Nappy-Naps

[I’ve mentioned progress on Weaning From the Cursed Box a few times, but meant to do a more proper post on the subject. This morning I started out with that in mind, but it turned right into a naps post. You’ll see why.]

The horrid realization that my darling toddler’ was wickedly addicted to watching movies came over a month ago. It was a rough time for me. Actually, things had been rough since January (actually things have been rough since last April, this is certainly a tops year for us what with the move, the new babe, etc, etc. But we had hit a bit of a stride in November/December…. which January broke). There were quite a few sleeping issues. Napping the Babe in particular had me totally confounded. I put the Toddler down in front of a movie many a time to get the house quiet enough to put a baby sleep fighter to sleep. I couldn’t figure any other way to do it.

Now that I think about it, was the message I was sending “I’m going to go spend quality time with your brother, here plug yourself into this glowing box”…? Oh god! The mamaguilt! Still and yet, at that time in his development, he would literally not go to sleep or stay asleep if there was ANY kind of noise. So I guess I still don’t know how else I could have done it. Only the parent of a true sleep fighter can understand how incredibly tenuous sleep can be. In the beginning, he would only sleep if I was wearing him. I did my best to keep trying with the laying him down to nap business. Some days I would spend a total of three hours trying to get him down for naps. Rarely would he stay asleep (on the bed) for more than 15 or 20 minutes. I was going insane.

But lo– angels on high sweetly sing, he has learned to nap.  The import of that simple sentence is huge. He still fights sleep, but at least he does eventually go, most times. Even if there is some Toddler noise going on. And once asleep, he naps for usually at least 30 minutes, often an hour and a half, and occasionally as much as two and a half hours! That’s on the bed. In fact, he stopped wanting to be worn for naps. Now if I let him nap in the carrier he just takes a 20 minute cat nap.

Like all parenting, I didn’t teach him to nap. His ability to nap budded and grew from within his own pudgy little self. But it did take a lot of work on my part, continually providing him with the opportunity to practice. Waiting for his Magic Moment.

For any mama’s struggling with the nap issue out there, here’s some things I think helped (though like I said, the change very obviously came from him, I was doing all this stuff before and it didn’t help until he was ready):

1. Perseverance. Topping the list. Just keep chanting, “This will get better, this will get better” It will. Maybe you won’t be so lucky as me, and have it better after just a few months of insanity, but they do grow. They do change. It will get better.

2. Routine. I struggled to find some kind of rhythm to his sleep cycles so that I could encourage him toward sleep at the right moments, and generally get his body used to falling to sleep at certain times of day. It’s not like we have any real kind of schedule, particularly because he doesn’t wake up at the same time every morning. But at least now I know he’ll need a nap sometime around 9:30 or 10:30, then again after lunch-ish, and a late afternoon nap that sometimes turns into an extra early bedtime, unfortunately.

3. On the Bed. With the Toddler, who was also an epic sleep fighter, I walked. I walked and nursed and sang. She wouldn’t even go with the rocking chair. I put on the miles, mostly within the confines of our house. This time, I just didn’t feel like it. I’m tired. I don’t want to walk a bunch of uninteresting house miles. No telling if this would have worked with the Toddler or not, but I just started laying down with him and trying to nurse him to sleep. I had to weather a lot of extra fussing/crying/screaming, sometimes he’ll nurse, cry, nurse, cry for fifteen minutes (seems like much longer of course) before he finally gives up the ghost and gives in to the exhaustion. It’s frustrating because when they scream they get their adrenaline going and then they’re all wired. But honestly, it doesn’t seem to take him longer than it used to take the Toddler. And I get to just lay there. Plus, then all I have to do is get up (as opposed to lay him down), not necessarily easy, but easier. (I know they say the thing about ‘a baby is confused if they wake up somewhere other than where they went to sleep,’ ie: if you put them to sleep in your arms and they wake up in the crib. And that makes perfect sense. But I sure didn’t ever notice this making a difference.)

4. The Classics. I gave in to all the traditional babysleep stuff. I swaddle him (not aggressively with the behind the back straight-jacket thing, just wrap him in a blanket so that his arms can’t flail out and wake him up), put pillows on both sides (down around his body, not up by his head) and turn the fan on for white noise. This last bit I only started doing after it warmed up. It seemed wrong to turn a fan on when our house was freezing. He had already started sleeping better when I started the fan bit, but it certainly helps with drowning out the Toddler noise.

Tune in next time for the part about where I figured out a couple of non-electronic ways to keep the Toddler quiet and distracted while I put the Babe to sleep, plus further updates and suggestions on breaking movie addictions!