Category Archives: Naps

Q&A: pooping to avoid napping

Happy New Year!

Heather writes:

"I am not sure if this is a problem others have run into or not, but my
10 month old daughter has been pooping a lot lately either 20-30
minutes in her naps or right after I put her down she wakes up and
poops, thereby ending the nap. This is a typical day all of a
sudden: 20 mins into a nap I hear her babbling away in her crib, not
crying and wait and wait thinking she’ll fall asleep, because she
*must* be tired, right? Well, 45 minutes go by and I finally decide to
go check on her and the smell of poop hits me the second I walk into
the room.  I couldn’t sleep with poop in my pants either, so I feel bad
and change her diaper.  By this point, she is in no frame of mind to go
back to sleep so we go downstairs and play until she seems tired enough
to try again.  We go through the whole routine, I nurse her to sleep,
plop her into the crib, close the door gently behind me and I hear,
"bah? bah! mamamama!" and it starts all over.  I check 10 mins later
and she pooped again!  This has been going on consistently for three
days now.  Is she doing this on purpose?  Could she possibly have
control over her bowels and be avoiding naps? I should mention she has
a very solid routine and normally takes two 1 hr 20min long naps on the
2-3-4 schedule that you sometimes talk about.  Oh, and she usually
poops *after* she naps or when she wakes up in the morning.  So, this
is totally out of character for her, but becoming a new routine that I
feel I can count on, unfortunately."

I feel bad laughing, but that was my first reaction, because I’m a 12-year-old boy sometimes.

I think the pooping has more to do with the nursing than with the napping. Many many many babies poop after they nurse, and it sounds like something about her digestive pattern has changed to make her poop shortly after nursing. (Why do the baby books not tell you that your kid’s poop patterns often change right after a growth or digestive spurt? Both of my kids were like clockwork, with a new pooping pattern after the 3-week, 6-week, 3-month, and 6-month growth spurts. It’s totally normal, but I get a surprising number of emails from people who are concerned when their kids go from 6 times a day to once a day, or something like that, and you’d think one of the big-name doctors would have thought to put that down.)

It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if part of the big 8-9-month sleep regression had something to do with digestion, or if the increased movement around this age changed pooping patterns, or something like that.

Anyway, the point is that I think the trick is going to be to figure out how to get her to poop either before she nurses down, get her to nurse and poop and then fall asleep, or some other possibility.

You’re really stuck between a rock and a hard place, because the whole point of nursing her down is that it always works like a charm, and why mess with something that works so well? But if she only goes down but doesn’t stay down, then your beautiful system isn’t working so well anyway.

In your shoes, I’d do pretty much whatever I had to to figure out how not to stop the nursing to sleep (having had a child who would not nurse down for naps and one who did, I really think nursing down makes everything so much easier for everyone because it’s pretty much a guarantee). I wonder if you could mess around with the solids you’re feeding her to see if you could get her to eat some poop-inducers at non-nap times to see if that would leave her without anything to poop out during naps. Raisins, pureed prunes, and squash were big poop-producers in my apartment. (Also, if I drank coffee–even decaf–and then nursed, both my boys would poop. Go figure.)

That’s all I can think of, other than trying to get her to stay awake until she poops and then get her down, which makes me feel exhausted even thinking about the logistics. Of. (Some bad grammar for the new year. Did I mention I have some sort of illness that has left me with no voice today? It must be affecting the sentence-writing part of my brain.) OTOH, if you’ve been trying to get out of nursing to sleep for the nap, this is the perfect time to do that.

Any comment help?

Q&A: adjusting to naps with caregiver

Apparently this is "sleep problems and single parenting" week. Here’s a question that combines both. Kay writes:

"very soon i’m going to have to go back to work (sigh. sigh.).  my daughter just turned a year old, and to say sleep isn’t always her thang would be an understatement.  i’ve gotten used to our schedule/routine for sleep, but soon she’ll be taking her naps with someone else.  the only thing that works for us is for me to nurse her down in bed, then roll away.  almost like clockwork, she wakes after 30 minutes, and if i’m close by i can nurse her back down to sleep again.  i’ve tried rocking, patting, pacifiers, etc. – she wants the real deal, nipple action!  she only takes one nap these days (1-2 hrs when i’m right there), so naptime is a one-shot deal now. if this matters, she does something similar at night, with frequent wakings to nurse (we co-sleep).  and i’m not into CIO, though i say that with NO judgment to others.

