My Baby Is Supposed to Nap Where?

I can’t pinpoint the day when Hope started napping exclusively in our arms, but ironically, we lucked out last month on Friday the 13th when she took her first big girl nap in her crib.

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Sweet baby girl asleep in our arms

Although we knew the norm for napping was in a crib, I was terrified of Hope losing her perfect night’s sleep if she was placed there too frequently at other times during the day. I was concerned she would forget the difference between a nap and bedtime. I was concerned she would create a negative association with her crib that would jolt my husband or I back into sleepless nights spent calming a fussing baby. And I just did not feel a crib nap was worth these risks when I still so very much enjoyed watching her little face twitch through dreamland as she slept soundly in my arms.

Our follow-up appointment with the developmental pediatrician was fast approaching, and she was the one most strongly advocating that Hope nap in her crib, which was really just an extension of her desire for Hope to develop healthy sleep habits. (Hope is currently diagnosed by the same doctor as having “sleep-onset association disorder”.) Knowing we were less than two weeks from appointment day, I figured I’d give it a shot: I would try to place Hope in her crib at naptime over the course of four straight days, and if at the end of our trial Hope had not taken to the new arrangement, we would table the idea with hard data to support our findings.

So that Friday after reading countless articles and web posts on how to crib-train a 1-year-old, I rocked Hope to sleep, placed her in her crib, and snuck out of her room with the video monitor in hand. Whatever happened next didn’t matter—I had worked up the courage to put her down in the middle of the day.

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Play by play of Hope’s first crib nap on January 13, 2017, as viewed on the monitor

I sat on the couch, staring at the monitor, waiting for Hope to realize she’d been abandoned and cry to be back in my arms. I texted with my husband as it all unfolded, noting my shock that she was still asleep.

But guilt quickly replaced shock as I realized how easily Hope had taken to the crib. How long had I been depriving her of a healthy, independent nap? How long was she ready for this before I had the courage to do it? Was I really that selfish that I put my neediness ahead of my daughter’s health?

A half an hour passed. Then an hour. I had no idea what to do with my time but to continue noting time passed and wait for her to cry tears for me that would never come.

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Hope very pleased with herself for napping in her crib

An hour and forty-five minutes later, Hope woke up with a precious baby yawn and pushed up on her hands to look around the room. I rushed in and she smiled up at me, well rested and content.

Crib naps have been hit or miss since then, but I’m still learning, as putting her down to sleep during the day feels very unnatural to me. When a crib nap fails, I feel angry that I’ve been shamed into putting her down during the day, but hindsight is 20/20, and I believe this is going to be an uphill climb with a great payoff at the top.

Our next challenge is to break her of needing to be rocked to sleep, but I’m pleased by our progress, and we will take this one nap at a time.

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