We’ve suffered a major loss in our house recently.
My son has given up naps.
Moment of silence for the loss of my sanity, please.
If you are a stay-at-home mom like me, you understand that the proper functioning of all members of the house lives and dies by the nap schedule. For most families, the hours of 1pm-3pm are sacred. SACRED, I tell you. When a well-meaning, typical older family member invites the family over for the dreaded late lunch (and by late I mean noon), the question for the parents of littles is always, “But what about nap time?” Awkward conversations begin amongst the extended family about how kids these days are no longer “flexible” and need to learn to “go with it” a little more. (Easy for you to say, Aunt Sally. You don’t have to deal with the exhausted little minion come 5pm!) Some parents begin bargaining for who will attend with the older children and who will keep the little ones home for naps. Some parents drag along a pack and play (which initially requires four grown men to assemble) and hope for the best. It’s a whole thing.
(And don’t even get me started on those of you who schedule birthday parties at 1:30pm. Yeah, I see you.)
During a sleep regression or serious teething, most normally put together moms can be found around 4pm in their sweats, aimlessly wandering Target while chugging a latte because nobody napped, daddy’s not home yet, and everyone has to endure at least 3 MORE BLESSED HOURS until the holy grail of bedtime. (Which may or may not even go very well.)
Naps really are important. These are the things that nobody tells you when you’re pregnant. When you have a newborn, it’s a non-issue because they spoil you and sleep anywhere and everywhere. The older ones (say 3 and up) can typically go without, and it’s no big deal. The age where it becomes a truly critical puzzle piece in your day is from about 6 months to 3 years.
So, what’s a mom to do?
Today, I’m sharing the three keys I’ve learned to nap time success.
1) CONSISTENCY is the absolute key to our nap time bliss. Putting the baby down at noon one day and 2pm the next will not work out for ANYONE. Over time, their little bodies develop a rhythm, and they can adapt to whatever schedule you set, but you have to set it. And stick to it. That’s the hard part…because it is SO tempting on a beautiful afternoon to push them too long at the park or on a busy Saturday to run “just one more errand” or on a holiday to throw the schedule out the window because they’re having fun. But, OH, there is always hell to pay. And unless you’re raising the dalai lama, the overly tired kid will fall asleep in the car for 10 minutes, wake up either hysterical or wired, and won’t go back down until bedtime. Or you will have missed the window completely, they’ll raise hell in their crib for an hour and be up until bedtime. Or, and this is just pure evil…they’ll sleep for the most dreaded 45 minutes and wake up screaming like a mental patient.
And ain’t nobody got time for that.
2) THE PROPER ENVIRONMENT – At our house, blackout shades and white-noise machines are a must. We love this noise machine by Graco
, but anything that makes noise will work. (A box fan, for example, if you’re rolling on a budget.) There have been many days where 30 minutes into nap time, the next door neighbor decides his lawn needs a trim, and the white noise has been a savior. Turning on that noise signals sleep to my kids, and I am convinced they sleep harder and longer because of it. Blackout shades are just common sense. Darkness equals sleep.
3) A NAP TIME ROUTINE – Let’s keep it real here – by nap time, I’m spent and really ready for a break. I would love nothing more than to just plop my kids in their beds and walk away. But I’ve learned the hard way that after a full morning of play time, that just doesn’t work for my kids, and the extra 5-10 minutes of a wind down routine is really worth the effort. We do a very abbreviated version of our bed time routing which includes a diaper change, book, song, rocking (if age appropriate) and going into the crib (or bed) awake. If I take the time do help them wind down, they are usually down within 15-20 minutes, and the afternoon is much smoother for everyone.
(Don’t let this picture fool you – it’s from October…the last time Carter actually took a nap.)
So, here’s to happy napping and the preservation of our sanity, mama! Good luck!