resources, everything is welcome. I'm reeeeally not keen on cry-it-out, but please do tell me if you think I'm dead wrong. At the moment I am home with him all day, so I'm avaliable to do any sort of convoluted routine or super-strict scheduling that might work. Help us, Metafilter!
posted by lollymccatburglar to Human Relations (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Don't worry so much about his naps, he'll find his rhythm.

Have you tried putting him in a sling so he can hang with you, but your hands are free to do whatever it is you want to do? That way he can snooze and wake and snooze and wake, and he can be with you.

At least he's not a shrieking nightmare of too tired to sleep. Thank your lucky stars!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:48 AM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

"he almost always goes to sleep for the night between 8-8:30pm and wakes for the day between 7:30-8 am."

wow. not being sarcastic, but you're really lucky. that's good for so young.

not sure about the advice, but a bit of caution about co-sleeping...we did that with the first and 4.5 yrs later it's very difficult to get him out of our bed. Still comes in around 2am!

also, stuff might change as you introduce solids into the diet...but I think some of it might be from his sleeping so long at night. not sure what/if you'd want to change about that...but, like you said, as long as he's playing and being a baby, he's ok.
posted by skepticallypleased at 7:02 AM on January 16, 2014

Best answer: Apparently I was a very reluctant sleeper when I was little. I hated naps, even when I was a very little baby, and was perfectly happy and slept just fine when I finally did, I just had my own schedule. I also refused to be put to into bed (crib, there wasn't any cosleeping) when other people were awake, and would not sleep.

The way that my parents dealt with this to save their own sanity was to put a blanket down on the floor along with a couple soft toys and books. I could stay up if I wanted but had to stay on the blanket. There are lots of pictures of me asleep on the floor flumped over on top of a teddy bear where I had just collapsed to sleep mid-play, and as I got older, lots of pictures of me sitting in place dead asleep with a book on my lap.

I guess I don't really have anything practical to offer here except that I was also a non-standard sleeping baby and I turned out just fine.
posted by phunniemee at 7:04 AM on January 16, 2014

Best answer: I'm not clear on when his first nap of the day is starting currently, but can you make it earlier? I don't have the source but recall reading that napping closer to the time of morning waking can help, and that's still true of me as an adult (also worked for my son at your son's age).

So much about sleep, like the above, is counterintuitive. 'Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child' was a huge help in my understanding of this. There was nothing to lose by inching my son's bedtimes/naptimes earlier, and oh the difference! It doesn't sound like you're waiting for him to seem tired, and that's good... just see if you can take it a little further.

Also, I agree with skepticallypleased--the introduction of solids will help a great deal, so no, you're not necessarily destined to accept the way things are now. He may be sleeping better at night but burning more calories in the day, and therefore getting hungry more quickly.

You may have in mind an ideal time/age to start solids, but sleep is so important, and if he's telling you he needs a bit of rice cereal (or whatever you'll use), you might both benefit from adjusting your plans.

This is a tricky, tiring time, and it sounds like you and your little one are doing great. Wishing you the best!
posted by whoiam at 7:50 AM on January 16, 2014

Best answer: There's some good info here (or at least reassurance) on one of my favorite parenting websites, Ask Moxie. Read through the comments too; this is one of the few sites I’ve seen with high quality commenting. My son was a crap napper, so I sympathize. I think that after the 4 month sleep regression (which was absolutely the worst for us) he did eventually get into the 2-3-4 nap pattern.
posted by Empidonax at 7:53 AM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My son is about the same age as your baby and he isn't napping much these days, either. Some mornings he will sleep for a good hour and a half at daycare but this week it has only been 45 minute snippets at best. And the afternoons - nope. Maybe half an hour if they are lucky. For him, I think it is there are so many babies for him to watch and learn from that he doesn't have time to sleep. As soon as he gets home, he nurse-naps on my lap most of the rest of the evening until we go to bed (we bedshare and nurse through the night, too). Right now he is really getting that object-permanence milestone AND figuring out how to sit AND figuring out how to crawl that I think his brain is working overtime.

