Parenting: How to handle nap time transitions

In the heady newborn days as a first time mum and for some 10 months after, I was the kind of mum happy to be out doing stuff and my baby napping in between journeys, either in the car or pram. I liked the freedom to go out and not be confined to the house, and in any case, if I ever did try to stay in she wouldn't sleep. 30 minutes cat naps were the usual nap length and less if I didn't keep moving.

When I fell pregnant again when she was 9 months old and started finding some freelance writing contracts, I knew it was time to stop the on the go naps. The Little Inspiration was getting ready to have one long nap a day and I noticed how suddenly it became harder to get her to nap on the go and if we did try, it was exhausting at bedtime. We started by feeding/ cuddling to sleep then transferring to her cot and then getting further and further away, first holding hands and then just being sat on the floor.

When Baby Inspiration came along, the juggle of two babies began. Two lots of nappies, breastfeeding, weaning, differing nap schedules, being up all night with two babies but I had to keep a busy toddler entertained, so baby's naps had to fall in with whichever group we were going to. He slept on the go and in the travel system or sling, so it was quite easy to keep doing stuff out of the house. But if we did have to stay in he would also settle quite well in the crib, but just didn't sleep as long.

At the start of lockdown, Baby Inspiration reached a similar stage where he slept for one long nap in a morning, which is gradually getting later in the morning or towards lunch time. I still cuddle him to sleep for naps and bedtime, as to be honest, it's quicker and this time I know how fast the time goes when they're small enough to be cuddled.

But now it has now become difficult to go anywhere again. Except this time I have a toddler who needs entertaining and won't let me clean the house, or work to use the time effectively and instead gets bored, wants to play imaginary games every second (the horror) but I also can't leave the house to take her anywhere while baby sleeps. 

If we ever want to go for a day out that's more than half an hour away, we have to either drive through his nap time or risk him falling asleep during the danger zone at 4/5 o'clock. Any sleep past 3pm absolutely ruins our usual 7pm bedtime, and I need that time to cook, clean, decompress and be an adult.

We have tried pram naps and even though before lockdown that would work, now there is no chance he is missing out on all the fun. So we either have a very over tired baby at tea time or a bedtime battle if he falls alseep in the car.

I'm already dreading the winter months when we can't just play in the garden while he sleeps, and without any baby groups it could be even more isolating. I, of course, know that each phase passes very quickly in the scheme things and we'll soon be out of the napping phase at all. The Little Inspiration doesn't sleep any more since she turned 3 and it probably lasted that long because we were in lockdown.

My top tips for a good nap time routine are:

- Consistency -  that means the same time, same place, same routine etc. Of course there'll be teething and times when naps don't happen or you really need to be out but don't worry about that as a routine is about picking it up again the next day. 

- Routine - if you use a grow bag, use it at nap time too, if you cuddle to sleep, or sing a song or hold hands, do that at nap time as well, 

.- Use white noise, as it helps to disguise noises outside and around the house and provides a hum to fall asleep to. It can also go anywhere with you and is a good signal that nap time is coming.

- Comforters - mine have never been that bothered about comforters and kept throwing them out of the cot but Little Inspiration has a dolly she takes to bed which was from about 16 months old but they can be useful if they want something to cuddle. 

- Patience - there are so many variables such as developmental leaps and teething to contend with that things don't always go to plan. So on those non-napping days, bring bedtime forward so that it's earlier.

Also just a word about older toddlers who are moving out of the napping phase, as they wil often be tired earlier at night. So you could adjust their bedtime for a while so they are still getting the right amount of sleep and/or provide them with a quiet hour in the day. Either watching a film or playing quietly in their room if they will allow it. You need that time to reset and so do they.

How have you transitioning through naptimes?

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