Nap Training and Intuitive Parenting

29 Mar

After two days of “nap training,” I found myself lying awake in bed.  My eyes and face felt bruised, throbbing from the heartbroken crying I’d only just managed to get under control.  I was more than tired, worse than tired.  I was heart-weary.  After two days of poor sleeping, I thought I’d reached rock bottom in terms of functioning-while-tired.  I was wrong.  The two following days, in which I let my daughter scream for an hour twice a day in an attempt to simultaneously train her to nap on a schedule and sleep in her crib during those naps… those brought me to a new low.  My heart broke listening to her, and on the evening of day two, when I brought her into her room to grab a diaper and she immediately burst into tears and grabbed on to me desperately, my spirit was broken too.

Yes, she needs to nap on a schedule.  Yes, she should ideally be doing that napping in her crib.  But this?  This sad, overwhelmed, exhausted and fussy baby?  She’s not my kid.  My little girl wakes up happy and babbling, not screaming.  My little girl plays and laughs and smiles; she doesn’t spend her days fussy and constantly tired.  A long talk with my emotionally in-sync mother and my always calm and level-headed father led to another long talk, this time with my beloved husband.  We decided this was too much, not right for us or our sweet little girl.  The one thing I heard in so much advice from friends and family, heard but did not listen to, was to do what is right for us no matter what.

And so we will.  Instead of trying to get her to nap in a particular place, we’re starting with just trying to stick to a schedule.  This means skipping her habitual evening nap in the hopes of better night time sleep.  I have seen an immediate and dramatic improvement in her mood, so much so that she was charming the pants off of everyone we saw out and about over the weekend.  Several people threatened to steal her, and I totally see why.  Not only is she beautiful, but she spent the entire weekend laughing and playing.  My stress levels plummeted in the face of that gorgeous smile, shattered at the sound of her perfect laugh.

We can do a schedule.  So far she is still taking shorter naps during the morning and afternoon, but I think that as we keep going with this nap schedule she will start sleeping a little bit longer to make up for the missed evening nap.  She is sleeping better at night.  She still wakes sometimes, like last night when she cried on and off for about a half hour, but she is happy again and that is what I wanted.  She will continue, for now, to take her naps on the couch or in her Boppy or in her mommy’s arms, and I will relish every second of the peaceful, restful time for both of us.  In a few days or a few weeks, whatever feels right for all of us, we will try again to get her to nap in her crib or, at least, in the pack and play.  But for now?  I think our sweet little girl is just very smart and very stubborn.  Too much change at once throws her off of her much needed routine.  Little changes, like the schedule that only slightly deviates from her natural rhythms, are doable.  Big ones make us all unhappy.

I don’t know why I don’t do this more often.  Why is it so hard for me, as a mother, to be intuitive?  Why do I feel so pressured to do the “right” things, to take advice and raise my daughter the way one expert or another says is the “best” way?  I just worry.  I only want her to be the happiest, healthiest, most well adjusted and well rounded child on the planet.  Is that so much to ask?  Because I want the world for her, I am constantly second guessing my own feelings, worrying about being too emotionally connected to make the right decisions in a rational way, and worrying that I am doing this all wrong.  After all, I’ve never done this before.  I keep feeling like I am not very good at it.

And then…  and then we have a weekend like this one, full of laughter and beauty and that smile… those sparkling eyes… that silly girl and her wonderful, spontaneous kisses… and I know I’m doing just fine.


12 Responses to “Nap Training and Intuitive Parenting”

  1. Brandee March 29, 2010 at 8:57 am #

    Heather, you are such a great mommy…

    I completely understand that feeling – I felt the same way with both Owen & Ella. If it gives you any encouragement, Owen napped next to me or with me pretty much every day until he was around 2, and Ella napped in her swing until she was about 1, and they are both perfect sleepers/nappers (in their own bed/crib) now. 🙂

  2. hillary March 29, 2010 at 9:40 am #

    I see myself in a lot of this post. We tried sleep training G once. . . . for about 10 minutes. It is so helpful for some people, but it wasn’t right for me. Parenting is an art, not math where there is always one right answer. But I had plenty of moments of guilt, wondering if I did the wrong thing. It’s hard sometimes to listen to ourselves. But there is no greater expert on your family than you. And I find as much as the world hypes “mommy wars,” a lot of parents I know just have empathy for the doubt, exhausted moments and frustration that parenting sometimes naturally entails. Glad you are regaining some equilibrium and having a better rested kiddo!

    Also, my swing-napping, couch-napping, co-sleeping, midnight-nursing baby does sleep through the night in his own bed at 2. On to new challenges!

  3. Jaime March 29, 2010 at 10:00 am #

    It’s so hard to tune out the outside world and tune in to our own parental intuition. I am dealing with the same worries right now by not forcing E. To sleep on her crib. We gave up and gave in and now we co-sleep and get lots of sleep all around and a happy baby. Problem is we don’t want to co-sleep forever and always intended to try and get her into her own bed by 6 months and Iknow I am in for misery when we feel the time has come. It’s such a emotional and guilt ridden job being a parent. Evangeline is only 9 weeks old and I already spend to much time worrying I am teaching her bad habits and to little time enjoying the cuddle time. Oy!