So I guess I'm just saying - I'm there with you! I don't have any solution for you, though. Sometimes when I am home with baby and want him to nap, I lay him on a blanket on the floor and side-nurse him to sleep, then sneak away. This works about 30-50% of the time. I also make sure I have the radio on in the background so there is background noise to help distract him from noises I make when I move.

A word of caution about adding solids, I put a lot of weight into the recommendations of the website and they say that solids do NOT help with sleeping. They have links to scientific studies, so that is what I base it on. But, your kid, your choice (just like it is my kid and my choice) so do what you feel is best for you. :)
posted by jillithd at 9:36 AM on January 16, 2014

Best answer: Naps got much better for us after we sleep-trained for bedtime. The baby learned to put himself to sleep and nap through about one sleep cycle (45 mins). Did not have to do anything special for naps - I just put him down for a nap one day about a week after we did bedtime sleep training, and let him fuss for a minute, and he slept for a 30-45 chunk. This gradually lengthened to 90 mins. It was like magic! The first am nap (about 2 hours after waking up) is generally the easiest. YMMV. Good luck!
posted by yarly at 9:48 AM on January 16, 2014

Best answer: No real advice but wanted to say that our little one is very similar. He's 10months now but for as long as I can remember he won't nap for more than 30 minutes unless being held. Sometimes if I can settle him back down after he first wakes, and he happens to be really tired, he'll sleep for a longer stretch by himself but that's hit or miss.

But he sleeps well at night (same crib - cosleeping progression you do) and seems happy and is developing well, so I don't worry about it. It does suck not getting those breaks though. Sympathies on that. Oh, and it's not the same as total freedom to do crazy stuff like pee, and you probably already know this, but having a smartphone and headphones for the enforced inactivity can make a world of difference (books, netflix, email, etc. etc.).
posted by pennypiper at 12:12 PM on January 16, 2014

Best answer: My daughter is a couple of months older than your son, but has shown a very similar pattern of napping. Her daytime napping was almost nonexistent between 3 and 7 months, at which point something clicked in her head and naps became a possibility. This roughly coincided with the introduction of solid foods, but I don't credit the sleep to bananas and oatmeal.

The one thing we've noticed is that she has a strong waking reflex after about 20 minutes asleep, where she will wake up and immediately start screaming. If we catch it quickly and get a pacifier in her mouth, she will conk out again immediately, and often sleep for another hour. My pet theory is that there is a Circadian rhythm at work, and that short naps won't become long naps until she is able to conquer that first waking reflex. If you're comfortable giving a pacifier, though, I can tell you that longer naps do become possible if you can catch the first wakeup quickly.
posted by Mayor West at 12:21 PM on January 16, 2014

Anecdata?: Baby hammock! This one is the one we used. Went from 15 min napping to 1-2 hours! Worked like magic. Other suggestions? - try babywearing - our baby always wanted plenty of movement, and to know mama was close. Our daughter was refluxy, and that was also affecting her waking out of naps, requiring frequent resettling during daytime sleeps. Eliminating dairy from my diet (milk proteins in breastmilk) made a major improvement for us.
posted by metaphorical at 1:43 PM on January 16, 2014

Best answer: I find that when I put my (10 month old) down earlier, he sleeps later. this is true for night time sleep and naps. it doesn't make much sense, but it's true. if he goes to sleep at 6:30pm, he will wake up at 7. if he goes to sleep at 7:30, he's up at 5am for the day. same is true for naps. putting him down for his morning nap at 8:45 yields a 1 1/2 hour nap, whereas if I wait until 9:15, he's up by 10.
posted by sabh at 3:43 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

My baby napped in a swing on the lowest speed setting until he was 6 months. Some babies just really like movement.
posted by betsybetsy at 7:39 PM on January 16, 2014

Response by poster: You know, I didn't get the answer I thought I needed from this AskMe, but I got the answer I actually needed: basically, that babies hardly ever follow the expert's recommendations. Thanks to everyone, especially Empidonax, the comments on that AskMoxie link are fantastic.

And wouldn't you know it, the day after I post this question he goes down for a nap and stays asleep for AN HOUR. Babies are weird.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 6:54 AM on January 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

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