Tips for getting a 2 month old to nap in the crib?
May 11, 2022 3:21 AM   Subscribe

We have a 2 month old who is pretty good at sleeping at night (thank God) but more or less refuses to nap during the day when not being moved or held. Would love any tips from parents who have successfully dealt with this issue!

A mom in our baby group posed the schedules from Moms On Call, which are very regimented from a very young age. The idea of fully scheduling our kid at this age doesn't seem super appealing, but the schedule involves the baby taking 90 minute long naps at least 2 times a day and these are right before being fed rather than right after. This would be amazing if we could make it happen! So:
  • What are things that make crib naps easier? Dark rooms, white noise, what else?
  • Feeding to sleep: yea or nay? It would make our life easier if we didn't have to feed to sleep but on the other works, and sometimes it's the only way to get her to sleep? Are we giving her a bad habit?
  • Would putting our 2 month old on a fixed schedule make her nap better? I mean, she doesn't have a watch, how does she know what schedule she's on, but maybe it helps anyway?
  • Is this just, like, how our baby is, and we should be happy she's at least good at night?
posted by goingonit to Human Relations (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried one of the rocking sleepers? My nephew was the same way and did just fine in one for naps. They did also get on a very consistent nap schedule. But the rocker was key for being able to put him down instead of holding through nap time.
posted by Bottlecap at 3:56 AM on May 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

Swaddling and rocking sleepers were key for us. I wouldn't worry too much about "bad habits", the first six months or so are basically, as long as the baby is fed and growing, whatever works works.
posted by mhoye at 4:33 AM on May 11, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: All babies are different, and though there are things that work for most babies, some babies will need the opposite. Anyone who says a certain method is best for every single baby is wrong. That said -

- yes, total darkness and white noise will probably help

- feed to sleep: it often works, and if you always do it, yes, baby may become reliant on it. But even if she’s reliant on it for now, she won’t be reliant on it forever, and you can start sleep training around 4m

- fixed schedules don’t work for most 2m olds. It’s usually better to rely on wake windows, which means starting nap a certain interval of time after she wakes up. I think that’s maybe about 90 min at that age? But you can google. It’s surprisingly short at that age! Counterintuitively, over-tired babies often have more trouble falling asleep than well rested babies.

- sort of? Some babies are much better at sleeping than other babies, but it’s not forever and there are things you can do to help. Like, some babies will nap easily no matter what, lots of babies will nap in the right circumstances but need things like the correct length wake windows and/or darkness, etc, some babies will struggle to nap no matter what
posted by maleficent at 4:39 AM on May 11, 2022

Best answer: My baby did not keep a consistent nap schedule at that age in part because she woke up at different times each morning. Her wake windows were pretty consistent though, I think about 2 hours at that age. To get ready to nap we would watch for cues of sleepiness like rubbing her eyes. We did feed her to sleep, she did become reliant on it, but later sleep training wasn’t a problem. Two month olds really aren’t able to soothe themselves so whatever you do, you will have to soothe them to sleep somehow.
posted by mai at 5:09 AM on May 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

My daughter didn't nap in her crib until right months. I think that early time is pretty much a wash, you're not in control.

Anyways, what finally worked was a fairly elaborate multi-step process of gradually shifting her from my arms in the rocking chair to her playmat to the crib with me in the room to me out of the room, and then gradually taking out steps until I was just putting her down and leaving.
posted by champers at 5:26 AM on May 11, 2022

Best answer: Mine strongly preferred contact naps so I understand the struggle! I was very regimented about wake windows, but not about the rest of it. Now, at 22 months, she is an amazing sleeper and the work we did (mainly following an age-appropriate nap schedule) is what I attribute to it.

The "eat-wake-sleep" method might work for some babies, but it did not work for mine. She was a sleepy eater and because she needed help getting falling asleep. I started by introducing the crib/bassinet for 1 nap a day, and would put her down already asleep. Especially once she was staying asleep for a full nap, I tried the method of rousing her slightly while transferring her so she "knew" where she was sleeping. I would say that went ok, but it wasn't until at least 6 months that I was able to successfully wean her off sleep aids. But she was napping independently for all naps by... 3.5 to 4 months, I think.

I have a few resources:

First, the Taking Cara Babies blog/instagram - however, since my baby was born, it's come out that she might not have the political ideology that some may want to support financially (we paid for the newborn class, but yours is almost out of that age anyway). I still think her instagram and blog are wonderful resources, and as a FTM who had never cared for little ones, it is presented in a very approachable way that helped so much when mine was little and we were trying to transition.

