Establishing a nap time routine is easy and only takes a few minutes to do, but can greatly help your little one settle to sleep more easily, sleep better and for longer.
Having a nap time routine allows your baby the time to pause and wind down. It signals to your little one that sleep is coming next, making the transition between awake time and sleep time easier to do.
Try not to rush through your little one’s routine, equally don’t drag it out, have it somewhere comfortably in the middle.
This pause helps baby go from playtime/ wake time to sleep time and will help your little one to fall asleep more easily than just picking him/her up and putting him straight into the cot.
1.Darken the room and switch on a lamp
Go into your little one’s room, close the curtains/ blinds and either put on a night light/ dim light or lamp (for a nap, the darker the room the better as light stimulates our eyes to tell us, its time to wake up).
2.Use sound association
Put on a lullaby to play in the background while you get your little one ready for his nap. This will become your ‘nap routine soundtrack’. Each time your little one hears this music, he will know it’s time for a nap. Either put on your white noise now too, or wait until you leave the room. If your little one needs the white noise to be quite loud and to fill the room then perhaps do it before you leave the room. If your little one sleeps well with just a low background white noise, such as rain, then you can put this on now to create your calm setting.
For sound association, I love using Ewan The Sheep and using his harp music option for doing the nap routine. I also play soft rain white noise in the background for my little girl and I put them both on at the start of our nap routine. As I’m about to leave the room, after putting her into her cot I click one of the white noise heartbeat sounds. I use the same one each time.
Change your little one’s nappy. If your baby doesn’t need to have a nappy change then spend a minute going through the process of ‘checking’ his nappy. It’s more about taking the time to allow him to wind down, so even if you just go through the motion of checking him and not actually changing his nappy, that’s absolutely fine too. Change your little one into comfy clothes that you know he will be comfortable sleeping in.
4.Use a sleeping bag and do a feed
I love sleeping bags/grobags in that you know your little one stays warm and there is no danger of him pulling blankets over his head or creeping up over your baby’s head. Dress your baby and use the tog recommended for the temperature of your baby’s room. You can find the guide here: http://www.gro-store.com/grobag-guide
This is optional, but here you could offer a top up feed, ensuring baby’s tummy is full on going down, giving him a better chance of falling asleep easily and staying asleep for longer. Many sleep experts say not to feed a baby before he sleeps in case the baby then becomes to rely on a feed to go down, but as long as you don’t put baby down fast asleep you will be fine. If your baby does become sleepy at the feed, burp baby afterwards, like you would anyway, kiss baby, wishing him goodnight and put baby down into his cot. Those little actions alone will rouse baby enough to tell him he is going into his cot. That’s what’s you are looking for. That little realisation. So that when baby wakes or tries to connect sleep cycles, it won’t be a shock that he is in his cot because he knows how he got there and there will be no surprise. By doing this baby learns this is where he sleeps and comes to love his cot. Equally, this won’t affect your baby’s nights. Your little one’s daytime sleep and night time sleep come from two different parts of your baby’s brain. If anything, if it helps your little one go down more easily and helps your baby stay asleep for longer, it will improve his nights for the better. The better a little one’s daytime sleep, the better his night time sleep. But as I say, this is up to you and optional. You could always experiment and see what works best for you and your baby. Switch the light off before you do the feed if you can manage without it, if not leave it on.
5.Wish baby sweet dreams and use a comforter
Kiss your little one goodnight and wish him sweet dreams putting him down into his cot. If you have Ewan The Sheep, put your favourite heartbeat sound on now. If you are using a lullaby, switch it off now and put on your white noise on if you haven’t done so already. Another great tip is using a comforter at sleep times. This is also optional but I love using comforters. I find babies love snuggling into them and they act as a great source of comfort and work as a brilliant sleep association. They are really useful in helping your little one stay calm and fall asleep in the car or buggy too. The way in which you help your little one form a strong attachment to a comforter is to choose one and keep it close to them for each nap time and night time; close to their hand/cheek so they can reach and snuggle into it. You could incorporate it into your nap time routine too and give it to them to hold whilst feeding, really helping them make the connection and attachment to their little comforter.
6.Leave the room
Now leave the room. This part is especially important. Many parents think they need to stay in the room until baby falls asleep or that they need to put baby to sleep. You want to leave the room creating the space to allow your little one to fall asleep or to try and fall asleep. If your little one becomes frustrated, you can go back in straight away, but first, give him this little chance. You want to aim to be able to put your little one down for a nap and for him to fall asleep happily by himself, but if you don’t give him this gap, he just won’t have the chance to try.
By staying in your little one’s room and waiting for him to fall asleep or by immediately putting him to sleep before he’s had the chance to try, you teach him that this is the way to go to sleep and soon you’ll be needing to stay in the room with him at every nap time for him to fall asleep or become depend upon you to put him to sleep each sleep time. So leaving the room to give him that little chance is really important.
7. Listen to baby
Now just wait and really listen to your little one. He may want to kick around and play a little and that is absolutely fine, leave him to it. He may then fall asleep or he may start to get a little annoyed and need you to go back in. He may cry from the second you leave the room. Go back in as soon as you feel you want to, as soon as you feel your baby is becoming upset.
8.If baby needs you- go back in
As soon as you feel your little one is done with trying to fall asleep by himself and getting annoyed/stressed go back in to gently soothe and reassure him by either rubbing his tummy up and down or in circles/ patting or stroking anywhere on his body that works best for him e.g.: over his chest/tummy/nappy area or leg or on his back/bum if he sleeps on his tummy.Do it in a rhythmic way, helping to create a repetitive motion, mimicking the similar motion to when your little one falls asleep in the car or stroller. As soon as you see your little one has the hang of it and begins to feel sleepy, slow down your movements, even more, space them out, make them lighter, add long quiet shushes and come to a stop. Ideally, you want for your little one to do that last little bit of falling asleep alone. Then just waiting by his side to make sure he really is on his way to dream land. Once you get the hang of it and baby does too, you can experiment with helping to get him sleepy and then quietly leave the room, seeing if he will keep carrying on falling asleep without you. But if you have to, you can put him all the way to sleep. At nap times, you can do much more to help your baby fall asleep. But where possible, if you see an opportunity to do a little bit less, then take it.
You may need to match your movements and shushing with how upset your little one is, don’t be scared to rub/ pat a little bit faster to help calm your baby and then slow down as your little one calms.
9.Give yourself a high five!
You did it! Now fit your entire days work into this small space before he wakes again, haha! 😉