We’re convinced…nap training can break any marriage…no matter how strong the marriage was to begin with. Just kidding.
We mentioned last week that we made the decision to nap train Baby R because Cindy is going back to work and we don’t think rocking/holding Baby R to sleep for naps is sustainable.
Sleep training using the “Cry It Out” method is already so contentious. So it’s no surprise that there’s not much information on nap training…much less on how to nap train. We spent all last week doing our research, deciding on the best method, and setting a game plan. We mentally and emotionally hyped ourselves up all last week so that we wouldn’t break this week. Everything online says nap training is 10x harder than sleep training. And we have to agree, nap training using the “Cry It Out” method is one of the hardest things we’ve ever had to do. We wouldn’t wish it upon any enemy (if we had enemies).
Since there isn’t much information out there, we’ve decided to journal our experience.
We used a mix of the Ferber Method and Natalie Willes “Cry It Out for Naps” blog. Our game plan was to do our normal naptime routine (put Baby R in her sleep sack, turn on the fan for white noise, dim the room by drawing the dark-out curtains, pacifier, and singing a few lullabies). Then we would lay Baby R in her crib and if she cries, we’d let her cry it out for about an hour. Natalie Willes recommends not letting baby cry for more than an hour. (Cindy misread this and thought she recommended letting baby cry for at least an hour…more on that later). The Ferber method recommends 30 minutes of crying. If after the designated cry time is up and Baby R is still not asleep, we’d pick her up and play for about 30-60 minutes or until we start to see sleep cues (like yawning, rubbing her eyes, fussiness, etc.) and then start the nap time routine all over again. Natalie Willes suggests staying consistent for every nap and not doing any “rescue naps”…meaning you don’t help the baby sleep for any nap by rocking, holding, doing a stroller walk, driving with baby in the car seat, etc. Other websites say to focus on the first 2 naps and do what you need to do for the last nap of the day. Baby R is still on a 4 nap schedule, so we decided to stay consistent for the first 3 naps and baby-wear her for the last nap. The most ubiquitous piece of advice we’ve read about nap training is that the key to success is consistency. We made a conscious effort to have 0 plans this week as well as the week after in order to stay dedicated to nap training. Everything we’ve read online says progress can take anywhere from 5 days to a couple of weeks (much much longer than sleep training).
And with that…here’s how our nap training journey went (we’re writing this as we go…so we don’t know if we’re successful or not…or if we gave up or not…)
Nap Training Day 1
The day started out pretty successful! We went about our morning routine as usual and come nap time, we did all the steps and laid Baby R down in her crib for Nap #1. Cindy read somewhere that this was a good time to take a shower, so you don’t have to listen to the crying. So that’s exactly what she did. She hopped in the shower…and by the time she hopped out…Baby R had stopped crying and was asleep. She had cried for about 20 minutes. We were sooo optimistic that nap training wouldn’t be as bad as everyone online made it sound!
Baby R successfully napped for about an hour and twenty minutes for her first nap! She connected her sleep cycles and napped for 2 full cycles unaided! Normally, Cindy would have to hold her for the second half of the nap. Apparently, babies can’t connect sleep cycles for naps until they get older (around 4-5 months). And they learn naps in order…so the first nap of the day is the first to lengthen, then the second, then the last.
We’re glad the first nap was successful…otherwise we might have given up. For Nap #2, Baby R cried for a full hour. Listening to Baby R cry was EXTREMELY HARD. We heard cries and shrills we’ve never heard before. She was hysterical and it was heartbreaking. And we felt so so so guilty and so so so awful. After the hour, we picked her up, calmed her, and played with her. We decided to shower her with 100x the love when she was awake, so she would know we truly, deeply love her. After about 30 minutes, we saw sleepy cues and started the process again. This time, Baby R cried for about 20 minutes before falling asleep. Nap #2 was a success on the second attempt! She slept for 40 minutes and woke up.
Since Nap #2 was so short, Baby R got tired a little earlier than normal. So we got ready to do Nap #3. This part of the day was the hardest to endure and it was the part that made us question everything… whether or not we should continue. Baby R basically cried on every attempt for the rest of the day & DID NOT NAP (from about 2:30-6:00p). Her crib sheet was so soaked with tears & saliva we had to change it so she would have dry sheets for bedtime. This part of the day was EXCRUCIATINGLY PAINFUL.
