Wondering how to get your baby to nap in the crib during the day instead of your arms or the swing? Get the 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 his crib. But for whatever reason, he still will not sleep in the crib during the day.
Instead, he’s been napping in the swing, the one surefire way he’ll sleep. But you know that this won’t last—he’s already outgrowing the swing and won’t fit much longer (his feet are almost hanging over the edge!). He’ll certainly fall asleep in your arms, but you’re exhausted holding him all day.
Of course, you want to put him down for naps in the crib, but he either doesn’t fall asleep at all, or sleeps no longer than 30 minutes. Sometimes he’ll 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 him to sleep after that.
You’d like to actually get things done while he naps, not cock an ear for the slightest sound or tiptoe around the house so he doesn’t wake up. Repeatedly picking him up and putting him back down isn’t effective, and forget about rocking him to sleep at this stage.
With naps so dependent on your arms or the swing, you’re afraid he 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, lack of sleep is understandable since your baby is still adjusting to his environment. But several months of sleep deprivation takes a toll on the family after a while.
Thankfully, you have plenty of actionable steps you can do to finally get him to nap in the crib. You don’t have to rock or bounce him to sleep for naps, nor do you need to worry that he’ll outgrow the swing. By making changes—both practical and in your mindset—you can help him actually take naps in the crib.
Take a look at these simple steps to do just that:
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 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 will only perpetuate those same habits.
Letting him fall asleep in your arms or the swing won’t help him in the long term. Instead, 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 will only confuse him. And keep your attitude positive so he doesn’t sense any anxiety or worry.
At first, you’ll end up with short (or even no) naps, but with consistency, he’ll 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 download: Whether you’ve tried to teach him to self soothe in the past or are just now considering it, take a look at the 5 key mistakes to avoid. Join my newsletter and download this must-read resource below—at no cost to you:
2. Be consistent with sleep cues
One way to make the transition to naps more successful is to be consistent with sleep cues. These repetitive and familiar rituals signal that sleep is coming so your baby knows what to expect. He may not be able to understand specific words, but with sleep cues, he sure can tell that it’s time to nap.
It doesn’t matter so much what you do as the consistency you do these steps.
For instance, you can start by drawing the curtains to the 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 his ear before setting him down.
Staying consistent is important if other adults are caring for your baby, 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 a sustainable way to put him to sleep, since you’ll feel compelled to feed him if he stirs himself awake (even if he’s not hungry).
Instead, feed him after he wakes up to avoid these issues. You’ll be able to 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’ll 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 him feeling overtired and less likely to sleep in long stretches. He’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 him stay awake longer than 90 minutes (or up to two hours once he’s past six months). By putting him down before he gets overtired, he’ll have a better chance of finally napping in the crib.
Learning how to get your baby to nap in the crib during the day (instead of your arms or the swing) can be challenging. By applying these tips, you can help him finally take his naps in the crib.
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
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