okay, so my point is….  how is someone else, someone who she doesn’t even know well, going to get her to sleep???  i feel like i need to establish a new routine BEFORE i just throw her into this kind of mix, but don’t know where to start.  i’ve read previous posts about sending in the other parent, etc, but i’m a 100% single parent.  i seriously lay in bed (while she’s asleep!) thinking about this over and over.  it’s bad enough to feel like i’m leaving her with someone else, much less knowing that she could be crazy sleep deprived.  she is SO active (started walking at 9.5 months and now just goes and goes), but she does not konk out when she’s super tired – she just gets more ramped.

in respect to the tension-releaser vs builder, she is a very determined (and lovely) toddler who seems able to cry for long periods of time (the couple of times i’ve sat in the room and tried to get her to sleep in her crib).  aaaaahhh, it just makes me want to rack up my credit cards so i never have to go back to work until she’s in preschool!  i would be so grateful for any suggestions you or your readers (especially single parents) have."

Your guys know I always say "You’re the best parent for your child." I mean it, and if it’s the one thing I hope anyone ever takes away from this site that’s it.

But there’s another half to that. Which is that you’re the only you there is. Your child is going to react to you in a way that s/he doesn’t react to anyone else in the world. That’s great in some ways–you’ll be the one who gets hugs and kisses and a special kind of love. But sometimes it can feel like you’re the only one who can do things.

Your child, though, knows who you are, and that no one else is you. And your child doesn’t expect anyone else to be you. Your child can form meaningful rituals and bonds with other people.

At moments of big change, like starting day care, it can feel like you’ll be helping everyone if you become the facilitator of those rituals. But it’s not your job to create a relationship between your child and someone else, just to set the stage to allow it to happen.

What I’m saying is that whoever cares for your child will come up with a way to get her to nap. She may not like not being able to nurse to sleep anymore, but she’ll adjust to going down for a nap with her caregiver, and she’ll probably still want the nurse-and-roll-away from you on weekends. But it’s not your job to come up with a new routine for your caregiver to follow. Your daughter probably wouldn’t accept it from you anyway, and why make tension between you right before you have to change something in her life?

Let the new caregiver come up with the plan that works for them. You stay you, being the mother and doing the mothering that you do when you’re with her.

And it’s going to be OK going back to work. Unless it’s not, in which case you’ll figure out something that you can live with. At this age everything changes so quickly that what doesn’t work now could be perfect in three months, and vice versa.

Now, in the comments section I need tales of children who will only sleep one way for you, but can go down a different way with someone else. I’ll start: My younger son does not like to take a nap when I put him down, and will keep making excuses for me to come back (the whole "I need some water" routine). But he goes down easily with his babysitter, who created a routine involving a "tuck-tuck" (which I assume has something to so with tucking the blankets in around him) that he sometimes requests at times when she’s not there.

Anyone else have anything to share? We’re assuming she’s getting a competent caregiver who’s got her own bag of tricks to get Kay’s daughter to nap.

Q&A: How long can the swaddling go on?

If you live in the US and can, please vote today!

I still don’t know why it’s happening, but I keep getting questions in clusters. I’ve gotten a few recently about how long you can swaddle a baby. A couple of the parents are wondering if they can still swaddle because there’s nothing else that gets the babies to sleep, but the parents are worried that the babies are too old for swaddling at 4 months.

(Are we surprised that a big sleep dilemma is rearing it’s ugly head at four months? How convenient that that’s both the time kids are having sleep problems leading up to the 19-week leap, and also the time when popular culture tells us our kids are supposed to be sleeping perfectly after going down awake and if they’re not it’s our faults. Sheesh.)

There was also a note of confusion in two of the emails because the babies were still calmed by swaddling, but would then work their ways out of the swaddle in the middle of the night. Without the swaddle, the parents had a hard time getting the babies back to sleep, but the swaddle didn’t take. It was a big conundrum wrapped in a Catch 22.

I don’t really have much about swaddling. My older son was an anti-swaddler. I think he was just so happy to have room to stretch out finally (he was 9 1/2 pounds at birth) that there was no way he’d have submitted to a swaddle. And my second one was OK with the swaddle, but it just kind of faded away after a few weeks.

It’s my gut feeling, though, that nothing bad is going to happen if you continue to swaddle your baby until s/he stops responding to it. Assuming your baby gets plenty of time on the floor with his or her arms and legs free during the day, swaddling isn’t going to prevent them from developing physically. And if it gets the baby to sleep at night, hop on it.

One of the writers said "Right now I feel like he will need to be swaddled until he
is 3 years old" and that made me laugh, because when kids have that three-year-old sleep refusal thing (we could call it a sleep regression, but that makes it sound all babylike and genteel, which it’s not) wouldn’t it be awesome to just swaddle them in a big blanket and have it actually work? Maybe I’ll add that to the list of Kid Products That Would Sell In The Millions If Only They Worked.

