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How can we get our baby to take longer naps?
Our son is 7.5 months old. We co-sleep. He sleeps 10-11 hours at night, and he wakes fairly frequently to nurse or to be comforted. Also, when I put him down at night, it takes two or three 30 minute "trials" before he really begins to sleep (he goes down, then gets up a few times, as if testing the waters). Some nights, he sleeps in 3 hour stretches, and some nights, he's up every 90 minutes (or more often, on occasion). This is fine - I've learned, recently, to comfort him without nursing every time, so I have hope that he'll start to sleep more soundly at night. And I really don't mind getting up a couple of times at night with him. However, during the day he really resists naps even when he is really tired and cranky. And when he does take a nap, it's only for 20-30 minutes. We've tried so many things - nursing, holding, walking (even though he's 21 lbs. and I'm 113, so it's a bit of a strain), rocking, singing, white noise, lying down with him. Often, nothing works (except when we have a long drive, at which point he'll sleep for an hour; and he also loves the din of a restaurant (recordings do not work)). We tried Ferberizing for his nap this afternoon, and it was just awful - I hated it, and our son cried for an *hour* and then slept for 30 minutes. He woke up with swollen eyes and scratches on his head (he scratches his head when he's tired). What can we do to help him take longer naps? If he seemed well-rested, I wouldn't worry about these catnaps - but it's clear that he tires and he needs longer naps - and I've heard that anything under an hour doesn't count and that babies who don't get enough sleep become depressed, obese adults. And I don't want to betray his trust. My husband is inclined to let him cry, but I don't feel good about that idea. Can you offer any advice? Thank you!
First of all, I know its difficult for some parents, but letting my son cry it out was the best thing I ever did... he now knows how to put himself back to sleep without me and sleeps through the night (at least 10 hours). As far as naps go, I started giving my son naps after only being awake for 2 hours. At this time he is not fussy and seems like he could play happily for a while longer, but if I wait he has a harder time falling asleep. I have the book "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby" and its great. Other thoughts: darken the room, use a nightlight, make the room warmer???? Just other things that seem to work for me.
Unfortunately, this is one of the down sides to co-sleeping. Maybe it's time to reexamine why you decided to co-sleep. Your baby has learned that sleep time is when mommy is next to him. Perhaps if he might nap if you took a nap at the same time. Another option is to walk him in a stroller during nap time. One other option is to put him in an infant seat on top of a running dryer (if close by). Otherwise, there's not too much that can be done unless you make a change in the way you all sleep. If co-sleeping is an important issue for you, you will have to work around the nap issue. Yes, it is very important for babies to get sufficient naps. This is when they develop and grow, especially their brains. Letting a baby cry does not mean you are a bad mommy. In fact, babies NEED to cry. This is the only form of exercise they get at this stage. If they cry to sufficiently exercise their heart and lungs, they will be more inclined to sleep better. Having a baby that does not cry should not be a goal. Crying is necessary for growth and development. Remember this is only temporary. Also, I would stop "comforting" him to get to sleep or to fall back to sleep. At this age, he should be learning how to do this for himself. Remember, everything we do as parents is moving our children down a path of being able to do for themselves. This is a natural and normal progression. Sometimes parents impede this progress by keeping their baby at a particular stage because they want it. Parenting correctly is a constant battle of consistency and selflessness.