Can you really "teach" baby to sleep longer? (No-Cry Nap Solution) - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 06-17-2012, 06:21 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm trying to transition my 5-month-old from being held/worn during naps to sleeping in her crib, at least some of the time.  If I hold/wear her, she will often nap at least a 60-90 minutes.  If I put her down, she sleeps for 20 minutes and wakes straight up.  This 20-minute pattern is consistent if she's in her bed, swing, carseat, stroller, or bedsharing with me.  The only way to get her to nap longer is to nurse throughout the nap, or to wear her in a sling and bounce or walk constantly.  It's like she just can't get past the first sleep cycle if she's not attached to me somehow.  It's a joy to nurse and hold her, but it's getting hard to sustain for three naps a day, especially when we travel.  By the way, I'm very happy with her nighttime sleep.  She's very easy to get down, then sleeps around 11 hours, waking up 1-3 times to nurse, but she just eats and zonks right back out.


I've been implementing techniques from the No-Cry Nap Solution, which mostly involve routine, gradual changes and sticking-with-it.  We have routines and wind-down rituals, loveys, music, white noise, swaddle - she welcomes naptime, and it's no problem getting her to sleep and transferring her to the crib - we've at least made that much progress.  But 20 minutes later she's awake, no matter how much I try to anticipate and intervene.


Sometimes I feel like our entire day is spent on naptime parenting.  Either I'm holding her and nursing in order to "sleep her," or I'm parenting her before, during, and after these very short catnaps.  She usually starts getting sleepy about an hour after waking from these 20-minute naps, so it seems like it's always naptime at our house!  


My question is this:  Can you really "teach" a baby to sleep longer?  Is it worth the effort?  Or - be honest - are all these parenting techniques really designed to keep me feeling productive until she grows out of it?

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#2 of 9 Old 06-17-2012, 07:40 PM
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Ugg. that is tough. I dont really know if I will be much help, but I will tell you what worked for us. We got rid of the crib. It was the best thing we ever did! I got the idea from reading a Montissori book on how to set up a childs area M style. They recommend no cribs to foster independence. When my son was 5mo we just put his crib mattress on the floor (with a rug next to it in case of roll off - which didnt happen until much later on). Anyway, I would nurse him to sleep on the mattress & scoot away when he fell asleep. If he did wake after 20min I could run in & nurse him back to sleep just like night time. It worked perfectly. Never used a crib for my second either. Just make sure to baby proof the room.


I will add that my SIL has two grown girls now. She has told me many times that they both never napped for longer than 20min their whole childhood. I know that is no consolation, but it just may be how your baby is.

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#3 of 9 Old 06-17-2012, 07:59 PM
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How long does it take from the time she first drifts off to when you put her in the crib?  Is it possible that it really is more than 20 minutes of sleep she is getting at a time?  I often feel like my babies only will be down for 20 minutes, but in reality, it's a least double that from the time they went to sleep. 


Also, five months is on the cusp of sleep changes (mostly, a whole lot less of it from teething), but my babies are still usually on a 2 to 3 hour cycle at that point.  So, nurse, sleep the remainder of the hour, wake up, nurse, potty, play...repeat.

"If you keep doing the same things you've always done, you'll keep getting the same results you've always gotten."

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#4 of 9 Old 06-18-2012, 05:45 PM - Thread Starter
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It only takes about 5-10 minutes to get her to sleep and put her down, so the total sleep (arms plus crib time) is still just 25-30 minutes.


Today she took two catnaps in her crib - easy to get to sleep, easy transfer to crib, but then woke up fully at 20-30 minutes.  She was definitely still sleepy afterward.  By 3pm she was melting down, so I sat down with her in the recliner, and she slept for 2 hours in the crook of my arm.  She roused and drifted back off several times during that long nap, on her own, without nursing.  Granted, she was exhausted, but there's a definite difference between "held sleep" and "down sleep."


I'd like to learn how to help her resettle like that in her crib.  I've tried going to her a few minutes before she wakes up (there's a telltale sigh) and lightly rousing/resettling her to try to "reset" her sleep cycle.  I've also tried waiting until she wakes, then trying to nurse her back down.  I try to nurse her before the nap, so she doesn't wake from hunger.


Books (even the No-Cry books) like to claim that, with patience, you can teach your baby to sleep.  In forums, though, I mostly find that babies just do what they do, and parents deal with it as best they can.  Some days I'm motivated to "work on" her napping, and other days it seems pointless.  Can they really learn, or is it a developmental thing that just has to take its time?

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#5 of 9 Old 06-18-2012, 08:33 PM
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I don't know if you could do this with her in a crib, but what worked for my DD, starting when she was about 6 months, was to go to her the instant she started to wake and nurse her back to sleep.  When I started this, she usually woke up after about half an hour if I wasn't next to her.  When I nursed her, that would typically put her back to sleep for another half hour.  And before long she started sometimes, then most of the time, skipping the first waking.  She eventually got to the point where she would pretty reliably stay asleep for an hour or two.  I'm not sure I understand exactly how that worked, but it really did.  (Either that or she would have started sleeping longer anyway.  But it started happening pretty quickly after I started doing this.)

