When you are working on sleep, you generally want better nighttime sleep AND better naps. But can one method achieve both? Can the kind of sleep training method you choose work for nights but not for naps, or vice versa? Do you need to follow a separate set of sleep “rules” for naps than you follow for nights?
The answer is often yes – and that especially applies to those of you who may be using a cry-it-out sleep training approach. Keep reading for all of the details!
Sleep Training: Naps vs. Nights
First off, it’s important to understand how sleep training varies from day to night. The results you see at nighttime may not match the results you get at nap time. You can read this post, Why Nap Sleep Is Different Than Night Sleep, for more details.
Cry It Out Sleep Training
Now, let me be clear – we are not advocating for cry it out sleep training here. There are many, many other ways to work on your baby or toddler’s sleep, and we usually recommend trying some of those options before resorting to cry it out. That said, we recognize (and respect) that some families have weighed all of their options and have decided to use a cry it out approach to sleep training. If that’s you, then you’ll find some of these cry it out articles helpful! These can be helpful before you start, or if you have already started and are struggling:
- Cry It Out Defined and Age To Do It
- Should You Let Your Baby Cry It Out?
- Your Cry It Out Sleep Training Questions Answered
- How Long To Cry It Out
- Will Cry It Out Change Your Baby’s Personality?
Cry It Out For Naps: 5 Things To Remember
In general, cry it out sleep training will work largely the same way for nights and for naps. However, there are 5 pointers you should remember when you’re working on cry it out for naps:
1. Don’t let your baby or toddler cry indefinitely until he falls asleep. This can make cry it out unmanageable for both you and your baby. Instead, choose a length of time for one “attempt” (usually 30-60 minutes).
2. If your baby or toddler doesn’t fall asleep and ends up missing a nap, don’t wait until the next scheduled nap time. That can lead to overtiredness that will, in turn, make sleep training even harder. Rather, try again for another nap attempt 30-60 minutes later. Yes, this means your nap schedule may go out the window for a few days, but remember, your goal is for your baby to learn how to fall asleep independently. Once your child can do that, you can focus on getting the schedule back on track.
3. Here’s a tough but true fact: naps are generally harder than nights, when it comes to cry it out. Many parents report that they start to see success at night before they see success at nap time. Even if a baby cried “just” 20 minutes at night (which can feel like success indeed!), they could cry a whole hour during the day.
4. As mentioned before, the schedule may go out the window if your baby or toddler ends up missing naps due to sleep training. As best you can, try to watch the timing of naps to ensure that you are putting your child down at an optimal time for sleep. We sometimes see situations in which a parent puts a child down too early for a nap to “give them time to cry.” We don’t recommend this at all. You want to put your child down when she is ready for sleep, but not so tired that she can’t relax and actually drift off. Doing this can actually help minimize crying as you get farther along in sleep training.
5. For the 3rd nap (or 4th or 5th), we generally do not recommend letting your child cry. We typically focus on just two naps with cry it out (or just one for a toddler who has already transitioned to one nap).
Remember, no matter how you approach naps with your child, you CAN do it! There is a method out there that will work for you and your baby! It may just take some trial and error to find one that fits.