How to Make a Nap Time Schedule
In the newborn stages of Jayla’s life, I used to do what is called a Parent-Baby based schedule. This is where you determine how the day unfolds by watching cues from the baby while taking into account your own needs. I was a stay at home mom when Jayla was born so in my opinion, it wasn't necessary for her to be on strict nap time schedule. I slept whenever she slept. Most of the time. And I got things done. Most of the time. Other times I went hungry because I had to feed her before feeding myself. Or I slightly struggled with maintaining laundry but underwear was a necessity so it eventually had to get done. Then there were times I had to take unplanned showers because onions aren't attractive on anyone... Anyway, back to the point, she had no set nap time schedule. I was also one of the lucky parents whose baby slept through most of the night (velcro swaddler *wink wink*). But once I started school and went to being a working mom, it became necessary for Jayla to be on a schedule.
Mamas, Daddies, Caretakers, DO NOT wait on this if this is necessary for your life. If it's not now, eventually it will be. It took me a whole school semester of frustration with a baby that wouldn't sleep at a decent hour and would stay up all night while I had to study, for me to understand that I needed a nap time schedule. I got the concept of how to do it after having a playdate with one of my fellow Mocha Moms (Shoutout to MMSFV). I was stunned to see how her son went up to her at 12pm and said he was “sleepy”. She went on to ask if he wanted a snack first, which he accepted. I was definitely amazed! I needed to know how she accomplished that with her two year old (that’s 24months for all of you month age moms)! She told me that she puts him down at the same time everyday. She said “Try it. It may take a little time, but she’ll get it.”
And so naptime was born the very next day which actually got me a few hours to myself and a happy baby. Here are my tips for a nap time routine. These are based off of Jayla at a year of age. They can work for any age, but you may have to tweak them in the earlier stages. Find your flow and go.
1. Be Consistent
Pick a time you want your baby to go down for their nap. Pick a time not too soon after they wake up in the morning, but also not too late to where they will be up all night because they are overly rested. Once your time is picked (mine is 12pm), put your baby down at that time consistently everyday. If your baby is older like mine, you may run into a little problem. They are not use to sleeping at that time and may look at you like you’re a nut. "What is a nap woman?" Talk to your baby about them going down for a nap. “It’s nap time” “Time for a nap” “Ah someone is tired and ready for their nap” “After (insert activity here) you will go down for your nap”. This is helpful when it's new to them.
2. Get plenty of Playtime
When Jayla wakes up in the morning we are very active. We have breakfast together and then a lot of activity. Kids need to be stimulated. If you have a young baby such as a three-month old, you can still interact with them. Talk, sing songs, and have some tummy time. Jayla likes to dig all of her toys out of the toy chest and play or we sing and dance. We make it to the park whenever we can and run around the house. She’s a riot. Playtime helps make your child tired and ready for a glorious nap.
3. Make Sure Baby is Full
I don’t know about you, but I sleep better when my tummy is happy. It is the same for your little one. Jayla goes down with a warm bottle of milk. Two year old Weston, the baby mentioned earlier who was ready for his nap, had a delicious pb&j before going down. Making sure baby is not hungry, will ensure a nice few hours of rest.
4. Make the Environment Quiet
Start to wind down for naptime. Turn off the television and turn down the cell phones. I noticed in the beginning we could not be in the same room with Jayla when she was taking her nap because she is very nosey and a light sleeper. I understand that some philosophies hold that babies need to learn to sleep with noise, however, that does not work for my child. Besides, during REM sleep cycle, you never know what noises may wake them up. This may cause them to not get their full nap, and we don't want that. Sometimes we can be in the room and she will take her nap still, but we like for her to be comfortable and give her time to rest.
5. Put Baby in a Safe Place
With baby in a safe place, you are free to get things done. For me, it is usually reading, homework, or uninterrupted conversations with my husband. I am all for putting baby in your bed for convenience and comfort. Jayla loved smelling mommy for sleep (we still cuddle at night even now), but with her being older she doesn’t need that as much. It also is not safe for her to be in my bed alone, especially with all of her tossing and turning (Jayla will roll over a pillow in a minute, I’ve seen her). She now goes in her crib for her naptime. For those babies that still need to smell mommy for sleep, rock them to sleep if you don't mind them getting use to the motion or let them sleep on the pillow that smells like you. Be creative, but most importantly make decisions that will keep baby safe.
6. Make Sure Everyone is on Board
I live with my family. That’s four other people besides my husband and Jayla. They would want to see her at all times, any time. When I discovered that a nap schedule was the best thing for me and Jayla, I made sure everyone was aware. This goes for your nanny, babysitter, or anyone else who may watch your baby during the day. DO NOT DEVIATE FROM THE PLAN PEOPLE! Be sure to communicate this new schedule and the how to’s that come along with it. If ever a step is skipped in creating something the child is not use to, it is like starting all over every time. Once baby is use to the schedule a little deviation doesn’t hurt.
7. Wake Them Up at a Decent Hour
It does not help for you to pick an 11 a.m. naptime, but baby just woke up at 10 a.m. Being consistent with wake up time will help your baby create a pattern. Jayla is up at 8 a.m., naps at 12 p.m., and is down by 9 p.m. everyday. If you want baby to sleep earlier at night, wake them earlier in the morning, along with an earlier nap time.
Listen, these tips are simply to help you get started. I understand as much as the next person that plans do change and cannot always be followed. I travel with Jayla quite often so sometimes naps are in the car, in the stroller, and are short or thrown off. I do suggest, however, when you are first getting started with the routine, that you stay home for a week or two for naptime or for however long it takes for your baby to get use to it. I used the time I had during winter break to get Jayla on her schedule and she caught on very quickly.
These tips can be used for any age at anytime but the sooner the better. Newborns take many naps throughout the day and as they get older, you will see a lot of naps turn into 3 naps, then 2 naps. Jayla was still trying to take two naps during the day, but would stay up late at night. You can still use these tips at every stage, just see what times work for you and baby. When your baby is ready for just one nap, cut the second nap where needed. Remember, there is no right or wrong way. Just as long as you are doing what is best for your baby.
Is your baby on a nap time schedule? Have you tried any of these tips? Let us know in the comments below.