Now, that doesn’t help the parents whose kids are wiggling out of the swaddle. That, to me, seems like the signal that the swaddling days are over. But how to transition to something else. My suspicion is that it can take weeks or even a few months, like some kids waver between one nap and two for weeks or months and are miserable nappers during that time. But, again, I’ve never lived it.

So, swaddlers and former swaddlers of the internet, give us some data points. When did you stop? Did your child fade out of it? Did you make a deliberate decision to stop? What did you do instead?

4 month olds

I’m really, really behind in my life today. And I’ve been getting a ton of questions lately from people with 4-month-olds. And there’s just so much going on at that age that makes it a tough, tough time–they don’t really nap yet, their nighttime sleep is falling apart (thank you 4-month sleep regression), you may be back at work or seriously wondering what made you decide not to go back to work and either way it screws with your head, you probably haven’t lost the baby weight yet and don’t feel sexy but then there’s Scary Spice doing the cha-cha looking like a brick house, and your baby is probably not as fat as your doctor wants him or her to be, and it all just sucks.

A very helpful nursing-related post about breastfeeding at 4 months from CJ:

Things to consider if your four-month-old baby coasts down the growth charts

So I’m going to just open up the comments, and those of you who remember your 4-month troubles, (or are in the middle of them) post them, and we’ll all commiserate. I don’t think there’s much of a cure for most of this stuff except for time and being gentle with yourself, and realizing that you do what works at the time and then when it stops working you do something else. Think about getting sleep today, not what might happen a year from now.

Q&A: how to divide up bedrooms

Sarah writes:

"First I do have to say how much I enjoy not only your comments but also the forum that you’ve created.  Thanks!

My question is about room sharing.  We have a 5 yr. old boy and 20 mo. old girl.  We’ve always had them share a room but soon we’ll be moving into a new house (our first – yay!) with three bedrooms total.  But we’ll also be having a new baby girl in two months.  So I was thinking that it might be best to keep the older two sharing a room for awhile and make the transition to a "girls’ room" and a "boy’s room" later.  But here’s the thing, my 5 yr. old has all sorts of toys that are difficult/impossible for him to play with in peace (ie. Lincoln Logs, involved puzzles, etc.) except during nap times.  Would it be better to split up the older and younger siblings or am I asking for failure in the sleeping/napping department?  Ugh!  This seems like it should be so simple, more rooms = better/easier.  But I’m having such trouble figuring it out (haha!).  I think this may be one of those situations that would be greatly aided by someone with experience or at least a clearer brain…"

I love the comments, too, especially when what I say is wrong or incomplete and the commenters get to the real answer!

I think (and I know the comments are going to go a bunch of different ways) that I’d go with the big kid/baby split. Here’s why:

The two older ones already know each other and are in practice with sharing a room. It’s going to be something stable and solid once the baby comes and shakes things up for them.

I’m assuming you’ll have more room in general in the new house, so your son can play with his many-pieced toys (the bane of my existence) in another room while your daughter naps. Also, in 8 months or so the pieces won’t be as much of an issue because your daughter will be able to be more of a participant and less of a nuisance with the big-kid games.

More importantly, the baby could be a stellar sleeper or she could be one of those kids who needs a lot of help and tending for months and months. If  she is, the last thing you’re going to need is to have the older children’s sleep messed up because of her. Or, even worse, her sleep messed up because of them!

That’s what I’ve got on this, but I only have two, and they share a room easily. Proposals and counter-proposals solicited for the comments section.

Q&A: non-consolidated sleep in 6-month-old

Meera writes:

"My son is almost 6 months old and is growing fine. I’ve heard from almost everyone that sleep begets sleep but not so in my son’s case. On the whole, he gets the sleep he needs in a 24 hr period (15+ hours) except that the sleep is never consolidated. He naps from 9 or 9:30am for about an hour and a half and then again at 1 or 1:30 pm for about an hour and a half. And usually a short 45 min nap at 4pm. He goes to sleep for the night anywhere between 6 and 8pm but rarely sleeps for more than 4 hours at a stretch before needing to wake up to feed.(he used to do 6 but now its never more than 4) It’s usually either the first stretch (7 to 11pm) or the second stretch (1:30am to 5am). In between (11pm to 1:30am) he sometimes wakes up and doesn’t go back to sleep (after nursing) when he’s restless. He’s not hungry, he’s not interacting with either me or my husband (we cosleep), he just looks at the ceiling and sucks his fingers while bicycling his legs and making noises. We try to rock him to sleep and he does eventually go to sleep (but only after a long time). Spending over an hour in the wee night hours rocking him back to sleep is killing us. Any tips on preventing the wake ups? How important is it for baby to be sleeping continuously? Since baby is overall getting the sleep he needs (he makes up for his night wakings with longer naps in the daytime) should I just cross my fingers and hope that he will learn to sleep longer stretches eventually?"

