Holy naptime, batman.
After almost 10 months of nursing my daughter to sleep for every bedtime and nap, and then holding her in my lap (thankfully she's been tired enough at night to lay into the crib), we have broken this habit!
Bugga has been a light sleeper for quite awhile. Yes, every newborn will sleep anywhere with any level of noise, but our kiddo grew out of this phase very quickly. Sometime around two months old, she would be easily startled if I turned the car engine off after nodding off during a drive, or woken by the floor creaking if I crept past her bouncer. Realizing she desperately needed more nap time in order to maintain healthy development, I started to nurse her to sleep and then hold her in my lap, barely moving, so she could log some valuable sleep hours.
Her naps started at 20-30 minutes here and there, but soon extended to up to almost 3 hours! I was thrilled, but this meant a lot of butt-in-the-glider time for me. I love to cuddle my little girl, but besides this being precious time that I could use to be productive around the house, if she ever wanted to change sleeping positions, my lap was not conducive to this and any movement she made would lead to her waking up and not getting the full nap she needed. It's been a long ten months for nap challenges around here.
I needed to teach her how to nap in her crib.
I read several books over the previous months on sleep training so I referenced these now to figure out what could be done. The catch is that this wasn't a straight issue of nursing to sleep, since most who do this, do this all night long. We had night-weaned back at 5 weeks or so when Bugga started sleeping through the night. She also could be laid down in her crib at night still awake but drowsy, and roll over and go to sleep. So I knew she had some soothing skills. But I knew I wanted her to a) do this for naps without freaking out (which had been the result if I ever tried before this), and b) be able to put herself back to sleep if she woke up at night (bonus!).
OK so I just went cold turkey on the naps in the crib, figuring I'd give it a try for a week. I was scared to death I would simultaneously ruin bedtime by putting a fear of the crib into my child. I put her down at her scheduled times, twice a day, after nursing. At first there was crying and protesting. I'd lay her down with the lights off (closet light on for a slight light), white noise on, leave the room and close the door. She would begin to cry as I left the room. I watched her on the video monitor for five minutes. She sometimes would sit up or stand up while crying. After five minutes I went back in and offered her the pacifier, laid her back down, rubbed her back for about 2 minutes, then left again. I repeated this until she finally fell asleep.
I started last week on Monday, and by this past Monday (8 days later!), I feel she is officially comfortable with falling asleep on her own. Out of the 14 nap windows during this time, she cried anywhere from 0 to 50 minutes before falling asleep. The 50 minute scenarios happened only (gulp) twice, and although I continued the checks, the second time this happened I just picked her up and moved on - no nap that time. Sometimes she would let out a couple whimpers and/or just nod off; sometimes she'd cry for 5 minutes then be out. And the strange thing is there was no rhyme or reason for which option would happen when. But now she will pretty much go down without freaking out at all (yay!!) and sleep anywhere from 50 minutes until 3 hours (and we had to wake her up from that one). She really is getting better sleep this way, and my husband and I are getting some kid-free time on the weekends which is completely new to us.
If you are struggling with this scenario, I am happy to answer any questions!