Baby’s are smart. Sometimes we don’t give them enough credit or think they “get it” – but they learn fast!
If you change up the routine and take away some of the work your child has to do to get to sleep (for example, rocking to sleep), all your baby needs to do is snuggle in and enjoy the ride.
Then before you know it, that’s the only way she wants to go to sleep.
You try other methods – methods that involve her actually being a part of the process again – and she’ll have nothing to do with it. And then you find yourself holding her for the entire nap or taking hour and half gas-guzzling rides around the neighborhood to get her to sleep.
I bet you want to steer clear of this scenario, so here are the 7 most frequently occurring bad habits when it comes to baby naps that you’ll want to avoid:
1. Going down too soon after waking up in the morning
Does your baby get up for a diaper change, feed and some cuddle time…and then go right back to sleep? She’s using that first nap more as a night waking and extension of night sleep than a true nap. Make sure she knows it’s morning during that time and doesn’t drift back to sleep.
2. Only sleeping in his nest
Does your baby prefer that tight fitting “nest” of a swing or rock n play? [Side note: is your rock n play affected by the January 2013 recall?] It’s very comforting for small babies to sleep in a cradled position…but be careful that your baby doesn’t decide that’s the only way he’ll sleep! Using a swing in the early infant days is perfectly fine, but just be careful that you stop using it exclusively for sleep by about 10-12 weeks and start getting him used to lying flat in his crib.
3. Sleeping out and about
Infants are very portable! With the bucket carseat, you can schlep them on errands, to see friends, to restaurants, and they’ll often stay sleeping. But if your baby is getting used to sleeping with motion, and you’re noticing that’s the only way he will sleep, then it’s becoming a habit that you want to avoid.
4. No schedule
Does your baby nap at different times each day? Does the nanny or daycare put her down for naps at different times than you do on the weekend? It’s important to get your baby on a more predictable nap schedule. Your baby will show tired signs at roughly the same intervals to show when she’s ready for the next nap and it’s up to you to offer her a nice dark sleeping environment (read: crib) at that point!
5. Relying on you to do something for him
This is a biggie: Do you need to feed, rock, shh, sway, bounce your baby to sleep? Is there a very specific way of inducing sleep that only you can do? If you left your baby with a sitter right before nap time, is there some sequence of steps that you would have to share with her to make sure your baby fell asleep? Maybe you’ve even said, “I know this sounds crazy, but it’s the only way to get him to nap…” Then he’s developing the bad habit of relying on sleep props. While he still uses them, he won’t be able to focus on practicing independent sleep skills. Make sure you’re putting him in the crib awake and not doing most of the work for him!
6. Not having enough naps
Remember that overtiredness will make your baby wired – it’ll be super hard to get her to fall asleep when she gets to this point. If she isn’t napping enough – and/or long enough – she’ll get overtired which makes the next sleep more difficult.
7. Too much daytime sleep
Most of you are probably chuckling at this one, but I assure you this can be a problem too! It will happen more often in young babies who are still getting days and nights sorted, but older babies can also be snoozing more than they should during the day. Babies and kids should be sleeping a certain number of hours for their age, and if too much of that sleep is during the day, night time sleep will be shortened – day sleep will rob from the night sleep.
Many new parents don’t realize just how smart their little babies are – and how fast they learn – so make sure you’re teaching healthy sleep habits and not falling into any of these bad habits. Trust me…falling into a bad sleep habit can happen almost overnight, but it will take much longer to break that habit!
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