Night Training vs. Nap Training: Which Comes First?
My hubby and I are ramping up to sleep train our 4.5 month old using some variation of the Ferber method. Our pediatrician gave us the green light and our son is showing strong signs of being able to self-sooth.
We have been letting him nap on us (on the rocking chair) since he was a wee one because otherwise he would not nap and would be cranky all day. Letting him sleep on us seemed like a small price to pay to have an otherwise happy, sweet baby all day long (and nighttime too, because as someone wise says “sleep begets sleep!”) …but now he’s getting heavier, and it’s just getting worse. Even while on us in the rocking chair, he often does not settle or sleep restfully anymore. As soon as we attempt to put him down, he wakes up and screams.
For the most part, nighttime sleeping is going okay (i.e. he doesn’t need to sleep on us), once we rock him and put him down (asleep), he will sleep through the night, waking once for a quick feed, although lately that has been more erratic too (sleep regression, perhaps).
Do you recommend:
– Nap training and nighttime training at the same time, or should we focus on nighttime first so he can develop those self soothing skills and apply them to his naps? Nap training is challenging because by the time he finally settles (or not), nap time is practically over. What do you suggest for nap training?
– He sleeps in a Rock N’ Play (at night) but is quickly outgrowing it…soon we will need to transition him to a crib/Pack N’ Play …again, wondering if I should just loop that in to the sleep training, or if it will help him learn to sleep on his own if he’s in his familiar and cozy Rock N’ Play?
I’m worried about how much to do all at once but I also don’t want to have to repeat the process every few weeks/months.
I know you have loads of messages to respond to, but if there’s any way you are able to reply within the next week, I’d be so, so super grateful. We are going to use the long MLK weekend to start, since my hubby will be home for three consecutive days.
Warm regards and much gratitude,
Okay, let’s get right to the meat of thing:
- Tackle nighttime training first.
- Move him to the crib ASAP.
For thing number one, I have to really echo most of the advice and guidance from The Sleep Lady’s piece on nap training, found here. If you have a successful “nap crutch” (sleeping on you, on the breast, in a swing/bouncer), it’s probably going to be easier to just continue using that until you’ve successfully sleep trained at night and Baby has indeed learned some self-soothing skills. Nighttime training can reduce the number of hours of sleep your baby gets those first couple nights, so to ensure better success, you want your baby to make up for that sleep through naps. So I give you my blessing to just let him nap in the rocking chair during your long weekend and don’t bother trying to transition him.
Once he’s able to go down at night “sleepy-but-awake” and settle himself to sleep, that’s the perfect time to start mimicking the nighttime routine for naps. PERSONALLY, I think nap training is much more difficult than nighttime (it’s bright outside! why can’t we play! I took the edge off by falling asleep for five minutes in the car! I’m so excited but also tired and now it’s been 30 seconds and I’m completely overtired!), so I really can’t add any more insights than what The Sleep Lady outlines. It’s good advice, but don’t be surprised or frustrated if naps don’t come together as quickly as night sleep.
As for thing number two, yep, exactly what you said about not wanting to repeat the process every couple months. The goal of sleep training is to get them to sleep in their crib, so there’s no point in muddying up the process with a non-crib option. Particularly one that rocks/bounces/vibrates, which are all sleep crutches in and of themselves. And as you noted it’s a crutch he’s going to outgrow soon enough ANYWAY. Consider the Rock-n-Play retired, at least for nighttime (Update from Editor: see comment below from a reader named Amanda. She reminds us that the Rock-n-Play is not approved as safe for sleeping.).
If you are nervous about having it all be Too Much during the big Sleep Training Weekend, I would go ahead and stick with your current routine of putting him down asleep…but start putting him in the crib instead. That might be more a gentler baby-step to just suddenly being like, “AND NOW EVERYTHING ABOUT BEDTIME IS DIFFERENT!” that first night of Ferber.
Good luck! It sounds like you’ve got a good start on healthy, predictable nighttime sleep! Focus on that before the naps and hopefully it will all come together sooner rather than later. (Although yeeeeeeah, the four-month sleep regression is a BIG ONE, so don’t be too disappointed if that ends up ruining your best-laid sleep-training long-weekend plans.)