At 6:00p, we gave up on Nap #3 and wore her for Nap #4. She was so tired, she knocked out within 5 minutes of being in the carrier. Because she was so tired, we let her sleep until 7:15ish (about 15 minutes before her bedtime routine would start).
That night, Baby R cried for about 15 minutes before falling asleep…and slept for 11 hours.
Day 1…was rough. We were both emotionally drained. Cindy questioned if all this crying was even necessary…or even worth it…if it would yield any progress…or if we were doing this all for nothing. So what if Baby R requires rocking for naps? She was a happier baby… But then we read stories of 2 year-olds still having nap troubles. And we’re fairly certain that Baby R’s naps would get disrupted when Cindy goes back to work. So the trade off is a couple weeks of suffering for the potential that Baby R can learn to nap on her own OR enjoy the last few weeks of maternity leave with a happy baby for the certainty that Baby R would have bad naps once Cindy goes back to work.
We decided to continue and tough it out for at least a week. Otherwise, all the crying from the day would have been for nothing. We reread Natalie Willes blog and realized she wrote “does not recommend crying for more than an hour” NOT “recommends crying for at least an hour”. We reassessed the day and decided we would do 30 minutes of crying max…since Baby R seemed to fall asleep with 20 minutes of crying if she was going to fall asleep.
Our morale was down. But we tried to stay optimistic and count the wins of the day…which, in retrospect, were HUGE wins. Baby R slept for a decent amount of time for Nap #1. And she was able to fall asleep for Nap #2 on the second attempt! Praying for a better Day 2.
Total Crying Time (including bedtime): about 4 hours
Total Day Sleep: 3ish hours
Nap Training Day 2
We woke up still feeling guilty about the day before and awfully dreading the day ahead. Baby R woke up pretty happy…we think…
We went about our morning routine and before we knew it, it was time for Nap #1. Because Nap #1 was such a success yesterday, we were really hoping it would be successful today as well. Unfortunately, the first attempt was not. Baby R cried as soon as Cindy placed her down in the crib. We were a little worried she was going to start associating crib and laying down with torture… Her voice was so hoarse from all the crying the day before, it was extremely heartbreaking. Cindy wasn’t sure if she would be able to continue with this, especially since she was going to be alone with Baby R for most of the day– Jake had to go to campus. After 30 minutes of crying, we picked up Baby R and soothed her. Then, we tried again about 30 minutes later. Cindy went to take a shower this time and when she got out (20 minutes later), Baby R was asleep! Once again, she slept from 10:40-12:20. Success!
Even though Baby R had a great nap, Cindy was still worried Baby R would be too riled from all the crying to have a good play time. She was worried Baby R wouldn’t want to practice rolling anymore. But Baby R ended having a wonderful play time! She even flashed a few smiles!
Cindy was extremely stressed and worried about Nap #2. She was prepared for a 30 minute bout of crying and a failed first attempt. She wasn’t even sure if the second attempt would be a success. She was fully prepared for non-stop crying and failed naps for the rest of the day. To her surprise, Baby R cried for about 10 minutes with another 8ish minutes of tapered crying/whimpers and fell asleep! Cindy was so shocked…she wasn’t sure what to do with her free time… she ended up doing her pelvic floor & ab exercises. Because Nap #2 was also a success, the day didn’t seem like it would drag on like it did yesterday. In fact, the day seemed to be flying by! We were over the hump of the day! Baby R napped from about 2:30-3:05. This nap was on the shorter side which isn’t ideal but we’ll take the wins we can get.
We didn’t expect Nap #3 to be successful…and we were right. Baby R cried right through her allotted “cry it out” period with no sign of calming down. We picked her up (5 minutes early because Cindy couldn’t bear it) and soothed her. Then we put her in the baby carrier and walked to the grocery store to pick up a few things. Baby R napped for 30 minutes during the walk.
That night, Baby R cried for about an hour and five minutes before falling asleep. She slept for 11 hours. We’re not sure if she was overtired from the day…or just really didn’t want to be put down… the one hour of crying was so miserable. It nearly undid all the feelings of success from the day. We’re trying to stay positive…but it’s getting harder.
Overall, Day 2 felt like it went muuuuch better than Day 1. It wasn’t as unbearable. We think reducing the “cry it out” time from 1 hour to 30 minutes was a VERY GOOD decision. We also decided to not have Baby R cry it out for Nap #3. Because Nap #3 is already such a hard nap to get babies down for, we figured it wasn’t worth having her cry for the 30 minutes knowing she likely wouldn’t fall asleep. We’re committing to not rocking her to sleep though, so Nap #3 will either be a stroller walk or baby-wear.