I do think this sounds within the range of normal for that age. Of
course, normal kind of sucks. But it doesn’t sound unusual or unhealthy.

I have a few suggestions, but they’re mostly about how you manage yourself instead of trying to fix your son’s sleep.

The first thing I’d suggest is that if he’s not crying or upset, don’t
try to get him back to sleep. If he’s bicycling his legs and you can
sleep through it, just keep on sleeping unless he starts to cry. It
sounds from what you’ve described like he’s not upset, just awake. So
you don’t technically need to be in the loop if being awake isn’t
bugging him.

The other thing I’d look at is the cosleeping. It seems like people
cosleep either out of philosophy or out of practicality (or some of both). If you’re
doing it out of philosophy, then you should keep doing it. If you’re
doing it out of practicality, you might want to see what happens if you
try to get him to sleep somewhere else (either in the same room or in a
different room) for a couple of nights. For some reason, some babies
seem to go through a window in which they don’t cosleep well but sleep
really well in their own space. If you’re not opposed to letting him
sleep somewhere else, you might try it for a few nights and see what

(To get a baby to sleep in a different situation, you need a really
solid bedtime routine first. Once you’ve gotten one established, keep
it exactly the same as much as possible, and vary only what you have to
to change the sleep thing. So, for instance, if your cosleeping routine
was bath, pajamas, book, nurse to sleep in the bed, then your
trying-the-crib routine could be bath, pajamas, book, then nurse to
sleep in the glider and then put down in the crib. Or bath, pajamas,
book, nurse to sleep in the bed and then transfer to the crib after 40

It also sounds like he’s trying to drop the third nap because it’s so
short, but isn’t really ready yet. He might consolidate his night sleep
once he fully drops that third nap. Which means it’s just a waiting
game. If you and your partner can figure out a way to split the
nighttime wakings in some way that means neither of you gets the full
brunt of it you’ll be better able to make it through this stretch.

He might also be up at night working on moving. The bicycling of the legs sounds like he’s a kid with places to go, and that he’s working on the skills to take him there. There’s not a single thing you can do about that, except wait for him to really start moving.

Hang in there. It gets better. Then worse. Then better. Then worse. Then better. Then you get to be the grandma and not the mom. Anyone else have anything?

Top 5 Ways To Get Your Baby To Fall Asleep

This is a special post written for proBlogger’s Top 5 Group Writing Project.(Sssh. What they don’t know is that you’re all going to give your
serious or joking tips, too, so it’ll end up being way more than 5.)

Top 5 Ways To Get Your Baby to Fall Asleep

1. Fill your baby’s stomach. Nurse or bottle-feed your baby
to sleep. It’s what babies are hard-wired to do, after all. All this
"your baby has to play after eating" stuff was written by someone with
way too much time on their hands, and no non-sleeping baby to deal

2. Rock your baby to sleep. Or stick them in the carseat or
stroller and go for a ride. Try the swing, or a sling, or the bouncy
seat. Or that trick of putting the baby in a carseat on top of the
running clothes dryer. Motion often works to soothe a baby to sleep, so
it’s definitely worth a try. If it doesn’t work, at least now your
clothes are dry.

3. Try what you think won’t work. If your baby isn’t
responding to feeding or rocking, they might be the kind of kid who
releases tension by crying a little. See what happens if you walk out
of the room for 5 minutes. If your baby cries harder and louder, you’ve
got a child who gains tension by crying, and you should go comfort the
child to sleep (and don’t try the walking out of the room trick again
if you value your sanity). If your baby starts to calm down or the
crying decreases in intensity (or your baby is asleep!), your baby
might need to cry a little to tap off the tension of the day and relax
enough to sleep. Counterintuitive, isn’t it?

4. Outsource it. Your mother-in-law knows how to get your
baby to sleep, and isn’t afraid to tell you. Why not take her up on her
unsolicited advice and give her a turn getting the baby to sleep? You
can go out and get Jello shots an ice cream cone while she struggles with your howler monkey. Whether she gets the baby to sleep or not, you win either way.

