Situation: You have a beautiful baby. You're 15 or so weeks in to your parenting career and all told, things are going well...well, except maybe for the sleep part which this baby now feels is "optional."
You are definitely not alone in your nap struggles. Especially with a 15 week old-baby. Naps are tough for many parents. First let’s look at your little guys age. During the 4th trimester babies circadian rhythms aren’t fully developed so until 4.5-6 months of age biologically speaking it’s tough to get a baby on a consistent nap routine. So I want you to take that pressure off, okay? Your little one is almost old enough to start creating more of a consistent nap routine but he’s not there yet. Now your two main goals are to keep him consistently fed and rested, however it is that you have to do that.
We are all born with the ability to sleep but the ability to fall back asleep is a skill we must learn. We had to learn it and our children have to learn it. Picture it like any new skill: walking, talking, riding a bike. The ability to self-soothing doesn’t begin to develop until 12 weeks of age. Babies need to practice this ability and even at his age you can start slowly working on those self-soothing skills but it will take time and you have to be patient. It’s never a race for a baby under 4 months old and you can’t take full control yet. Here are a few things you can start doing:
1. Don’t assume the nap is over when they wake after 30-40 minutes.
It’s not. Stop. Wait. And listen. Let them practice soothing themselves to sleep first before you go to them, at his age I wouldn’t wait any longer than 10 minutes. This is a small step in allowing him to practice the skill of falling back to sleep. If after 5 or 10 minutes he’s still crying you can go in and help him if need be. There are no rules at this age. If he’s just making noise and fussing try to leave him until he falls back to sleep.
Sleep Tip: Watch those awake times. Often we are pushing out our baby’s wakeful periods to long. We want to make sure we are watching their sleep cues and not putting them down overtired for the next nap or at bedtime. Wakeful periods may only be an hour long at 15 weeks.
2. Start working on a consistent sleep environment.
At his age you can start getting him used to his crib both for day and night sleep if that is a step you are ready to take. Keeping things consistent for both day and night sleep will help him feel more safe and secure in his sleep environment. The only way for him to get used to his crib is to have him in it so be patient with that. He’ll get there.
3.The darker the better.
Darkening up your child’s room with black out shades can help with the release of that awesome sleep hormone melatonin, which will aid in making your baby nice and drowsy.
Sleep Tip: For a cheap and effective way to darken your child’s room RIGHT NOW, tape up some garbage bags. If you see that it works well then you can make the investment in new window coverings.
Also quiet is best. Introduce a white noise machine that runs continuously throughout his nap. This consistent sound will help lull him into a deep and restorative sleep. All sound machines must be turned at the lowest volume and placed farthest away from the crib.
4. Routine isn’t only for bedtime.
You can incorporate a short naptime routine before your baby’s nap. I always recommend giving yourself at least 30 minutes to have a nice, relaxed bedtime routine. Condense this routine for naps to about 10 minutes or so. For instance bring baby to the nursery, dim the lights, change their diaper, and sing a short lullaby. This can help cue baby that naptime is coming.
Remember at 15 weeks-old you have to be patient and not expect too much. Take the pressure off, Mama. You are doing a great job and your baby will be napping soon.
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