We’re really hoping Day 3 is a little easier because it’s getting harder and harder. We miss our normally happy, smiley baby. We hope we can get that baby back when “training” is done. Because if we don’t get that happy baby back, then this was probably all not worth it.
Total Crying Time (including bedtime): 2 hours & 45 minutes
Total Day Sleep: 2 hours & 40 minutes
Nap Training Day 3
It doesn’t get easier. Cindy woke up wondering if Baby R will ever be a happy baby again. Even though Day 2 was pretty successful (in terms of naps), she was still dreading the day ahead– especially since Jake would be on campus again for the majority of the day. It’s hard to endure the crying alone.
Nap #1. You just never know how it’s going to go. Baby R cried some earth shattering cries for about 18 minutes. It didn’t sound like she was going to stop anytime soon. And it was looking like she would probably need the 2nd attempt. To our surprise…she stopped crying! She slept from about 9:20-10:50ish!! With an extra 20 minutes of dozing on and off on the boob, which is technically not allowed but Cindy couldn’t help it. Afterwards, we had a little over an hour and a half of play with lots of tummy time and a few smiles.
Even though Nap #1 was a huge success, Cindy was still worried about Nap #2. You can’t have 2 wins in a day right? Before Nap #1 was even done, Cindy was already stressing about Nap #2. She was hopeful she’d be proven wrong and Baby R would go down on the first attempt…unfortunately, Baby R cried the entire 30 minutes. At least this time, the cries weren’t as shrill as the previous days. Cindy picked Baby R up, soothed her, and did some play time. Baby R dished out LOTS of BIG HAPPY SMILES during this playtime. She even threw in some giggles and laughs! Our happy baby is still there!!! Instead of going off the clock and playing for 30-60 minutes, Cindy went off sleep cues. At around 2:15, Cindy started to see some yawns and eye rubbing so she got Baby R ready for Nap #2 Attempt #2. And…success!! After about 10 minutes of crying, Baby R knocked out. She slept from 2:30-3:00p. Because the nap was so short, Cindy left Baby R in the crib for an extra 15 minutes to see if Baby R can get back to sleep. Baby R ended crying on and off through the 15 minutes.
Nap #3/#4 was a stroller walk “rescue” nap. Since it was so late in the day, there wasn’t enough time for 2 more naps, so Cindy combined Nap #3 & #4. Baby R slept sooooo soundly in the stroller. She’d been fighting the stroller recently, even more so stroller naps. So it was a surprise when she drifted off to sleep in about 15 minutes. She napped for an hour and twenty minutes. Cindy got in some good exercise! This nap was muuuuch needed for Baby R. It allowed her to catch up on some of the missed sleep. She woke up feeling refreshed…we think… Hopefully this stroller nap doesn’t undo any “nap training” progress we’ve made. We’ll find out tomorrow.
This new plan seems to work for us. We’re happy we readjusted our “game plan”. It’s gentler on Baby R and mentally & emotionally easier for us to handle.
That night, Baby R still cried a good amount before bed (about 30 minutes with an additional 15 minutes of tapered crying/whimpers). We’re not sure if it’s because she’s overtired or because she doesn’t want to be put down. The bedtime cries are always hard to hear.
Baby R has started crying any time we lay her down, especially when we have to lay her down to change her diaper. It makes us so sad that she’s associating laying down with “sad”. We hope she knows we love her and that laying down isn’t always a “sad” thing.
Total Crying Time (including bedtime): 1 hour & 55 minutes
Total Day Sleep: 3 hours & 20 minutes
Nap Training Day 4
Cindy starts to feel extreme anxiety come nap and bed time now. We’re pretty sure Baby R does too.
Nap #1 did not go well. Baby R cried through her allotted 30 minute period. We picked her up, soothed her, fed her, and played. Deciding whether or not to feed her takes a little mental calculation and risk-benefit analysis. Feed her and risk her dozing off on the boob thus releasing sleep pressure or wait until after she naps but risk that being too long between feeds. After about an hour and twenty minutes (meaning over 3 hours of being awake!!!) we tried for Nap #1 Attempt #2. We hold our breath every time because you never know if Attempt #2 is guaranteed. She screamed for about 10 minutes before she fell asleep. She slept from 11:00-11:30ish, woke up and cried for a couple of minutes, then, fell back asleep until 12:47!!!
