When naps ruled the world

In typical Adele fashion, I recently wasted a day stressed sick over something I have so little power to change: the way my daughter naps.

Good grief, when something as trivial as daytime snoozing hijacks your emotional wellbeing it shows just how much rubbish needs to get beaten out of you by motherhood. It gives you the chance to let go of the small things…or risk losing your mind.

It also pulls your tendency towards pessimism to the surface, uncomfortably demanding that you deal with it like a woman and stop being such a weakling.

Like many babies, Talitha, too interested in the world around her, has started finding it difficult to switch off in the daytime. The truth is, she’s always been a bit unskilled at napping but since she hit 16 weeks, everything’s stopped working. Even the sling fails more often than it works.

And if anything does work, it only works for 30 precious minutes before we have to fight to get to the second sleep cycle, if we can at all.

As long as something is happening around her, she’s a-buzz, which isn’t itself a problem except she really is tired and gets grumpy whenever I adopt a maybe-you-don’t-need-naps approach.

Barring one time in the past week when she fell asleep in the pram for an hour with no fuss (I was in shock), I have spent literally hours every day rocking, jigging, walking, singing, swaddling and slinging this kid to sleep.

The work to sleep ratio is pathetic.

My stress reaction to the situation is even more so.

The thing is (this doesn’t always work but it usually does) there is a way for me to help her to sleep. If I lie down with Talitha and stick my boob in her mouth, she’ll sleep for hours.

This involves me settling her to sleep in the first place then making sure I’m back before we hit the half-hour mark to settle her again.

It’s hardly practical. For one thing, I do actually need to get things done. For another, it’s not exactly a show I can take on the road.

But I’m absolutely befuddled as to what else I can do. An hour of rocking for 30 minutes of her sleeping in my arms or a few minutes of lying with her for a two-hour nap (and the chance for me to nap too)? I’m simply too knackered and too lazy to find another way.

So on Saturday I was having a big woe-is-me day. It was full of: “What if she’s still doing this at 10 months old?” Well, that’s just not worth worrying about. She might not even be doing this next week.

There was also: “It’s so unfair that I’ve got to be home for her to nap.” Ahem, life slows down with a baby. It’s hardly a surprise.

And even some: “What if my next child is like this? I can’t lie down with a baby while I’ve got a toddler on the loose.” Why are you expending energy worrying about a mythical child? No wonder you’re tired.

After my day of doom, I decided to stop being a puddle and make the most of the situation. For the first nap of the day, I work in bursts of a few minutes, going back to resettle her when needed. I’m amazed at how much I can get done in this time: washing dishes, eating breakfast, hanging up laundry, reading the Bible.

The next nap usually hits my own sleepy time so I enjoy an hour or so curled up with my baby, pleasantly zonked.

Then the last nap, I make sure I’ve got a book, pen and paper and my iPhone to hand so I can get some quiet work done while she’s busy recharging.

If we miss a nap because we’re out and that’s just too exciting, it’s not the end of the world. We’ll catch the next one.

It’s not an ideal situation but it’s certainly not worth my, well, losing sleep over. And it certainly doesn’t merit me starting to resent my baby or the scenario, which was starting to happen the more I gave in to stressing about it.

And now that I’ve worked out a system, want to bet that Talitha starts just generally falling asleep in the pram with no bother?

mother • freelance writer • home educator • #revillagingpodcast • breastfeeding counsellor • no dig farm @soul.farm • Trini in Cornwall [she/her]

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  • “And now that I’ve worked out a system, want to bet that Talitha starts just generally falling asleep in the pram with no bother?” – I said to Simon last night that parenting is like a great big problem solving exercise, but the problem just keeps changing as soon as you’ve worked out a solution! I think it is designed to make us develop skills that we otherwise would not have.

  • Your post has taken me right back to those days with my son. Bouncing , jiggling, keeping him latched on for the duration of the nap, or if I was really lucky, a nap in the pram which didn’t involve an hour of screaming. From 3-5 months old, he napped four times a day. I really felt that getting him to nap WAS my full time job. It was stressful for both of us and really quite depressing.

    I think you are spot on when you said its not worth stressing about because it might not be the same in 5 months. If I could go back and tell myself one thing, it would be this. Now that those days are over, I actually look back with fondness at how needy my boy was back then. I wish I could have had the confidence to relax and know that things would change eventually.

    • Ah, I know that hour of screaming in the pram well. Their will is stronger than ours.  I can see how you would remember it fondly. I do feel honoured that this small person so desperately wants and needs to be close to me…in my brighter moments…

  • Oh I hate the 30 minute nap cycle. With my first I was obsessed about naps, sometimes it felt as though all I did all day was try and get him to sleep. My second is a similar age to yours and this time we have discovered something fantastic – the baby swing. She sleeps in it beautifully. Trouble is that she will grow out of it very soon, and it is already not working as well as it did when she was tiny! I think it was about 5 months that my son learned to sleep for longer, and after that he was a brilliant napper (some might say too brilliant as he woke at 5am every day, but that’s another story!)

      • The baby swing has saved us! But they do grow out of them, both physically and developmentally, probably around 5-6 months. We didn’t have it with the first and it has made an enormous difference this time round!

        • Talitha’s hitting the 5 month mark soon but even if she’s developmentally outgrown it, maybe she’ll learn to sleep for longer like your son (but preferably not wake at 5am!!! I’m not human at that hour!). Worth keeping the swing for the next baby though… Hint, hint, lazbash…

  • This could literally be me this time last year. I remember spending an entire day crying over the fact my daughter just wouldn’t sleep. All the other mums were asking what her routine was and I was so busy stressing that she wouldn’t sleep I was turning myself into a nervous wreck.

