- Mom, not baby, decides when nap will start
- Mom, not baby, decides when nap will end
- If baby wakes up cranky, he didn't have a good enough nap
Once you understand the concept of "Mom, not baby, decides..." it should be more clear as to why that is so vital for your baby's wake up disposition. This doesn't mean you say, "I know you aren't tired right now, but you are going to bed because I decided." It means that you analyze the factors to ensure your child is getting enough sleep. You say, "Hmm...you aren't tired right now even though you usually are. Maybe you are ready to extend waketime length?"
In order to "decide" as accurately as possible, you need some things. You need to know your child. I have written a post titled: Get To Know Your Child's Personality: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/02/get-to-know-your-childs-personality.html.
When you know your child, you know the sleep cues (Nap Cues : http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/03/nap-cues.html), or you no there are no sleep cues and that you need to watch the clock. You also know your child's sleep needs. Does he sleep more than average? Less than average? You also know how he feels about sleep. My son doesn't particularly like to sleep. My daughter loves it, though. So if she cries after I put her down, I know something is really wrong. When you know your child, you know how disruptions affect him. You know how extra stimulation affects him. You know whether it is no big deal or if he needs to go down a bit early.
You also need to know your child's patterns. Having a consistent schedule makes this job much easier. Getting a Consistent Schedule: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/01/getting-consistent-schedule.html. If you have a hard time hitting things right, keep a log: Problem Solving Tip: Detailed Log : http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/03/problem-solving-tip-detailed-log.html.
You also need to know how long the nap should last. Then, if the nap is shorter than it should be, you can do problem solving to decide why and what to do about it.
If your child is older than 6 months old and regularly wakes up from a nap crying, then I would look into the situation to see how to change that.
Let's go over each rule with a bit more detail:
RULE #1: Mom, not baby, decides when nap will start
Like I said, this doesn't mean you put your child down when you feel like it and insist he sleep. This means you consider all factors to know when you should put him down.
- Sleep cues are a wonderful way to know when the nap needs to start Nap Cues : http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/03/nap-cues.html
- Optimal waketime length will help you partner with the clock to guide the length of time until the next nap. This is knowing the perfect length of waketime for your child so she will take the right length of nap and not get overtired. Waketime: Length, Extending, and Calculating: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/02/waketime-length-extending-and.html. A log will also help you determine how long this should be.
- Actual waketime length is another good indicator. Knowing when your child woke up from the nap helps you monitor the waketime. If your child wakes up and is pretty quiet, a baby monitor helps to hear those first babbles. I definitely need one for Kaitlyn.
- Waketime activities are important to some children. If you were at a noisy place, your child might be over stimulated and need to go down earlier. This is another area where keeping a log helps.
- Desired naptime length coupled with the next one,
- Cycle length will help you gauge the waketime length. If you are on a 3 hour schedule and want a 1.5-2 hour nap, then you need 1-1.5 hours of waketime.
You decide when it starts. If your child protests (which many do, they want to play not sleep), you still decide. You don't say, "Oh, well I know you really should go down right now, but since you don't want to, you can stay up an extra 15 minutes and see if you change your mind by then." At that point, your child will likely be too tired and take a short nap--and therefore wake up early.
At those stages when baby is working on skills or talking and playing instead of going to sleep, you need to address that. Be sure your child is getting enough practice on the skills for waketime. Know if you should interfere or not. Maybe you need to go in and tell him it is time to lay down and go to sleep.
RULE #2: Mom, not baby, decides when nap will end
Again, you don't just say, "I have decided you will sleep for 2.5 hours even though you usually nap for 1.5 hours, so do so." No. You need to consider factors to determine how long your child should be sleeping. Many of them are similar to the previous section.
- Desired naptime length for your cycle length and child's age will help you gauge the naptime length. If you are on a 3 hour schedule then you want a 1.5-2 hour nap. Again, keep in mind that 1.5 hours is okay. If your child sleeps that long and is happy, don't fight him to go back to sleep.
- Child's sleep disposition will tell you which end of the range your child is at. My son was at the shorter end of averages. My daughter has always been at the longer end of averages. Know where your child is and what to expect.
- Know when your baby actually wakes up from the nap. A monitor will tell you this. This way you will know for sure if your child woke up happy initially and then started to cry after being awake in his crib for 15 minutes, or if he woke from a sound sleep in a cry. I have to use a monitor to know this.
- If your child wakes earlier than he should, analyze the external factors and troubleshoot the situation. Is your child teething or sick? Was the dog barking? Is your child in a growth spurt? Was he up too long? Is he cold? Really try to find the reason for the early waking so you can know both what to do about it and how to avoid it in the future. See Naps: Troubleshooting: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2007/12/naps-troubleshooting.html and Nap Disruptions: Rolling, Standing, Crawling, etc: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/01/nap-disruptions-rolling-standing.html
- Be aware of transition time. 30-45 minutes into a nap is the transition time, and your child can be woken up more easily at this time. If the dog was barking during the transition and your child woke up, that is likely the reason. With Brayden, we were always quiet at his transition time. He was so curious that if he heard one sound, he woke fully. Kaitlyn likes to sleep, she doesn't seem to care what is going on while she is sleeping. This is another reason I like monitors. You then know the time your child actually fell asleep--or at least have a better idea.
- Wake baby up if necessary. If your child is a sleeper and still asleep when the nap should be over, wake him up. This is part of your decision. Of course there are times you will decide it is better for him to sleep a little longer. Maybe his previous nap was too short. Maybe he is sick and and needs some extra sleep. Should you wake up a sleeping child? : http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/04/should-you-wake-up-sleeping-child.html
If your baby is well rested, he will wake up and be happy initially (older than 6 months old). He will wake up and babble or sing or whatever. Some will do that for a long time before you go get him. Others are less patient and will soon start to scream for you.
If your child is waking up early, you then need to decide what to do about it. See these posts for help in that decision:
- Waking Early From Naps/Won't Fall Asleep For Naps: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/01/waking-early-from-napswont-fall-asleep.html
- Easy Nap Fix: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/01/easy-nap-fix.html
- Dropping Naps: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/01/dropping-naps.html
- Waketime When Baby Wakes Early : http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/04/waketime-when-baby-wakes-early.html
- Comforting a Sick Toddler/Baby: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/01/comforting-sick-toddlerbaby.html
- Dealing With Disruptions To Your Routine: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2007/12/dealing-with-disruptions-in-your.html
- Nap Disruptions: Rolling, Standing, Crawling, etc: http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/2008/01/nap-disruptions-rolling-standing.html