  4. Wondy March 29, 2010 at 11:01 am #

    You inspire me, my love, and if I’m quarter of the mum you are, my child(ren) and I are going to be happy as Hell. Keep going the way you are, I can’t imagine that will ever steer you wrong.

    Lots of love x

  5. daisybones March 29, 2010 at 1:23 pm #

    That balance in parenting has been a struggle- it still is, at nearly 4 years in, but I’m way more confident as a mom. Keep listening to that intuition- mamas really do know what both they and the babies need:D

  6. Barbara March 29, 2010 at 2:30 pm #

    You are the only expert your child needs. You know her inside out. You know what will work for her and what wont. You can take advice or read a book and try things out but in the end you will find your own way. You just have to trust yourself!

    Evi is a lucky girl!


  7. Katie March 29, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    Ugh. Great post. I feel you on so many levels. I hate holding my breath and praying that she’ll stay asleep when I put her down at night, but I also hate listening to her scream when we try to “teach” her how to sleep. We’re pretty good at night, but naps, not so much.

  8. missing_one March 29, 2010 at 4:29 pm #

    I totally went through this with my first. Eventually, you WILL listen to you inner mommy, it just takes awhile to tune everyone else out.
    You’re doing great and I’m so glad she is back to being your happy baby. 🙂

  9. Beautiful Mess March 30, 2010 at 11:11 am #

    YAY for a happy baby and a great weekend!

    Good for you for listening to yourself. It takes time, but you will learn to listen to that voice. It’s all a guessing game, NOBODY knows exactly what they’re doing, anyone that says differently is LYING!

    I wishing you lots of Evi smiles and belly laughs and sleep for you!

  10. bustedbabymaker March 30, 2010 at 10:54 pm #

    We went through the exact same thing. Once or twice I tried letting him cry for naps and both times i felt like I was literally going to have a nervous breakdown. And here we are at 9 months old still holding him for many naps or having to lay down in bed with him but to me that’s better than hearing him so sad. Nighttime isn’t great either but we’re just taking it day by day. You are a wonderful mama and I’m so glad she’s her happy self again!

  11. Tiffany M (CLD) April 7, 2010 at 9:34 pm #

    As a mother of four, the first of whom I did the “cry-it-out” thing because it was “right,” and all the “experts” said to do it, I can tell you that you were heart-broken for a reason. I’m so sorry you had to experience this…it is incredibly hard to be a mom sometimes. Especially when it’s your first child, and everyone seems to know better than you do how to do everything “right.”

    I ache for the pain you and your baby went through for a few days. I’m so glad to hear that you are finding a better balance, because really, balance is key. Schedules are only one tool among many in good parenting. No tool is meant to fix every problem. Yes, scheduling may be important to some, but might be harmful to others. AND THAT’S OKAY. You just have to figure out where in the spectrum you are, as a family, then walk confidently in it. Experts be damned! There is no better expert on your child than YOU. Period.

    I am now an “attachment parent,” but not in the extremes the term implies. I found a happy balance with my three younger children. And the crazy thing is that the balance looked different for each child.

    My best advice (I didn’t read any comments prior to mine, btw):

    1) You will *know* what’s right for your family soon enough. A little trial and error never hurt anyone who wasn’t willing to learn.

    2) Mistakes are inevitable. Put them behind you and avoid making the same ones again. Forgive yourself immediately. Your baby will!

    3) THIS TOO, SHALL PASS. Babyhood is VERY short. A little (or a LOT) of sacrifice now will pay dividends later in a healthy relationship between you and your precious child, as well as your husband. Everything in childhood is temporary. Enjoy it, even if it really sucks sometimes.

    And, for some evidence-based information on sleep-training, you can visit these sites:
    OR (This one is my favorite)

  12. Sue December 26, 2010 at 9:30 pm #

    I am going to nap train my 13 month old starting tomorrow. He is going to go to daycare. He has been sleeping on me or my mom for 13 months for naps. My mom cannot take care of him full time any longer.

    We finally got his nighttime sleep under control when he was 10 months old. I dread the screaming and crying, the hoarse voice, and bruises from banging his head into the crib slats. But what to do? My 13 mo old has to learn to nap and not on my boobs and not on my mom. I work full time, my fiance is in school and does not have an income. I would love to be a stay at home, but my partner will not finish school for another 1.5 years, then residency for another 3-5 years, so I am 5-7 years early 😦 in the baby thing to do attachment parenting. And he wants to have another one soon (due to my age– 40 this year).

    Such is life.

    You are so very lucky to be able to nap/sleep with your baby for as long as is needed. Thank you for sharing your nap story. It is something I wish I could do!!

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