I wanted to keep the title neutral because our nap-training experience was not successful, or it was, depending on how you see it. I felt like I needed to share our story, because before we started the training I was desperate for some real sleep/nap-training stories that were not all successful, so I’d known what to expect and not feel like crap if it didn’t work out for us. So here goes, maybe it'll be useful to another desperate-for-a-good-nap mother.
Why we decided to nap train. One of the sweetest things I get to do the past few months is bed-sharing with my little sweetheart. He will be 7 months in a week (where did time go?). We have established a bedtime routine which always successfully puts him to sleep at night without much hassle. Unfortunately he still wakes 2 – 3 times at night and needs me to comfort him back to sleep. Fortunately he dozes back off within less than a minute since he just needs to see that I’m there and feel my warmth so I don’t really mind.
Naps were a different story. He could only fall asleep while being rocked, as if it was the only way he knew how to. The rocking also had to be of a particular way, sadly a way that only my nanny could do (believe me I had tried to mimic the rocking but he wasn’t having it). That kinda broke my heart; that he needed another human who was neither me or his dad to be comfortable enough to nap.
My nanny didn’t really mind, but Owen was gaining weight by the weeks and rocking him naturally got more and more challenging, so we could not imagine how we would all survive with this napping style for much longer.
All that, and all the materials I read said that learning to sleep independently will be beneficial for baby in the long run.
How we prepared for the training. I read tons of materials on sleep-training; all the different methods, all the tips, all the success stories, all the fail stories (which were not plenty). I sent my husband some articles that were useful and sound like what we could implement so he could be in the same state of mind in approaching this training. We prepped his crib with a cute crib bumper, installed a baby monitor, removed any hazard from there. We discussed how we wanted to go about nap training with the nanny so she understood the process. We agreed that a lot of crying might happen but we needed to stay strong and support each other because we knew success wouldn’t come overnight. We also gently told Owen ahead of time that he needed this nap train for his sake.
I knew nap training would be heartbreaking for me. But if it would give him better quality of sleep, and hence better quality of life, I’d take heartbreak anytime.
Our initial goal by the end of the training. We wanted him to learn to sleep independently. So he would be able to sleep anywhere and whenever he was sleepy; in the crib, on the bed, on the stroller, in the car, and so on.
How it went down. His usual schedule (before the training) is as follows.
5.30 – 6.00: Wakes in the morning
8.45 – 9.15: Begins first nap
12 – 12.30: Begins second nap
14.30 – 15.00: Begins third nap
17.00: Evening bath
18.00 – 18.30: Bedtime routine
The duration of each nap varied from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours, but more often the former than the latter.
First day: Training started with the first nap of that morning. I carried him until he was drowsy, but not asleep, and then put him in his crib. He immediately opened his eye wide prolly due to the change of ambience. I left the room, in 2 minutes he started crying. Everytime he cried I waited for a certain period (longer interval each time) to provide comfort. My interval was 1 minute, 3 minutes, 6 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, and 25 minutes. Two hours went by and he didn’t fall asleep, just kept crying. I decided to stop this attempt and try it again later, so I went in and nursed him to sleep.
Repeated the routine for the second nap. Due to the amount of time it took for the first nap training his second nap was so late in the day, almost around the supposed time of his third nap (so he only had two naps that day instead of three). This time I only checked in once at 3 minutes interval. After that his crying began to sound more like whimpers so I did not visit him again, and he fell asleep after 35 minutes. I was relieved. I thought to myself, “Wow it’s working!”.
In the evening, it seemed even better. After his bath, I didn’t even need to rock him, which was usually part of our bedtime routine. He immediately fell asleep on my shoulder on the way from the light switch to the bed. When I put him down on the bed he did not wake. I thought it was either the sleep training was working well, or he was simply too tired from the first day of training.
Second day: After how the first day unfolded I naturally thought the second day was going to be easier. It wasn’t. It was worse. He knew the moment I put him down on the bed I was going to leave the room and he began crying and screaming even before I left. The first nap, the second nap, he cried more than 1 hour.
I was frustrated. Not only did my expectation for the second day went to shit, deliberately choosing not to do anything while listening to him cry his lungs out was absolutely heartbreaking. After the failed attempt at first nap, my husband was already questioning if we should continue the drill. I hated him for uttering that question because we had agreed in the beginning that it was going to be hard but we needed to support each other. I told my husband no we need to continue, otherwise all the crying and suffering from the first day would’ve been a waste. He obliged.
At the second nap attempt, I began to think he was right. The problem is, Owen wasn’t trying to self-soothe at all. It’s not like he didn’t know how to. He self-soothes by sucking his thumb to fall asleep at night, so he knows. He just doesn’t know that he could do the same thing for naps. So I thought even if we continued this for a couple more days, he was probably just going to do the same thing and get exhausted and nothing good was going to come out of this.
The hardest part for me was this: I mentioned how he started crying as soon as I put him down because he knew I was going to leave the room. But the moment he actually saw me moving away from the bed to leave the room, his cry changed; almost as if he was so disappointed and heartbroken too.
And so after his second nap I decided to quit. I’m not putting my baby through any more of that.
Why I would still consider it a win. The next day we changed our goal. We would meet him in the middle. He didn’t have to fall asleep on his own with nobody in the room. It would be fine for me to accompany him in the room while he tried to fall asleep. But I would not have his nanny or anyone rock him to sleep anymore.
It was like he understood and agreed to meet in the middle. The first nap of that day I put him down on the bed and stayed with him. He immediately sucks his thumb and within 10 minutes fell asleep. And it has been like that for almost two weeks now.
I believe his quality of sleep has improved too. He is less cranky during his wake windows and just a happier baby in general. I too am a much happier mama. He is no longer attached to his nanny for naps and would sleep on the bed with me very comfortably.
In three months I am going back to work. His attachment to me now may be another issue we have to figure out, but for now let me glorify his detachment from being rocked to sleep.
That being said, I understand there might have been some things we could have done better in our methods. If we would have done some things differently, the training might have been successful like so many other stories I read on the net. Also, I might not be as strong as I thought seeing that I gave up on the second day. But I am 100% certain I am following my guts as a mom. My guts might turn out to be wrong, but I feel it’s best to do so rather than follow what everyone swore by on the internet even though it felt wrong for my baby.
If you are considering sleep training, I would advise to just read up tons of material and try to work out a plan that you feel is best for you and the baby, and have everyone in the house be on board. Keep in mind that a little cry is inevitable when sleep training but there are limits to what a mom and a baby can bear and you know where that line is for yourselves. If you need someone to talk to, feel free to write to me. I’m not an expert but I’ll provide support in a way I can. Good luck!