When my oldest was a baby, I rocked her, gave her a bottle, laid her in her crib and then she slept for 45 minutes or an hour and a half, in the morning around 10 and the afternoon around 3 p.m. Then when she was around eight, nine months old she started taking one nap around noon for two or three hours in her crib. If she fell asleep in the car, I unbuckled her, carried her droopy warm sleeping body (I love this tactile memory, the smell of her matted hair, her sugary skin) up the stairs, laid her down, closed her door, success…I ran down the stairs and began the race. How much could I do in two hours? Three????
The answer was: a lot. I even briefly held down a full-time work at home job. Naps and play times. I work fast.
Little did I know how lucky and spoiled I was. Fast forward to now.
Henry has acted like his crib is made of hot coals (Damn, shouldn’t have bought the Nest of Rattlesnakes Pattern) since he was first born. He never would nap in there, or go there at night, so I never was able to get him used to it. He wouldn’t go in there awake, he wouldn’t go in there asleep. Almost nine months later the most I’ve gotten out of him was twenty minutes sleeping in there, after something like four hours of putting him down and picking him up. Swaddled, white noise, voodoo chanting, it didn’t matter.
My daughter was plaintively keening for me outside the door, like Mommy? Are you EVER coming back?
You just go run off into the fields and play, ya hear?
So I couldn’t keep doing that. So you might be wondering how does he nap? And oh boy, do I have some fun answers for you.
He used to nap in the swing, approximately 40% of the time. The other 60% of the time he acted like it was a Spanish Inquisition device. Strangely enough, he almost always napped in there for my husband with little to no fussing.
He naps while I hold him. I can walk around, make one-handed peanut butter sandwiches for my daughter, type on the computer with the finger peck method, and read my phone and he will sleep for 30-45 minutes. This is mostly what I do at home because it’s better than him not napping at all and being a cranky mess. This is a terrible option though because well, it’s terrible.
Also, almost-four-year-old girls are bad at being quiet, and if I go sit in another room to read, she invariably follows me (I think it’s like a Don’t Think of a Purple Elephant thing with her and her developmental stage is no match for the temptation) and the tone and pitch of her voice ranges from Minnie Mouse on helium to a sped-up Gummy Bear song vocal to Alvin the Chipmunk doing an exaggerated falsetto in a bad cross-dressing episode. It’s the only sound that can cut through his in-arms-sleeping fog and wake him up. Also, I think he’s only getting a single nap cycle and so he’s cranky anyway.
That brings us to the less worse option: He naps when I drive him in the car.
This is annoying because I can’t be home and doing certain things (housework, exercise) but I can do work because I BOUGHT A LAPTOP FOR THIS EXPRESS PURPOSE. I drive him to a deep sleep, then park at the docks or somewhere scenic (at least give me some scenery in this drudgery of a day) and as long as I leave the car on he usually sleeps. If he stirs, I drive somewhere and repeat. My town has free Wi-Fi, Starbucks has delicious caffeinated beverages, this is not so bad. It’s bad for the environment (sorry) but if I turn the car off, or try to transfer him to a walk (he’s in the Snap N Go) he wakes up. No bringing him into a store or friend’s house and having him stay asleep.
The other problem is my daughter. She’s a good sport, but it’s not really fair for her to sit in a car and unless she’s in preschool, this is a problem. If we are just driving, she might fall asleep and I don’t want HER to fall asleep because then she goes to bed late, wakes up early and is cranky (and she can’t just wake up POOF when we get where we are going, she has wicked big kid pot-nap stupor) and often my best-laid plans go awry and I have a sleeping four year old who can’t be woken up to go run an errand and a crying, not sleeping eight month old. But if Henry does fall asleep, he generally sleeps a FULL nap with several sleep cycles and is good for the day or whatever.
Forget that guy who walked across the Grand Canyon. This is advanced balancing.
I could theoretically give my daughter the iPad to play, but that’s like bottom of the barrel parenting. I try to avoid that. It happens anyway occasionally.
Another place he naps is the jogging stroller. This is fine with me, I run, he sleeps, BUT I have an older child and no double stroller. Shoulda bought the double Bob I guess. This works when she is in preschool only.
The final option is laying down with him and as long as my boob is in his mouth he naps on the bed. I can’t get up at any point or he wakes up. This is good if I want to nap but since I hate napping, can rarely do it no matter how tired I am, and I have the other kid and all, I’ve only done this once or twice. I have to give her a movie and then try really, really hard to fall asleep. (Cut the caffeine drip a few hours beforehand). This also has the drawbacks of all the other methods (I don’t get to do anything or get the psychological break I crave).
Isn’t this ridiculous? I wish there was a magic way to fix this. I guess sleep training is in the cards and maybe it will fix napping. But if there was an easy or only mildly hard way to get him to nap in the house it would have happened by now (see: evidence that once I wrangled a normal baby into normal sleeping). It’s not me, it’s him.
So only hard methods are left and there will be a lot of crying and vomiting (his and mine and his only, hopefully). I’m not looking forward to it, but then again I’m not looking forward to any particular day because…I have to do all these machinations to get a nine month old to take a single, damn nap.