Sleep Training & Naps: Is It Possible?
Little Yawn Collective - Feb 16, 2022
Here's the truth; nap time can be a real lifesaver. A necessity for babies, but for parents, these short pockets of downtime offer a small break to take a deep breath, rest, and, let's be honest, re-up on coffee to get things done.
Ah, naps are glorious — and more often than not, babies feel the same way. The little ones love taking breaks from the overstimulating world around them. But if you're in the middle of sleep training, chances are your tiny tot feels quite the opposite.
For many parents, they often notice that their once perfect little napper transforms into a Tasmanian devil at naptime the moment sleep training is thrown into the mix. So, does this mean sleep training and naps are impossible and best to keep separate? Well, not exactly.
Interested in learning more? We can help. Read on as we explore the ins and outs of sleep training to discover if it's possible to do with naps (and your sanity intact). Are you ready?
Let's dive in!
When Should Sleep Training Start?
First things first, what exactly is sleep training, anyway?
Put simply, sleep training is an umbrella term for a wide range of time-tested approaches designed to help tiny tots learn to soothe themselves to sleep.
The goal in implementing one of these techniques is that your little one develops and masters the essential sleep skills needed to drift off to dreamland without any assistance.
Around the four to sixth-month mark, experts say babies should be developmentally ready to start learning to fall asleep on their own without excessive parental intervention.
By that, we mean you should be able to place your drowsy tot into their bed (after a calming massage using our nourishing body lotion, a snuggly bedtime story, and a sweet goodnight kiss, of course), then leave the nursery and let them drift off.
Sleep training helps your tiny snoozer fall asleep without a parent feeding, rocking, or coaxing them to slumber. Sounds nice, doesn't it?
How Long Does Sleep Training Take?
Although it can vary from method to method, sleep training usually works after a week or two when consistent in your approach. Many folks are under the impression that it will take weeks and even months, but it shouldn't.
If you're trying to sleep train your baby and aren't seeing any progress after a couple of weeks, consider calling your pediatrician, who can offer tips and advice.
What Method Is Most Effective?
Unfortunately, there's no clear-cut answer as to what method is most effective because all babies are different, and whereas one child might do well following one approach, another might not.
In addition, just as no two babies are exactly the same, no two parenting styles are either.
Some parents and baby experts feel certain sleep training approaches such as the Ferber method (aka, Ferberizing) are way too harsh and prefer gentler no-cry sleep training techniques, while advocates of cry-it-out methods say it's perfectly fine to ignore a baby's cries as they learn to self-soothe.
At the end of the day, sleep training methods have been studied and practiced for many years. They are effective and can help you to train your little one to snooze independently, but if you're not consistent in your approach, you likely won't get the results that you're after.
In other words, all sleep training methods are effective when you are consistent. So do your research to find one that suits your family and stick with it!
Can My Child Take Naps During Sleep Training?
Yes, absolutely! In fact, babies should always take naps — although optional for adults, naps are critical for a tiny tots' overall health and development.
Additionally, little ones have different sleep patterns than adults and generally can't keep their peepers open for long stretches of time. This is because there are two biological processes that regulate sleep:
- Circadian rhythm (based on light and dark)
- Homeostatic process (based on how long we've been awake)
The homeostatic process happens much more quickly for babies, simply meaning that they can't tolerate being awake for too long. Some experts think that the rapid brain development happening during the early years tuckers the little ones out!
Needing to nap to get through the day is most evident in small bundles, who tend to stay awake for only brief periods at a time. Awake-time tolerance gradually increases over the first few years of life, and by age 5, most kiddos no longer need to nap.
So, can your child take naps during sleep training? Yes, in fact, it's recommended. However, no one said it would be easy.
Why Is Naptime More Challenging When Sleep Training?
Naptime can become challenging during sleep training due to a couple of factors.
For starters, there's less melatonin (the sleepy hormone) circulating in your little one's tiny body during the daytime. You see, when our eyes are exposed to light, a signal is sent to our brain to suppress melatonin and produce cortisol.
The opposite takes place at night when the sun goes down, and there's an absence of light — a signal is sent to the brain to produce melatonin and suppress cortisol.
Additionally, adenosine is produced while we're awake — and the longer we go without catching zzzs, the more adenosine we have in our system. This essential chemical connects neurons in the brain and inhibits brain function, which promotes sleepiness.
