Did you know that your baby can develop habits at lightning-fast speeds? It’s true; even though she cannot walk or talk yet, she can develop a deeply-rooted habit very, very quickly. This explains why, after just a few days of rocking your baby to sleep, she will come to expect to be rocked. And this is why many babies quickly come to need a pacifier to calm down, even if they have only used the pacifier for a week or two.
Babies can be especially prone to develop bad naptime habits. Why? Because that is when we parents are up and about, and are likely to jump in and “help” (by rocking, offering a pacifier, using the swing, etc.) if baby is fighting sleep. And, let’s be honest, most of us would do just about anything to help our babies take long, restful naps, because that translates into down-time for us!
So, what does this fact mean for us as parents? Two things: first, do not feel bad if your baby develops a bad sleeping habit. Sometimes, during our babies’ illnesses or bouts of teething, we have to help them fall asleep occasionally. And newborns often need to be ‘parented’ to sleep. This is understandable, and if our babies develop a sleep association as a result, it is not because we did anything wrong.
Second, this fact is a good reminder to all of us to watch for bad sleeping habits that our babies may be developing, and to take action to correct those habits when we feel it’s necessary.
So, what kinds of bad napping habits should you be on the lookout for? And how can you correct them? Let’s take a look.
5 Bad Napping Habits Your Baby May Develop
- Napping in the Swing. This is an easy one to fall into – believe me, I know from experience! My kids always napped so well in the swing, and while I didn’t usually put them in the swing to sleep at night (that’s not always safe), I would put them in the swing for naps, if they were having a hard time settling down. While it helped ensure that they took long, restorative naps (and gave me time to rest myself!), both of my boys got into the habit of needing the swing to nap, and I eventually had to work on breaking that habit.
- Napping on You. If your baby always needs to lie in your arms for naps, or perhaps ride in the baby carrier at naptime, this could become a napping habit. There is nothing wrong with your baby snuggling up to you at nap time, of course (just as there os nothing wrong with rocking or nursing your baby to sleep!), but it may eventually begin to wear you out, since you will need to put “work” into helping your baby sleep. I had a friend whose baby would not nap well unless he was in his mom’s arms. My friend told me that this was fine, at first (she loved it during the newborn stage), but after a few months, she was ready for her son to learn to nap on his own!
- Napping on the Go. If you have a busy schedule, or if you have older kids who keep you running around from one activity to another, your baby may get into the habit of taking naps on the go (in the car, in the stroller, etc.) While it’s fine for naps to occasionally happen on the go, this should not become a regular thing. For starters, your baby may come to depend on the motion of the car or the stroller to fall asleep. What’s more, moving naps are not as restorative as naps that happen on a still, flat surface (like the crib), meaning that if your baby regularly takes moving naps, his sleep deficit will grow quickly, to the point where he may become overtired.
- Napping Without a Schedule. During the newborn stage, there is no such thing as a by-the-clock schedule. After the first few months, however, predictable patterns may begin go emerge in your baby’s sleep. By about 6 months, your baby will probably be ready for a clock-oriented daytime schedule. It does not have to be a rigid nap schedule, of course, but you should have some general timeframes during which your baby sleeps. However, if your older baby still does not have predictable naptimes, and is napping erratically at random times throughout the day, it’s likely that she’s not getting enough sleep. And all that erratic napping could interfere with nighttime sleep. So it’s best if you implement a daytime schedule to help your baby eat and nap at predictable times.
- Napping Too Much. I know what you’re thinking: “I would do anything to have that problem!” But truly, some parents are faced with a situation in which their baby sleeps for long periods during the day, but then wakes frequently at night. This is especially true during the newborn stage; a baby who has his days and nights mixed up will sleep too much during the day and not enough at night. But older babies can do this, too; a baby who consistently does not get enough sleep at night may take long naps during the day, which causes her to sleep less at night, which causes longer daytime naps…you get the idea.
“One of the more common sleep problems we address in a Personalized Sleep Plan is how to help baby nap in the crib or pack-n-play, instead of a caretaker’s arms. We’ve even had 18+ month olds still napping in arms. While it’s wonderful to cuddle your baby, keep in mind your baby will take naps over 2,500 times before she’s 4 years old! That’s a lot of holding, which would be wonderful if there wasn’t laundry, vacuuming, showering, or eating to do. Some new moms hardly feel like they have time to shower or eat, and the stress mounts. Sometimes having ‘you’ time can be enough to recharge and it’s important.”
How To Avoid Bad Baby Nap Habits, and Help Your Baby Nap Better
Short or non-existent baby naps can be so frustrating – but you don’t have to suffer through them! We have a ton of nap resources – and one of those nap resources is our free guide, 7 Common Napping Mistakes. Are you making any of these common nap mistakes? If so, they may be the cause of your baby’s non-napping. So download your free guide today, and start putting the tips to use as early as your baby’s next nap!
Special Members-Only Nap Resources
Mastering Naps & Schedules — For starters, all Baby Sleep Site® members receive unlimited access to all our e-Books. That’s right – for the price of your membership, you can read all our e-Books at no additional cost! That includes Mastering Naps & Schedules. With over 45 sample schedules (all available for you to view in the Members Area), Mastering Naps & Schedules is THE e-Book for tired parents of non-napping kiddos! We tackle all your top napping issues, including how to get your baby or toddler to take longer naps, how to get your child’s naps to be more consistent and predictable, how to manage nap transitions, how to encourage good napping while traveling – and more! Become a member today, and access the e-Book instantly – no download necessary!
Nap Tele-Seminars — Another great members-only resource? Our tele-seminars. Hosted by Nicole herself, these 30 – 45-minute tele-seminars offer you insider-information and our trademark sleep coaching methods and techniques. We have several awesome nap-focused tele-seminars, including one on managing nap transitions, and one on lengthening short naps! Listening to these seminars is like getting a coaching session from Nicole! She’ll walk you through the basics of dealing with common nap problems and give you tried-and-true strategies you can implement at home.
For more details about all our member benefits (including weekly chats with a trained sleep consultant and 20% off ALL sleep consulting packages), visit our membership page, and consider becoming a member today!
While our Members Area is great for DIY moms who prefer to tackle sleep challenges on their own, we know that other moms much prefer to go straight to one-on-one help. Well, good news – we offer that, and you can start getting the personal help you need TODAY! You can teach your baby a new way to nap – and we can help. We have helped thousands of families around the world with their babies’ nap trouble, and we can help you, too! Take a look at our consultation packages, and see which one looks like a good fit for you.
Once you purchase, you will immediately receive access to the Helpdesk, and you can set up your account, fill out your Family Sleep History form, submit it to a consultant, and get started on the journey to better sleep!