Babies really don’t know they’re born. Show me an adult who wouldn’t give their right arm to be allowed to fall asleep anywhere, anytime, and I’ll show you a liar. But it seems this little luxury is lost on the little ones and they often have to be coaxed into it like (most) adults have to be tricked into holiday time shares.
When Max was a newborn he slept easily the majority of the time, like most of them do. Day confused with night, it was a 2 hourly round the clock cycle of feeding, winding, shitting and sleeping. As he got older, I mistook Max’s prolonged alertness for not needing to sleep much. I also mistook his ear-blasting screams for being a grumpy bugger.
It was only really a few weeks ago that I pieced it all together and the light bulb finally pinged on. He does still need sleep, lots and lots of it, he just doesn’t know how to do it when there’s just too much exciting stuff to try and focus his bleary little eyes on. That’s my mistake for letting him have Judge Rinder on the TV.
It turns out that getting a baby to sleep during the day after around 8 weeks is something of an art, a skill to learn for both Mummy and Max. Yes he sleeps in the car and in his pram when we’re out walking, but I’m talking about the kind of home-bound napping where Mum can get stuff done.
It all starts with the timing – trying to get them to sleep too soon and they’ll be pissed off that they didn’t see Rinder’s ruling and they’ll scream in your face. Too late and they’ve passed the point of no return where they just can’t possibly close their eyes and nod off, and they’ll scream in your face. There’s about a millisecond’s difference between undertired and overtired so you’ve got to be on the ball and get it bang on. Easy, no?
The ‘cues’ you’re told you need to look out for are another parenting curveball. That face rubbing can indeed mean he’s tired, but have also been known to signal that he’s hungry, he’s got a stuffy nose or – a new addition – he’s teething. By the time you’ve ticked off the list of options you’ve missed your window and have 30 minutes of shushing and dummy shoving ahead of you.
I’m trying to get Max into a bit of a routine without it being life limiting (my social life, that is). A nap soon after his first bottle of the day, then its bottle, play, nap as a general schedule for the rest of the day. This goes tits up every day at some point but as long as he’s sleeping a little bit between every bottle, we can pretty much keep on top of it. He’s yet to master the art of long naps though, which are currently few and far between, but hey, who am I to turn my nose up at 20 minutes in his cot while I break the record for the fastest shower and sterilising routine.
Getting a baby to sleep is one thing. Getting him to sleep somewhere other than on you is something else entirely. I’d love nothing more than letting Max nap on my chest for hours on end as I know he won’t do it forever, but we’ve all got to pee, so here’s a few situations and manoeuvres you might recognise…
1. The Pinner
The classic one. Whether you intended to have major snuggles or it was the consequence of a nap battle, a baby strewn across your body FINALLY teetering on the edge of a deep sleep, is one situation where you just have to admit defeat. Move that baby and they’ll make you regret it for the rest of your life. My tip is to always keep the remote and your phone on your body, Bob the Builder style if needs be, because an unwanted Pinner situation can only be made worse by bad TV and going cold turkey from Instagram.
So you’ve got baby to sleep and you’re actually in a position to get up and attempt a transfer to the Moses basket or cot. But there’s always one arm just being that little too supportive, firmly tucked under a head or bum and making that final release bloody tricky. Body’s down and he’s still asleep, but as you drag that arm out from under his head and it makes a bumpy landing on to the mattress, the eyes fly open and his startle reflex comes to life as though he’s just been dropped down a hole. All you can do is drop down into position, covering him with your body as though protecting him from a shower of bullets. Hold still for a few seconds and he might not realise you ever moved and will nod back off. Then slowly, very slowly, make your escape.
Getting baby to sleep and transferring him to a cot is one thing. Starting in the cot and getting him to sleep in there is another level. For daytime naps, we’re nowhere near achieving this yet, but have started training for it by attempting naps in his bouncer.
He’s never fallen asleep by himself in his chair or playmat so it required some patience and determination. Thirty minutes of mood lighting, badly sung lullabys and incessant bouncing and I had a baby on the verge of being overtired, but not asleep.
What normally seals the deal is him burrowing his face into the nook of my arm like a pig burrowing for truffle. So, replace the arm round the head with Giraffe and the nook of my elbow with Bear and Bob’s your Uncle, I had a sleeping baby.
Top tip – think ahead and make sure you’re in a position to escape once he nods off. Don’t follow my lead by getting wedged between the bouncer and the sofa surrounded by a sea of toys which jangled at the mere tensing of my muscles. I wrote it off as a lesson to be learned, and stayed put staring at the wall – remote and phone both out of reach – until he started to stir and I was freed from my little prison on the floor.
As I finish writing this post, we’ve had one failed attempt at a nap (undertired) and am now on to my next effort (The Replacement technique). We certainly ain’t cracked it and I’m pretty sure we never will but we’ll keep on trying, as a rested Max is a happy Max, and a happy Max is a happy Mum.