    And then she just started going to sleep. In her cot. On her own. No jiggling required. She’d sleep for an hour at a time, three times a day. It happened from about 5ish months I think. And then those naps cut down into two shorter naps a day. And now, at 16 months, we’re at one long nap a day (sometimes for 3 hours at a time) after lunch.

    I’ve never pushed it and I was resigned to the fact she’d never sleep in the day and I’d be stuck with a grumpy, tired baby forever. Amazing how they can suddenly stump you like that. Wouldn’t be surprised if Talitha finds a way to surprise you too!

    • I’m sure she will surprise me. That time she fell asleep in the pram literally shocked me. I kept going to see if she was asleep. When she starts sleeping like a normal human being I’ll probably wonder what’s wrong with her! It’s encouraging hearing about F’s sleep issues and the way you felt. Reminds me that we’re not stuck in an eternal loop!

  • Oh,that is so tricky and tiring,isn’t it? Myfirst baby needed 45 minutes(!) of rocking, breastfeeding etc for a nap and then she’d have a proper nap, like 1.5 hrs. Second baby sleeps very easily but so short! 5 minutes of bfing and he is off! Yet he used to wake up 30 minutes later! This got longer as he get older but still he only naps 1hour. Glad that you have worked out something that works for both of you.

  • Oh lovely – be kind to yourself you are doing so well.  And remember the phase around 16 weeks is one of the hardest

    I found a muslin over her head in the sling helped block out distractions and helping her to sleep

    Hang on in there – you’ve got all the moves worked out and most importantly are getting those naps together – enjoy those

    • I do the muslin thing, actually. It works off and on. I always feel like Michael Jackson when I do that.

      And how I know I should appreciate that I’m getting naps too! I’ll miss them in a few years. Thanks for the encouragement.

  • Yeah very familiar story. I remember for the first couple of weeks, I was so sleep deprived I started hearning buzzing like ole time tv transmission! Sleep deprivation is punishment! Now 11 mths baby boy may have up to three short naps at 20 -30 mins in the day. Still wakes at night for at least one feed. The only routine we have is that he goes to bed by 8pm which entails a lil rough play and tickles, followed by a story, then classical music while being bottle fed and he’s out! He sleeps longer if he’s cuddled, sadly I’m not a cuddler during sleep time but I’m learning, if only to get 45mins power nap in the day and longer periods of sleep in the night, lol.

    • I know what you mean about sleep and cuddling! I’ve never been a spoon-and-sleep sort so learning to sleep touching someone has been a lesson in itself! Admittedly, I prefer the first bit of the night when she’s in her cot and I can sprawl out though. 

  • I’ve found that if Bethany doesn’t have a nap in the morning, she’ll be tired all day but will fight any other attempt to make her have a nap.  If I can get her to sleep in the morning then she’ll have more naps during the day.  On Saturday she refused to sleep all day and was shreiking with tiredness by 6pm.  She then slept for 11 hours straight!  I kept having to check her to make sure she was still breathing.  Talitha is a lovely happy girl, so don’t worry if you can!  Helen (and Bethany!)

  • Lol! Adele your blog really is amazing :0) When you write about your experiences it always makes me smile and revel in the fact that i am indeed not a crazy over stressed mother ! … but indeed just normal :0) I remember the early days with the Lima bean … now a tough little toddler and marvel at how fast it all zoomed by. He is still a baby but so much more independant and nosy and busy and mobile. It is wonderfull to share in your experience as you embace motherhood ! Keep on enjoying you beautiful little creature! XXXxxxxx Jo

  • Oh dear (easy for me to say I know) but talk about making a rod for your own back, a baby of that age will sleep when tired enough, jiggly, rocking walking, slings, sitting with them, lying with them just create knock on problems when they older. put htem down in a quiet room, no stimulation whilst still awake when tired but not overtired and leave them to drop off alone and natural, if they cry go in and reassure them but apart from that get out of the habit now……

  • I am struggling to see that beautiful baby do anything but lay quietly!

    she is so beautiful!

    I am a believer in a dark room for all naps, a lullaby thingy me bob that you play everytime it is bedtime so they know the signs and yes as elaine said to put them down before they are cream crackered! 

    It takes about 3 weeks to form a new habit 

    am off to stare at the photo again! #


    • Haha, I need to bring back the animated gif I had of her screaming, clearly! I don’t know, to be honest. For the last few days feeding to sleep has stopped working too so it’s obvious that we need a new sleep association since none of mine are working. I really can’t imagine her falling asleep without masses of help but, as you say, it’s habits. One way or another we’ll work it out because I’m currently spending her awake time dreading her next tired time and that’s a waste of baby time.

  • Adele have you tried white noise at all?  I used to put LLC in her pram in the kitchen with the extractor fan or in her cot with an air purifier that made loud buzzing noise….and though she might cry for a few minutes she didn’t get too riled (i.e. when you know they need you and stat!), and would then settle and sleep.  I used to leave the white noise on because if I cut it, she would wake.  Then eventually she did not need this anymore.  Just another idea?

  • Wow what a reassuring read!! I was feeling guilty about breastfeeding my 6 week old to sleep all the time so am reassured that I’m not the only one.  I think he can smell the milk on me cos he falls asleep with minimal coertion with daddy/auntie/grandparents – so frustrating when other people can soothe him more easily than I can!

    • I can so identify with this. For ages I felt like I was a bit of a loser for struggling to soothe her when my husband is so much better at it. In fact, I worked hard at finding another way to put her to sleep. Now I can rock her to sleep. But really I can’t be bothered most of the time when breastfeeding her to sleep is so much easier.