Because Nap #1 ended so late, we weren’t sure if Nap #2 was still Nap #2 or if it was technically Nap #3… Cindy put Baby R down at 2:55p when she saw sleepy cues (a biiiig yawn). Baby R cried for 40 minutes. At around the 30 minute mark, her cries were starting to taper off, so we thought she was finally falling asleep. But then she would cry again and then taper off again. We were sooo bummed. It felt like we took a huge step backwards today since neither nap happened on the first attempt. After about 30 minutes (around 4:35) Baby R started showing sleepy cues again, so we decided to give Nap #2 another try. Really though, at this point, this might as well have just been Nap #4… Baby R cried for about 15 minutes before falling asleep… for exactly 30 minutes.
Naps didn’t really happen for the rest of the evening. She maybe dozed off in the baby carrier for like 10 minutes but that was it. We could tell she was extremely tired by bedtime.
Today was hard. Cindy finally broke and cried. She wondered whether or not this was all even necessary… had she just wasted a week of what could have been cuddles and fun times with Baby R!? We’re not sure if we can keep doing this.
That night, Baby R cried for about 15 minutes before falling asleep. She slept for 11 hours and 20ish minutes.
Total Crying Time (including bedtime): 1 hour & 50 minutes
Total Day Sleep: 2 hours & 17 minutes
Nap Training Day 5
When they say nap training can take a week, they mean a business week right…like 5 business days? We can dream.
Last night, Cindy scoured the “What To Expect Forums” for a little encouragement and moral support. It was hard to find, but she found other parents out there who also nap trained their almost 4.5 month old babies successfully, doing the same method we were doing. It just felt wrong to give up after being so many days in. We committed to a week and said we’d reassess if it seemed like no progress was being made. Although…it’s really unclear if we’ve made any progress so far or if we’ve just been hovering around baseline… Also…what’s considered progress? Is progress that she’ll nap in the crib? That she’ll nap in the crib on the first attempt? That she’ll nap in the crib on the first attempt with no crying?
Nap #1 was a surprising success! Baby R cried for 13ish minutes before falling asleep. She napped from 9:25ish- 10:50. We felt a new wave of “we can do this!” But also didn’t want to celebrate too much for fear of jinxing Nap #2…cuz that’s how that works right?
So…umm….Nap #2 was a success on the first attempt…?!?!?!?! WHAT!?!?! We’re not sure if it’s because Cindy spent a little more time “winding down” or if Baby R is starting to get it… or both…? Cindy spent about 10 minutes sitting in the dark room singing lullabies to Baby R. When she put Baby R down at around 12:25, Baby R was looking a little drowsy but still awake. She let the lullaby music play a couple more times as she walked out of the room. Baby R was pretty quiet for about 5 minutes. Then fussed around for another 10 minutes. The suspense was killing Cindy, so she went to take a quick shower. When she came out, Baby R was crying but on and off. She went quiet around 12:50. Did one cry at 12:55 then went quiet….another cry at 12:59…and then we’re assuming she fell asleep… She napped from 1:00ish-1:40!
WAS. THIS. A. FLUKE.
We’ll find out tomorrow. But, for now, we’ll celebrate the success!!!
Nap #3 was a stroller walk. Baby R napped for about 40 minutes. And Nap #4 was baby-wearing. That was a 45ish minute nap.
Today was infinitely better than the last four days. Once Baby R went down for Nap #2, it felt like we could stop holding our breaths and finally enjoy the day! Baby R was SO HAPPY all day. She smiled sooo much and let out lots and lots of giggles & laughs. It’s no wonder, she was well rested! It was reassuring to know we still have our happy baby! Our day felt like our “pre-nap training” days and the routine & familiarity was comforting. We really hope today wasn’t a fluke and that we’re moving closer and closer towards success.
That night, Baby R cried for only 5 minutes…and slept for 11 and 1/2 hours
Total Crying Time (including bedtime): 40 minutes
Total Day Sleep: 3 hours & 30 minutes
Nap Training Day 6
HAVE WE TURNED A CORNER!?!?!?! *knock on wood*
Baby R went down for Nap #1 with only 5 minutes of crying!!! She slept from 9:10-10:50.
We are in shock and disbelief. We’re not fully celebrating yet… we’ll see how Nap #2 goes…but if we’re able to get 3 days in a row of “all naps on the first attempt with minimal crying”, then we’ll bust out the cider (cuz we don’t drink) and celebrate!
