In swaywiththis

It’s no coincidence that the Monday after Daylight Saving Time is National Nap Day. Time is an arbitrary social construct, and skipping one hour ahead centuries after some scientist wanted more time to pick up bugs doesn’t make sense to us, let alone to our kids. So how do you get some shut-eye if your kids refuse to do the same, on any day of the week? We asked a few experts for advice on how to make naps happen.

What the Sleep Consultant Said:

Everyone told Abby Sharpe that she was “blessed with a good sleeper” when her first infant started sleeping 12 hours every night. She proved them wrong with her second. Then she realized she could teach other babies how to sleep for a living, and founded Hey Abby Sleep Consulting. Yes, you read that right — teach babies how to sleep. Is your mind blown? Ours is.

“We absolutely have to teach babies how to sleep,” she says. “It’s not something we think we have to teach, but consider breastfeeding — that’s totally natural and also takes some time to get the hang of. Every little thing our babies do is taught, from how to roll over to how to take a bottle.”

So, how do you teach your baby to nap, and nap well?

  • Teach them to sleep anywhere. You shouldn’t feel imprisoned by your baby’s nap schedule. Let them take naps in different spaces. If they fall asleep in their carrier, bounce them up and down so they get used to movement while sleeping.
  • Establish a go-anywhere routine. This will help establish what Abby calls “sleep freedom,” your baby’s ability to sleep anywhere. Your baby’s body knows when it’s nap time, so help them along with special cues. That could be changing their diaper or flipping the switch on a travel sound machine (of which Abby is a big fan).
  • Learn their cues: Abby says you have to catch kids when they’re “ripe and ready for a nap, like an avocado.” Sleepy cues could be yawning, looking off into the distance, or something else.
  • Don’t let them get too tired. An overtired baby is going to find it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. They might have a few nights where they “pass out” and sleep normal hours, but “their naps are going to be bad, their sleep is going to be bad, and everyone is going to be sad,” she laughs.
  • Make sure they’re full. A hungry baby, or one that is approaching a mealtime, is not going to sleep for long.

Abby’s biggest tip? That sleep training does not have to be a negative experience, or mean that you leave your baby to “cry it out.” “You can do what feels right for your family. If whatever you are doing is working for your family, then great. If whatever you are doing is not working, you can make the choice for you. Sleep is possible, and you can do it in a gentle, loving, supportive way.” 

Any recommended products? The aforementioned travel sound machine could be a big hit in your household.

What the Nanny Said:

We figured a nanny would have some hacks for getting kids to sleep. So we talked to Caitlin Upchurch, who works with Sandhills Nanny Co. and has experience working with kids of napping age in their own homes and in area preschools. Alas, she did not have any hacks — “every child is different,” she said — but she made one major point: Make sure the child feels safe and loved. Too often for parents, that means falling asleep beside them and waking up at midnight, groggy and disoriented. But Caitlin says there’s an art to providing support while establishing that this is their nap time, not yours.

“I like to think a lot of it is when you’re active before and after nap time as well,” she says. “If you’re playing with them and on the floor with them, spending quality time, kids are going to know that they are loved. If they are having a hard time getting to sleep, sit with them. Some kids just need extra attention. Nap time is important, and sometimes you just sitting there lets their brain and their body be like, “Alright, I’m not getting out of this one,” she laughs.

Any recommended products? Caitlin thinks a lot of parents, especially new parents, might feel the need to go overboard with unnecessary sleep gadgets — but she does recommends a weighted blanket, appropriate for the child’s age and size, for sensory seekers.

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