Round about the time that Lyn, my helper, joined us, I had Michael down to three 30 minute naps (in crib or stroller), and one extended 2 hour nap around lunchtime. He was about 3 and a half months, and could apparently get through the day happily on that schedule. He still screamed like a madman going down for his one long nap in my arms, but I discovered that if I didn’t panic and just continued rocking him in my arms relentlessly with my eyes closed, he would give up within ten minutes and be out for the count. Then I would sit down with him and occasionally rock him through his transitions for the next hour or two. The usual. Dealing with this once a day was one hundred times better than doing it three times a day, but honestly, it still kind of sucked.
Shortly after Lyn joined us, she offered to take him for his long nap. That was the day of my glorious liberation. I felt like I was crawling out of a cave, with matted hair and bleary eyes, to a whole new world of relaxed lunches, horizontal naps and other civilised activities. A world of being a mom without the terrible curse of nap extension. Having a helper rocks like you wouldn’t believe. (More on that next time.)
We continued on this schedule for another month, and then the unicorn sighting happened.
Exactly one week before his five month birthday, Michael went down for his 30 minute morning nap in his crib. Except it ended up being an hour and a half. I waved this off as a glitch in his head or something. Two days later, it happened again – and again only for the first morning nap. Within two weeks, my baby was extending his morning naps pretty much every day, all by himself, in his crib. I could barely believe it. We’d done nothing different! He’d apparently just made the developmental milestone. One day he couldn’t transition to save his life, and the next day he could. FINALLY AND THANK YOU GOD!!!
Now, Michael sleeps anything between 45 minutes to 2 hours, for his first morning nap. Occasionally he extends his afternoon nap, if he’s particularly exhausted. He’s pretty random about it, but I can confidently say that the Intruder has been well and truly booted from our lives. It sorted itself out slap bang in the middle of the predicted 4-6 month range.
A few concluding thoughts:
1) Michael is a lucky kid for being my first. I cannot imagine extending his naps the way I did if I had another kid to manage.
2) I was probably (definitely) too obsessive about his naps and schedule. On hindsight I could possibly have attempted to put him down for 5-6 catnaps a day, instead of trying to force him to consolidate his naps into 3/4 longer ones every day. 5-6 short naps still sucks, but sucks less than nap extension. I was so fixated on getting him to nap “normally” so that I could get him onto the EASY routine, that it stressed me out intensely. As a first time mom, I really felt wedded to the EASY routine because I had no idea how else to manage the day without it. Next time, I’ll try to follow my baby’s natural rhythm a little more, and attempt to figure out a routine that is still pretty consistent and predictable, but which doesn’t tie me down for hours every day.
3) I knew even as this madness was going on that I was whining about something that other mothers take in their stride. That absolutely didn’t stop me from whining, unfortunately. I was also aware that some babies don’t nap at all during the day. (Yikes!!) Again, that didn’t stop me from losing my marbles. I just wondered how those other mothers managed to keep theirs.
4) If your baby can’t transition, there is hope. It might get better at five months, maybe four! It’s a terribly long time to wait, I know. Oh man do I know. But if it’s a developmental problem (and you know it is because you’ve tried absolutely everything) then as with all developmental problems, they frequently sort themselves out eventually.
5) In this case, they sorted themselves out at a time when it hardly mattered anymore. Yup. The silly thing is, just as Michael started to figure out his day sleep, he started to need way less of it, and his awake times started stretching dramatically at six months. So even if he goes through the day with only four 30 minute catnaps now, he’s all good. His routine remains intact. I don’t know whether to feel happy or annoyed about this.