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#6 of 9 Old 06-22-2012, 04:16 PM
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My little guy took short naps also - 30 - 45 mins.


I tried various ideas from the No Cry Nap Solution but they did not work. I truly believe that, yes, some kids are flexible and you can shape their sleep, where as others, like my little guy, will nap/sleep the way they do and there is not much you can do other than accept it.


I would always nurse him as soon as he woke and sometimes he would fall back asleep, but sometimes not.


I would just keep in mind that in a few months your little one will drop to 2 naps, then eventually to 1, so the effort you spend on naptime parenting will lesson.


Also, when my little guy switched to one nap, he actually increased the time he spent asleep - he naps for 1.5 hours at a time, sometimes longer.


The books are helpful but remember they can't possibly apply to all kids all the time.

41 y/o married Mama, 4 y/o DS1, Angel Baby lost in Sep 2013, Angel Baby lost March 2014, 3 months old DS2.
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#7 of 9 Old 06-22-2012, 09:04 PM
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A family member of mine has quadruplets that are 5 months (well, 3 months adjusted) and they have used No Cry Nap Solution and the babes take a 1.5-2 hour nap in the middle of the day, in their crib. When there is a NECESSITY for something to work, it's easier to stick to it and make it work, KWIM? I was kind of skeptical of the "teach the babies to sleep" thing, but I've seen them in action. My mom is one of their main caretakers/helpers... after their mid-day feeding, they go to their cribs, get placed in their little swaddle things (LOL i don't even know what they are?! A sack for the feet, and then they cross from one side, and then the other, but only up to the armpits... arms are free), they are given their pacifiers, which are the little soothies, and they have a little teething toy attached to them, and the lights are dim and nature sounds cds play softly in the room, and they go to sleep. I really didn't believe them when they told me, but I've seen it twice. They just go to sleep. None of them cry. They don't even really fuss. Occasionally, some of them will fuss at the twenty-minute mark, but given their pacifier back they just go back to sleep.


Maybe it has been easy for the caregivers to stick-to-it with the NCNS plans because the babies are not their own? I mean, mom is around as much as she possibly can be, but Dad is working a lot now, and they have to sleep sometimes! But even with them, there's usually at least a nanny, and one or two other family members around helping.



That said, my first DC was a napper. He would just fall asleep, and stay asleep, for 2 hours. Period. No hard work, no special planning. DD has never been a napper. At 17 months, I'm already starting to wonder if she's going to stop napping altogether. I can't think of a day in her life she's ever napped longer than an hour and some change. She currently naps from about 1pm-2pm. She's well rested, sleeps great. She's just not a napper. She has learned to nap without me, but only if her nap begins with me... i.e., I will lay down and nurse her to sleep, and then get up once she's sleeping. Being alone doesn't wake her like it did when she was an infant. Also guilty admission - when DD has napped in her crib, it's because I got in the crib, nursed her to sleep, and then got out. shy.gif Of course, it's much simpler now that she sleeps in a bed.

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#8 of 9 Old 06-23-2012, 04:55 PM - Thread Starter
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Quadruplets?  OK, my problems are miniscule compared to the challenges of raising four babies at once.  :)  Hats off to them and those four little blessings!


We use those swaddle sacks at night and love them!  It's a sleep sack and a swaddle all in one.  We're currently trying to wean her off it now that she's rolling over, by leaving out first one arm and then both, and she looks so funny half-swaddled!  But she handled it great, unlike the couple of miserable nights we tried going cold turkey.


Actually, I think my "problem" is that periodically I get all wound up (and exhausted) because I don't have a break during the day, and I feel a little crazy for spending so many hours holding a sleeping baby.  Also, I really need to go back to work (from home), we need the money, and naptime would be perfect...  if there WAS a naptime.  When I just let go of worrying about naps, and forget getting anything done, and cuddle down with her and nurse whenever she's sleepy, or hit the trail with the jog stroller, we both feel pretty good.  :)

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#9 of 9 Old 06-23-2012, 06:27 PM
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I am curious too, if I child can be "taught" to sleep longer.  I know when I wake up in the middle of the night, I'm not sure I could have done anything to prevent it.  And sometimes it's hard to fall back to sleep, even as an adult!  My DS is just like your child, OP.  Except that he's 16 months old.  I've been holding/nursing him through naps even since he outgrew his swing at 7 months or so.  If I lay him down, he usually sleeps about 20 minutes or less.  If I'm holding him, when he stirs, I nurse him back to sleep.  I'm trying to be patient with it but I, like you, feel like our whole day is about sitting with him while he sleeps on me.  I used to do a lot of naps in the Ergo but now I usually forgo the Ergo so that I can maybe sleep too (because he's up a lot at night too!).


P.S. The NSNS was good for figuring out my DS "tired cues" and for sticking with what works but I never found a way to make him sleep longer on his own by reading that book.

Jamie, DW to Jeff, birth and postpartum doula and Hypnobabies instructor.
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