So the reason why nighttime sleep comes much easier for your baby than daytime sleep via naps is that they not only have a whole lot of sleep pressure (adenosine) built-up throughout the day, but they also have the added presence of melatonin.
The result? Your tiny tot is extra snoozy at night!
Due to the absence of darkness and, therefore, melatonin in the body during the day, babies are simply not as sleepy when the sun is out and, in turn, are generally less motivated to fall asleep and stay asleep when it's time to nap.
How Should Sleep Training Work If My Baby Takes Naps?
Is your sweet baby ready to start sleep training? Here are a few tips that you may find helpful if your little one takes naps.
Use Naps To Your Advantage
Your small bundle has likely been taking naps since the moment they left the womb. In other words, naps are nothing new to them. Sleep training, on the other hand, is a totally new and mysterious thing for babies that may take some time to get used to.
To help your sweet pea get accustomed to sleep training, use naps to your advantage and implement the same naptime routine at bedtime.
For example, if you do a diaper change, infant massage, and quickly snuggle with your tot before naptime, try doing the same ritual at bedtime. This helps establish comfort and reinforces that it's time to wind down for sleep.
Get Familiar With Your Baby's Sleepiness Cues
When establishing a consistent sleep schedule, it can be extremely helpful to take your baby's natural sleep preferences into account. No, this doesn't mean creating a shared calendar for your small bundle to list their preferred nap times — instead, you'll have to learn to read their body language.
When babies become tired, they tend to exhibit signs of sleepiness, including the following sleep cues:
- Eye rubbing
- Closed fists
- Ear pulling
- Droopy eyelids
By putting your tiny tot down for a daytime nap when they show these telltale signs of sleepiness, they will have a much easier time drifting off to la-la land. Just try not to wait too long to take action, or your snoozy baby may become overtired.
Keep a Consistent Sleep and Nap Schedule
A nap routine should essentially be a shortened version of your nighttime routine and should be consistently carried out for each nap.
Keeping a regular sleep schedule can help maintain the timing of your little one's internal clock, which can help them to fall asleep faster and stay asleep for longer stretches of time.
In other words, consistency is key!
Keep Mealtime and Naptime Separate
Although feeding a baby before an afternoon cat-nap can encourage a restful snooze, you'll want to avoid this activity at bedtime. Why?
Because feeding your baby consistently before it's time to hit the hay can cause them to create a sleep association between feeding and sleeping — otherwise known as a feed-to-sleep association.
This means your baby associates the process of falling asleep with feeding and will require feeding every time they wake at night in order to get back to sleep.
A feed-to-sleep association can spell trouble for parents who enjoy their beauty sleep. Thankfully, as long as you keep mealtime and naptime separate to prevent the association from developing in the first place, it's pretty easy to avoid.
It's important to keep in mind that any new skill requires consistency as well as a whole lot of patience. Because no two babies are exactly alike, there isn't a set timeline for when your little buddy's sleep training will lead to a regular and healthy sleep schedule.
That said, if your tiny tot continues to protest sleep when it's time to nap, it's perfectly normal to feel discouraged. Just remember — you've got this, and with practice, you'll get it down, too.
Some babies simply need more time, whereas others seem to have this whole sleep thing down from day one. Stick to a consistent sleep schedule and trust the sleep training process. Sooner than later, the struggles of sleep training will feel like a distant dream — we promise.
When Will My Baby Stop Napping?
There's no set-in-stone age that signals when a child is ready to stop napping. Some tiny tots stop taking naps by age three, while other kiddos continue napping past age five. However, the average age for children to stop taking naps is sometime between three and five years of age.
Generally speaking, kids should stop taking naps when they no longer need a daytime snooze to feel energized for a full day. So if your little one is able to skip their afternoon siesta without any signs of exhaustion or crankiness, then they may be ready to stop napping.
The Bottom Line
So, is sleep training and naps possible? Absolutely!
Although sleep training may make naptime a little more challenging and vice versa, you’ll find that sleep training is totally possible with naps — as long as you are consistent with the sleep schedule and stick to the bedtime routine!
Keep in mind the first few days of sleep training will be difficult and may come with a lot of tears, from both you and your baby — but keep at it. With patience and consistency, you should see results within the first week.
Need a little assistance to help make bedtime a breeze? Check us out here at Little Yawn Collective and discover our safe, effective, melatonin-free snoozy essentials designed specifically for kids.
Happier bedtimes await!
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