Whether you’ve made a conscious decision to practice attachment parenting or you fell into it by following your instincts, there comes a time when your newborn baby starts to grow out of that newborn stage and begins to settle into a regular pattern of wake and sleep patterns through the day and night. You notice that your baby wants to fall asleep at about the same time each day, and you begin to reach for your sling, ergo or wrap each time.
Why Bother Teaching Baby to Nap Alone?
One of the beautiful things about attachment parenting is the acceptance and encouragement to keep your baby close, letting her ride in a sling for comfort and rest. There is absolutely a time and place for slings and baby carriers, but relying on babywearing for your baby’s daily naps can be a problem. For one, naps are an oasis of time and space during the day in which to get the dishes done, have a cup of tea or do some yoga. If you’ve got a sleeping baby strapped to you, you may still be able to walk around and run errands, but you won’t get the physical rest and distance you would if baby was sleeping in bed. The other big reason to encourage naps in bed is that eventually your baby will get too big to carry. Babywearing a heavy toddler for a 2 hour nap will do a number on even the strongest mama’s back.
5 Attachment Friendly Sleep Techniques to Try
1. The Sneak-Away. This works great for babies who are used to nursing to sleep in bed at night. Lay down and nurse baby to sleep, then when he’s konked out, gently get up and go about your day. A baby who isn’t used to sleeping alone may wake up in a few minutes, complaining that you’re not right there beside him. In this case it’s time to try #2: Persistence.
2. Persistence. If your baby doesn’t love sleeping alone straight off the bat, you may need to convince him it’s ok. Every time he wakes up, go to him and nurse him back to sleep in bed. Eventually you’ll get a feel for the right moment to sneak away and he’ll get the idea that he’s staying in bed and you’re getting up.
3. Stay Cool. The paradox of nursing to sleep and sneaking away is that if you’re tense and stressed about all the things you need to do during baby’s nap, baby picks up on it and has a harder time falling asleep. Try to think about that alone time as a gift that you may or may not receive instead of a payment that you are due. Easier said than done, I know.
4. Use White Noise. An air cleaner, fan or white noise machine can help mask other noises that might wake baby up and disrupt naps. It seems a bit gimmicky, but it really does work.
5. Routine. Routines are a little bit of magic in the lives of babies, toddlers and the adults who care for them. Going for a nap at the same time, and doing the same things before a nap every day can help babies and toddlers understand what’s going on. It takes some time for this to start working, but when it does you’ll have a good thing going on together. Some parents brush teeth before every nap, others read a bedtime story or put on a CD of sleepy music. Even a familiar blankie can be a sign that it’s naptime.
Of course, if you try these techniques out and your baby screams like a banshee, trust your judgment. Let it go for a while and come back to try again in a month. Babies change so quickly and every baby grows into the ability to sleep alone at a different age. Napping alone is good for moms and good for babies, so don’t be afraid to find the middle road between cry-it-out sleep training and wearing your baby for every nap of her life. There is a happy medium, it just might take a little effort to get there.
More attachment friendly sleep resources:
The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley
The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Karp
How to Co-Sleep Safely by HoboMama
Unhealthy Sleep Habits or a Temporary Infant Sleep Disruption? here at The Parent Vortex