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the crib sheet

the blessings of the nap gods

Brooke Nalle

The other night it was 80+ degrees in the house ... at 8pm.  We are in Rhode Island where we are supposed to have cool crisp New England nights for good sleeping weather; let's just say these cool nights are fewer and further in between.  However, this is a post about naps not global warming.  I knew that it would be another hour or so before the kids' room would be cool enough to consider sleep.  I glanced over at Loewy, my newly minted 3-year old, and quickly thanked the nap gods for returning her nap to us this summer.  She had a few weeks in May and early June when it just wasn't happening.  She made it to 9pm without any major meltdowns, and we all got some sleep that hot night.

I am usually pretty private when it comes to religion and spirituality, but I must admit I have prayed to the sleep gods on more than one occasion.  I do think 90% of sleep for children is behavioral, 5% medical (reflux, sleep apnea), and 5% luck.  In my work, I rarely meet great sleepers.  I meet a lot of children who eventually become great sleepers, but that is from hard work, persistence, and consistency - not magic.  I do feel though that there are some children who just naturally are really good at sleeping.  Usually these babies have large PR firms behind them because it seems like everyone has a sister, a friend, a neighbor, somebody, with an aaaaahhhhmazzzzing sleeper.  You hear about them everywhere.  

As for naps, if you are already praying hard or really crossing your fingers, here are three tips that will help too:

1. Time it right, and try to get these times to repeat on a daily basis.  It helps to have the first morning naps begin no earlier than 8 am (for the 4 month old plus set).  It also helps to shoot for an afternoon nap between 1 and 2 pm (a time of quiet brain activity).  Keep the windows between naps in control - ideally about 90 to 120 minutes - for the 4 to 6+ month olds out there.

2. If your baby needs you to rock, bounce, nurse, jiggle, etc. her to sleep, then she will need that same treatment when she wakes up a short time later.  This would be ok, but a good nap is usually 2 sleep cycles (90 minutes total).  This means a lot of work not always with certain success.  When your baby can run her own nap, she will nap longer and in more predicable time frames.

3. Be prepared for the nap hurdles.  These are the same annoying hiccups that disrupt nighttime sleep - milestones, teeth, illness, travel.  You might need to help your baby a little bit more.  It also really helps to have a back up or 'emergency' nap plan in place.  I had to implement my back up nap plan quite a bit with my middle daughter.  As a result, I know every drive through coffee place and atm in the tri-state area.

Hope these tips help and that luck is on your side.