Wondering how to get your baby to nap in the crib during the day instead of your arms or the swing? Get tips to help with daytime naps!
You’ve been lucky with nighttime sleep, at least. Because for some time now, your baby has been sleeping through the night in the crib. But for whatever reason, she still won’t sleep in it during the day.
Instead, she’s been napping in the swing or carrier, the one surefire way she can sleep. But you know that this won’t last—she’s already outgrowing it and won’t fit much longer (her feet are almost hanging over the edge!). She can certainly fall asleep in your arms, but you’re exhausted holding her all day.
Of course, you want to put her down for nap times in the crib, but she either doesn’t fall asleep at all or sleeps no longer than 30 minutes. Sometimes she can lay quietly awake for a few minutes before crying after a while. This crying then escalates to full-blown screaming that it’s hard to expect her to sleep after that.
You’d like to get things done while your baby naps, not cock an ear for the slightest sound or tiptoe around the house so she doesn’t wake up. Repeatedly picking her up and putting her back down isn’t effective, and forget about rocking her to sleep at this stage.
With naps so dependent on your arms, you’re afraid she won’t nap at all without these crutches.
How to get your baby to nap in the crib during the day
During the newborn stage, exhaustion is understandable since your baby is still adjusting to her sleep environment. But several months of this can take a toll on the family after a while.
Thankfully, you have plenty of actionable steps you can do to finally get her to nap in the crib. You don’t have to rock or bounce her to sleep for naps, nor do you need to worry that she might outgrow the swing. By making changes—both practical and in your mindset—you can help her take naps in the crib.
Take a look at these simple steps to help your baby sleep:
1. Give your baby a chance to self soothe
Do you pick your baby up with every whimper and hold him until he falls asleep? He likely struggles with napping in the crib because he’s had few chances to fall asleep on his own. He’s grown used to the motion of the swing, stroller, car seat, or the confines of your arms. No wonder he cries when things are different.
But as you can imagine, doing the same things over and over can perpetuate those same habits.
Letting him fall asleep in your arms or the swing won’t help him in the long term. One trick is to give him a chance to self-soothe with each nap.
Lay him down when he’s sleepy but awake, then check in every set number of minutes to reassure him that you’re here and that it’s time to sleep. Resist the temptation to pick him up or revert to your old habits, as this can confuse him. And keep your attitude positive so he doesn’t sense any anxiety or worry.
At first, you might end up with short naps, but with consistency, he can learn the skills and confidence to fall asleep on his own. You should also start the process on the weekend so that you and your partner or another adult can support each other.
Free resource: Whether you’ve tried a sleep training method in the past or are just now considering teaching him to self soothe, take a look at the 5 key mistakes to avoid. Join my newsletter and grab this resource below—at no cost to you:
2. Be consistent with sleep cues
One way to make the transition to longer naps is to be consistent with sleep cues. These repetitive and familiar rituals signal that sleep is coming so your baby knows what to expect. She may not be able to understand specific words, but with sleep cues, she can tell that it’s time to nap.
It doesn’t matter so much what you do as the consistency of your sleep schedule and rituals.
For instance, you can start by drawing the curtains or blinds to your baby’s room to make it dark. Then, you can read two books together on the rocking chair and sing a lullaby. Next, you might turn on the white noise machine. And finally, you can whisper “Good night, sleep tight” into her ear before setting her down.
Staying consistent is important if other adults are caring for her, especially in your home. If grandma comes over, show her the order of your nap routine so your baby doesn’t get confused. (Learn how to establish grandparent boundaries.)
3. Feed your baby after naps, not before
Does your baby seem uncomfortable during naps? One possible reason could be digestion issues, especially if you feed him to sleep.
Giving him milk beforehand seems to make sense, especially if he relies on feeding to fall asleep. But this makes gas issues more likely, especially since he can’t burp properly and is laid flat on his back (instead of vertically).
Feeding him to sleep also reinforces the habit of needing to suck to fall asleep. This isn’t always sustainable, since you feel compelled to feed him if he stirs himself awake (even if he’s not hungry).
Instead, of feeding him before the naptime routine, feed him after he wakes up to avoid these issues. You can hold him upright for a proper burp and avoid the discomfort that happens with sleeping after eating. He’s also able to use those newly-consumed calories when he’s awake and alert.
And finally, you can disassociate feeding as the only way to fall asleep when he can practice what it’s like to self soothe.
4. Don’t keep your baby awake too long
You’d think an exhausted baby would mean a quick transition to a long nap, but unfortunately, that’s hardly the case. Keeping your baby awake too long leads to her feeling overtired and less likely to sleep in long stretches. She’s almost too tired to fall asleep.
This is understandable, especially when sleep cues aren’t always easy to spot. If that’s the case, watch the clock and don’t let her stay awake longer than 90 minutes (or up to two hours once she’s past six months). By putting her down before she gets overtired, she has a better chance of finally napping in the crib for a full sleep cycle.
Learning how to get your baby to nap in the crib during the day (instead of your arms or the swing) can be challenging. But with these tips (and lots of patience!), you can help him finally take his naps in the crib and get better sleep.
Start by giving him a chance to self soothe so he can learn how to put himself to sleep. Be consistent with sleep cues, and feed him after waking up from sleep, not before. And finally, watch the clock so you don’t keep him awake too long—being overtired can prevent him from sleeping well.
Now he can finally get a good stretch of sleep—at night and for naps.
Get more tips:
- “At What Age…?” Baby Milestones You Don’t Always Hear About
- 4 Month Old Baby Won’t Nap? The Best Tips to Get Baby to Sleep
- How to Get Your Baby to Nap Longer
- How to Stay Calm When Your Baby Won’t Nap
- What to Do When Your Baby Wakes Up Crying from Naps
Don’t forget: Join my newsletter and grab 5 Mistakes That Keep Your Baby from Self Soothing below—at no cost to you:
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