For about the past three months, Gabe has been consistently sleeping through the night. Bedtime is between 7 or 7:30 PM and the morning wake up is generally around 6:30 AM.
Naps though, were another story. Gabe has not been the best napper. However, beginning about a month ago, he started to really take good naps. He takes at least two naps a day, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. Sometimes he needs a late afternoon quick cat nap, but not every day.
So how did he turn the nap corner? How did this glorious schedule unfold?
I don't think there is any one thing that helped him settle into his current routine. I noticed that he could stay up for about two and a half hours at a clip, needing a nap after each period of wakefulness. Here are a few things that have helped get him to sleep (and stay asleep)!
1) KEEP ACTIVE: When he is awake, we play! I try to encourage him to be as active as possible-- He can't walk or even crawl, but I try to give him different toys and move him from room to room where he can access some new activities. We practice rolling, jumping, sitting up etc.
2) CREATE A ROUTINE: I do the same basic routine each time Gabe goes down for a nap. We read a few books (Gabe chews on them or likes turning the pages) and then I sing a song and put him in his crib.
3) PUT DOWN "DROWSEY BUT AWAKE": I finally understand the advice, "Put baby down drowsy but awake." Before, I would rock or sway Gabe to sleep and then try to put him gingerly in his crib. Sometimes it worked. Other times, I was held captive by him. If he woke up because he was startled by being put down, or hearing a creaking floor board, we had to start all over again. It was AWFUL.
Now, I look for signs that Gabe is getting tired. I watch the clock. I watch him. I take him up to his room--- we close the blinds and do the books/song routine. Then, even if he's not asleep, I put him in his crib.
He had to learn to put himself to sleep. This was not a quick venture, but now, IT IS HEAVEN. It took a few weeks of this routine, and a few weeks of Gabe crying himself to sleep to get him to understand that once in the crib, it's sleep time.
4) LOVE THE LOVEYS: We got him "Gus", a sweet but flat "lovey" to keep in his crib. I liked it because it was comforting for him, but if he rolled on it, it would not wake him up (because it was flat as opposed to a huge stuffed animal).
I seriously read everything about trying to get your baby to take naps longer than 15 minutes. As you may remember, Gabe was either the anti-napper or the cat napper extraordinaire. Now, keeping him SUPER active while awake, watching for his cues, and giving him the skills to put himself to sleep without my help, he is able to sleep more regularly and for longer periods of time.
I am not an expert. I just had to experiment to find what worked for him....Now watch though---- Now that I actually wrote about this, he will totally change his sleep habits just to spite me. That kid! He's lucky he's cute!