Wow!!! Nap #2… 3 minutes of crying!!!!!!! We still felt bad during the 3 minutes of crying…even though the crying has been waaaay shorter, it has been waaaay more intense. Her voice has been so hoarse the past couple of days. Poor baby. She napped from 12:30ish-1:15!
Nap #3 was a stroller walk to a nearby pumpkin patch!! We timed the walk and looped around our neighborhood so that by the time Baby R woke up she’d be ready to have fun and pick out her first pumpkin! Her nap lasted around 40 minutes. Nap #4 was a nice snuggle nap via baby-wearing. That nap only lasted about 35 minutes.
That night, Baby R cried and fussed on and off for about 40 minutes before falling asleep. She slept for about 11 hours and 30ish minutes.
Total Crying Time (including bedtime): 40ish minutes
Total Day Sleep: 3 hours and 40 minutes
Nap Training Day 7
We’re really hoping we hit 3 for 3 because then we can start believing the past couple of days haven’t been a fluke!!
We couldn’t believe it. Nap #1, Baby R went down with ZERO crying! She slept for about 1 hour.
Nap #2, she went down with about 5 minutes of fussing and slept for about 30 minutes (as usual). Since the first nap was not as long as normal, Cindy decided to extend Nap #2 by rocking Baby R back to sleep and doing a contact nap (which she thoroughly soaked in and enjoyed). Baby R napped an additional hour. Afterwards Cindy started to worry the one contact nap single handedly undid all nap training progress we had made. Guess we’ll find out tomorrow…
We’ve officially hit 3 for 3!!! We’re still a little bit skeptical…but we’re pretty sure we’ve made it through the storm!!! Can it really be that nap training really worked?!?!?! We’re still planning on spending the next week keeping to the routine and consistency in order to reinforce napping in the crib. Then, like the Natalie Willies’ blog says, we can go back to living life and being flexible (and maybe even sneak in a couple contact naps every now and then).
Nap #3 was a stroller walk to the grocery store…about 40 minutes. And Nap #4 was baby-wear…about 30 minutes.
That night, Baby R cried & screamed for about 50 minutes before falling asleep…but we’re pretty sure it’s because she was overtired… she had been up for a little too long. She slept for 11 hours.
Total Crying Time (including bedtime): 55 minutes
Total Day Sleep: 3 hours & 40 minutes
Final Thoughts & Reflections
We were planning on continuing the “Nap Training Diaries” into next week. But since it seems like we’ve made it through in one week, we won’t have a post dedicated to nap training. We’ll just add a few updates instead.
Overall, nap training was extremely mentally and emotionally difficult. We have to agree with everything we’ve read online…it really is 10x harder than sleep training. Since we don’t know what the alternative would have looked like (whether or not Baby R would have eventually figured out how to nap on her own in her crib), we’ll never know if this was all worth it or not. But what we do know is that we survived the week, that nap training worked, and that our baby is still a happy thriving baby. In fact, we heard our first hearty, big belly laugh this week! And Baby R has been working hard on trying to crawl! She’s been trying to push up onto her knees and has managed to scoot herself forwards and backwards (on accident) a few times!
For the next few weeks, we’ll be working on having Baby R generalize her naptime routine to other caregivers (starting with Jake) so Cindy isn’t the only one who can get her down for naps. And, fingers crossed, that she’ll be able to nap with Jake working on his side of the room. Although, if that doesn’t happen we’ll just reconfigure Jake’s workspace elsewhere. We’re fully satisfied with the progress we’ve made this week.
If there are any takeaways from what we’ve went through its the following:
It really helps to have a general plan because that structure can help benchmark your days and help you garner the strength to get through the crying. It’s like running, when you can count down the miles you have left, it’s not as bad as running for an indefinite amount of time. But, as you’ve read, it’s okay to modify and adjust the plan each day (as you learn what you and baby are able to tolerate) so that your plan is better fit for you.
Eventually we found it helpful to watch both wake windows and sleepy cues vs. just looking for one over the other. We would begin the naptime routine near the end of her wake window and wait for a sleepy cue (usually a nice big yawn) before making the move towards the crib.
And finally, some articles suggest sleep training and nap training at the same time to get it all over with. We think it might be easier to sleep train first, then nap train a few weeks later. At least for us, we think doing both at the same time would have been way too much crying for us to handle. Another benefit to doing nap training later is that we at least knew she was perfectly capable of putting herself to sleep.