Next is the "Respectful Sleep Training/Learning" facebook group. It supports sleep training, and has some helpful resources in the "files" section on age-appropriate wake windows. As mine got a little older, having the file about age-appropriate wake window, example schedules, and variations for short nap days were all really helpful. I thought a LOT about sleep, but I tried to think of it as an investment!

Last is the "Huckleberry" app, which will give recommended wake/sleep windows - it's a similar method to the above, and a lot of moms I know love it. I used it in combination with the above but found for my kid that going by the schedule from the FB group was a better option. I still used Huckleberry to track, and since I'm a data-oriented person I feel like having that record helped see patterns (both of success and when things weren't working and we needed to adjust her schedule).

Final thought: with the littles, just when you think you've got everything figured out and running smooth, it will change! This is normal, though frustrating, for around the first year.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:00 AM on May 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

I would 100% recommend swaddles, even for naps.

Many sources recommend to stop swaddling at 2 months of age, when they start working on rolling skills.

When to Stop Swaddling
​Parents should stop swaddling as soon as their baby shows any signs of trying to roll over. Many babies start working on rolling at around 2 months of age. There is no evidence with regard to SIDS risk related to the arms swaddled in or out.
(American Academy of Pediatrics)

But don’t use swaddling if your baby is 2 months or older, or if your baby can roll over on his or her own. Swaddling may raise the risk for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) if the swaddled baby rolls onto his or her stomach.(Johns Hopkins)
posted by DoubleLune at 6:07 AM on May 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

I think that early time is pretty much a wash, you're not in control.

3 babies down and this is my impression, too. Do what you can. When nights went well, I waved the white flag on naps and did whatever needed to be done.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:31 AM on May 11, 2022 [3 favorites]

Is this just, like, how our baby is, and we should be happy...?

I truncated your question and want to share that the one thing I have learned in the 30 years I spent raising three kids is that this is the truest and most important parenting advice you can take to heart.

Kids have a tendency--despite all our efforts--to be who they are.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 6:38 AM on May 11, 2022 [3 favorites]

There's nothing wrong for baby to have you hold him/her while napping.

If you want a break instead of doing that, buy a Snoo.
posted by flimflam at 7:00 AM on May 11, 2022

I have a one year old and have spent a lot of time and energy learning about a baby sleep this past year. The general wisdom I’ve gleaned from many hours reading the opinions of various baby sleep “experts” is: the first four months are the Wild West and there’s not a whole lot you can do during that time to get a baby to sleep when and how you’d like them to. Right now, you do whatever you can to get them to sleep including rocking them, holding them, feeding them to sleep, contact naps.

At four months (adjusted age if you have a premie), you can start putting some effort in to sleep training, if that’s your thing, and to building more sustainable sleep associations. So, this might be a good time to implement a really consistent nap time and bedtime routine (something like: bath, nurse, diaper change, PJs, book, sing a song, sleep sack, then in the crib). Also ensure their sleep environment is appropriate: pitch black, cool temperature, white noise at around 50-60dB. If you wish, you can stop feeding to sleep around this time so you don’t establish a long term feed to sleep association. We chose to stop feeding to sleep but it works for others and they choose not to stop, which is also fine. This is also a good time to start putting your baby in their crib awake and letting them fall asleep independently, as it will likely prolong their sleep duration and prevent them from needing to be assisted back to sleep when they wake in the night.

Our sleep journey looked like this: baby was a horrendous sleeper from 0-4 months. She would only nap in our arms. She would sleep 45 minute stretches at night in her bassinet and then only in our arms from about 4am onwards. We had to sleep in shifts and it was brutal. At 4 months we brought in a sleep consultant to help us sleep train (this is not necessary but I had very little brain power at that point to figure it out on my own). We did a version of Ferber sleep training that worked incredibly well and baby started sleeping long stretches independently at night in her crib in her own room, waking once or twice a night to feed. Despite following the same procedure for naps, she still would only contact nap.

