Thursday, February 4, 2010

Secrets to Successful Naps

Oh wow, that title is deceiving. Because I think if someone actually had the secrets to successful naps, they'd be the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller.  Every child is different, so there really is no "secret" to successful naps.  But I thought I might share a few things that have worked for us some of the time.  (Note that I said some, because on many days I am going nuts trying to get them to sleep, but usually after 30 minutes it has worked.)

When Micah was a baby, I put him on a regular routine - first he had two naps, and I tried to make them around 9am and 1pm daily (he was an early riser).  As he got older, we switched to just one nap around 1pm.  For me, nap time was my #1 priority. I wanted him to be a good nap-taker, so I planned my day around it.  Not everyone likes to do that, but again, it was just what worked for me.  However, I was glad that we did that, because it was such a routine for him that he never missed a good 2 hour nap.  Ah, the bliss.  For awhile he fought it, but I really insisted that he take one.  He would get in trouble if he got out of bed.  If, after an hour, he was still awake, I would let him play quietly in his room.  I read a book called "Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems" by Richard Ferber, and he really recommended routine.  That worked for us.  (Some people prefer Babywise. I personally wanted to burn that book, because no other book I read made me feel like a more horrible parent than that one.  Just me though.)

Micah- 16 months old

When we had Jaden, our boys started sharing a room when he was about 4 months old.  We had a new challenge for nap time.  Would it be possible for them to take simultaneous naps and not wake each other up?  For Jaden's morning nap, I would have Micah play out in the living room until Jaden woke up.  As J got older, I started trying to push his 2nd nap to 1pm so that they would sleep at the same time.  It was rough the first few weeks, but eventually they got on the same schedule. We would put Jaden down first, and then as soon as he went to sleep (usually 5-10 minutes), we would bring Micah in the room. We told Micah that he was not to be loud or wake Jaden up, or he would get in trouble.  I think it was kindof fun to him to have to whisper and be quiet (so not true for some kids, I know.  But hey, maybe a reward system would work well here?).  Jaden would usually wake up before Micah, so we would have the baby monitor on and run in and take him out before he woke Micah up.

Oh man, this picture was so cute I couldn't help but post it.  Even if it wasn't relevant :)

Bedtime worked the same way.  We would put Jaden down at 7:30pm, and then Micah down at 8pm.  Micah knew that if he made noise he would get busted (I use that term lovingly) :)

Sometimes Micah wanted to sleep with Jaden.  But it only lasted about 2 minutes.

Now that they are older, 2 and 4, they fight naps more often.  But I think because it's been my #1 priority each day (seriously, it is my NUMBER ONE priority that they take naps), Micah still takes naps at least 4 days a week, and Jaden at least 5 or 6 (I have found the key to that is having them play a lot outside in the morning so they get all their energy out).  Now they go take a nap at the same time- around 1pm every day.  I give them three rules:

1. No talking
2. No playing
3. No getting up
or they get in trouble

I have them each repeat the rules to me, and then I count to three and close the door.  I think counting to three lets them know "the rules start right now."  For some odd reason, my boys love telling me the rules, and even when I forget, they both say "Mommy, ask me the rules!!!"  Sometimes they break the rules and I do have to correct them, but after awhile they stay in bed and are quiet.  (Right now as I write this, Jaden has gotten up twice and I have had to go in there and correct him.  But he seems to be staying in bed now).  I let them take a toy to bed and put it next to or under their pillow, but they are not allowed to play with it.   This seems to help with the transition and teaches them self-control. If I catch them playing, I just take it away.

After 45 minutes or so, if Micah is not asleep (because he's older and doesn't always fall asleep), I will let him get up and come read books in my room or the living room.  I don't let him watch TV during this time (on most days) because I don't want him to avoid a nap just to "get" to watch tv.  There have been a few days where Micah fell asleep but Jaden didn't, and I do the same thing with Jaden.  He has to look at books quietly in another room.

Sometimes, the plan doesn't work, and neither takes a nap.  This happens rarely, but it does.  But I know that if I do take the 20-30 minutes of consistency in making them lay down, the next 2 hours of quiet is worth it.  These boys are CRANKY if they don't nap, especially during the "witching hours" of 4-7pm.  And that makes mommy cranky.  Nobody wants that.

So, these are just a few ideas that have worked in our home.  Like I said, I know these will not work for everyone. Every child is so different.  Some people prefer no naps because then their kids go to bed earlier.  Ours, thankfully, still go to bed around 8 or 8:30pm even with a nap.  So now, I want to know: what  has worked for you?


  1. Yup...routine has been key for us too! Not that we always stick to it, but when you have a routine and have off-days, it makes the kids relieved to return to routine. Usually the times of day are very similar, but more than anything--it's the routine that seems to matter with them. I think a majority of behavvior problems with young kids stems from lack of sleep! My 6yr old sleeps 10-11hrs a night, and my almost 3yr old sleeps the same at night, plus a 2hr nap.

  2. Love the post! And the picture of Martin & Micah (Leonard said Blackness & Jables LOL). Anyway, I love your posts. So relevant and so refreshing! Love ya. -Vik