She continued to sleep amazingly at night but did every nap as a contact nap (I’m in Canada on a 1 year mat leave so I could make this work. I watched a lot of Netflix on an iPad during these naps). Around 8 months old, I put baby down awake in the crib one day at nap time and she miraculously fell asleep. She has napped independently in her crib since then. She is currently an extremely consistent and reliable sleeper and sleeps 11 hours through the night and independently for both of her naps. The first few months seem like a far away place. It feels like forever when you’re in it but one day it will just be a blip.
posted by rodneyaug at 7:13 AM on May 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

Our pediatrician was Marc Weissbluth who has written several books on sleep. He is a strict sleep schedule adherent. (At least he was about 30 years ago.) He was all about training your child to sleep. We had 3 kids a year apart. We needed them to sleep well. Our kids did not wear watches, but were pretty attuned to a schedule. Regardless of if they appeared tired or not, we would put them down for quiet time/nap time. In the beginning, quiet time was a misnomer. We would let them cry or fidget for short periods of time at that age. We would then pick them up, calm them down, and put them back in the crib or bassinet. Weissbluth gave us all sorts of handouts at the time. We followed them as best we could. I would read his book or look at his studies he did. Caution: his methods are not for everyone. At times it required/caused emotional pain for us parents.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:36 AM on May 11, 2022

Best answer: At 2 months old, needing contact naps is extremely normal and not a sign that your baby is broken or that she'll be like this forever, or even for a long time necessarily. You're still in the fourth trimester and your baby is still adjusting to being in the world. Being cuddled by a loving caregiver is a wonderful source of comfort. The newborn time is all about survival and anything goes for sleep, whether it's feeding to sleep, contact naps, whatever your baby needs. This is far too young to sleep train even if you're fully on board with that direction (it's controversial, so read up on the pros and cons first). A newborn that sleeps well at night is already doing unusually well.

As amazing as two 90 minute naps would be, giving your baby a schedule does not make them magically sleep, unfortunately. Newborns will also typically need more than 2 naps and typically they'll be shorter than 90 minutes unless you have a high sleep needs baby. By all means give it a try if you want, but don't expect miracles and I wouldn't push it if your baby is miserable. Most newborns do better with "on-demand" schedules based on cues or following wake windows (whether average ones for the age or determined by trial and error for your individual baby) rather than a strict schedule.

Besides white noise and a dark room, pacifiers help a lot for some babies (try a few shapes). You can also start transferring them to the crib when they're deeply asleep, though there's a learning curve for not waking them up.
posted by randomnity at 8:02 AM on May 11, 2022 [3 favorites]

First, you will do great, whatever you sort out that works for baby and your family! And echoing that each baby is different. Mine were very high-contact babies and now are good pre-teen/teen sleepers and as far as I can tell, secure and decent people thus far. :)

Second, as a counterpoint, I had friends that strictly trained their babies to sleep in cribs at specific times and that had a lot of great aspects to it - but they also were chained to their houses whereas mine would nap in strollers, car seats, airplanes, trains, and baby carriers as well as on random friends and relations. So just a thought.

Anyways, what worked for my kids a little later than yours was the 2-3-4 rule. Morning nap after 2 hours awake, afternoon nap after 3 hours awake, bedtime after 4 hours awake. I should note my oldest son was a horrific sleeper at night regardless of anything we tried and we tried a lot, but that was still the optimal schedule. It didn't really matter if I rocked them, walked them, or laid them down in the crib...if I caught the sleep window based on timing (not feeding), they had longer naps.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:37 AM on May 11, 2022

I have two kids (9 months and 3 years old), and, with that limited experience, will nth that the contact napping seems fine for this age and that all babies are weird so no one can tell you exactly what will work for your baby. I think ThePinkSuperhero nailed it that you have very little control at this age, so you should just roll with whatever is happening.

With my 9-month-old, she mostly napped in our arms until she was ~3ish? months old, at which point we started putting her down for one or two crib naps a day. Those would be shorter than her held naps, but we figured it was good to get her used to the crib.

The real sleep milestone that we aimed at for both kids was sleep training at 4-5 months, basically whenever they could roll front to back and back to front. At that point we did the sleep training method recommended in The Happy Sleeper and from then on they've both been great nighttime and naptime sleepers.
posted by Aizkolari at 1:54 PM on May 11, 2022

Same here. We bought a used swing $50 it lasted till six months old but SO worth it.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:04 PM on May 11, 2022

If you are putting baby on back to sleep, try rolling a small towel and propping them up so they’re kind of on their side and over time reduce the height of the roll till they’re on their back.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:07 PM on May 11, 2022

Nthing that the first 4 months are just sleep how they/you can, and don't worry about setting habits till later.

Also, there's a MeFi parenting group on Facebook. It's very helpful for questions like this and other ones! You can message sestaaak to join.
posted by spicytunaroll at 9:29 PM on May 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! For the past few days we've been timing wake windows of around 90 minutes and that (plus stepping up the white noise) seem to be making a significant difference. She's napping in her crib as I write this!
posted by goingonit at 2:50 PM on May 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

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