5. By Any Means Necessary. If your baby gets sleep, then you
get sleep, so do what you have to do. If everyone has to sleep in the
same bed, do it. If the baby has to sleep alone down a long hallway,
fine. If you all have to sleep together in the bathtub on a sheepskin
in hemp pajamas, more power to you. In a tent, on the couch, with the
Food Network on in the background, with the baby’s head smushed under
your chin (forgot about that, didn’t you?), in a recliner, with a
pacifier, hanging on to the dog’s tail, whatever. If it works, it’s
fair game. And all that crap about "forming bad habits" really is just
crap. Baby’s sleep changes so often anyway that if it works now it
won’t work in three months, and you can "fix" it then anyway.

Anyone else want to play?

Q&A: daycare won’t let baby cry to release tension before sleep

Jennifer writes:

"I have a one year old that does the same thing your second did; everytime she goes to bed she will scream (like someone is trying to kill
her) for a few minutes and then fall asleep. She HAS to do this or she
will not sleep. It took me almost 8 months to figure that out. I just
want to know how long this lasts because she is in daycare and they
won’t let her scream (they really can’t for the sake of everyone else)
so she doesn’t nap well. Every night I have a tired, cranky baby and I
just want to see her when she’s happy. I don’t have other childcare
options right now and I haven’t found a solution for her to get more
sleep during the day. Please tell me this won’t go on forever!"

That’s a coincidence, because my babysitter won’t let my younger one cry at all ever, so he’s been getting really awful naps for the past two weeks. Today it was half an hour. At least in your situation they have a valid reason for not going along with what the kid needs.* (I appreciate my babysitter’s desire to comfort my son, but it’s really counterproductive because it takes him under 3 minutes of crying and then he drops off like a boulder for two hours plus.)

I wonder if there’s any way they could separate her from the other kids during nap time and have her in a room she could scream in. Or figure out some other way to help her release the tension. She’s too young to be able to just run around until she drops (I’ve seen some kids do almost exactly that–they run and run and run and then sit down and within 2 minutes they’re asleep).

I wonder if getting her laughing would serve the same purpose?

Clearly, I’m grasping for straws here. Does anyone else have any ideas? I just don’t know what to do about a kid who really just needs to wait for a few minutes but can’t. I think eventually she’ll learn to fall asleep somehow (millions of kids survive non-optimal naps sleep situations–ask any mother of two how the second one gets the nap shaft), but there’s got to be some way to ease her into falling asleep without howling and waking the other kids.

I just can’t think of it yet.


* If you weren’t reading for my discussion about some kids needing to cry briefly to release some tension before falling asleep this all won’t make sense. I’m too lazy to go find the original post about it, but this one also contains my completely unoriginal "at least two kinds of kids" theory about crying to sleep.

Q&A: post-partum insomnia and irrational fears

Continuing with the theme of admitting how hard this can be sometimes…

Wendy writes:

"I’ve developed insomnia. 8 month old baby wakes up only 1x per night now (hooray) sometime between 2-5 am. I breastfeed, he goes back to sleep and I lay awake for a couple of hours. I’ve also lost my ability to nap. Overtired? PPD?

Also, since the baby was born, I’ve become afraid to fly (plane crash), afraid to drive (car crash), afraid to walk around the block (car crashing into the stroller), afraid of sitting in my house (tree falling over and crushing us), afraid to go into the bank (bank holdup)….I have not become a shut-in but find myself preoccupied with worst case scenarios."

I think this is post-partum anxiety, which is technically different from PPD, but I think is also caused by a complex interaction of factors, including hormones.

I am going to hazard a guess that a lot of us have suffered from some mild form of insomnia after having babies. Which is an unbelievable pisser*, because if the baby is actually asleep, it’s cruel that we aren’t, too. I’ve definitely gone through periods of this, even when I was not depressed in any other way. And it seemed to ebb and flow with my hormones and exercise and nutritional intake.

I also noticed (and why do I feel still a little scared to admit this, even now?) that I had preoccupations and almost visions of something bad happening for the first few months with both my kids. With my older one, I was constantly worried that a car would jump the sidewalk and hit the stroller and kill him. Sometimes I couldn’t get the thought out of my head, and I’d lie awake at night worried about it. Then when I had the second baby, the fear was that somehow my older one would accidentally snap the baby’s spinal cord and leave him paralyzed. I could not shake that fear for a good 4-5 weeks, starting about 2 weeks after the baby was born. I’d be sitting with them both, playing with the older one and holding the baby, seeing it happen in my mind as if it was a memory instead of some cruel mind trick.

The one good thing was that with the second one I didn’t worry that there was something wrong with me, and I have the blog world to thank for that. By that time I’d read enough "shameful confessions" online to know that there are things we’re afraid to admit, but that a lot of us are dealing with. Just because I hadn’t heard other women joking around about how afraid they were of really unlikely things in the first few months didn’t mean tons of us didn’t deal with it.

But back to Wendy’s problem: Just because lots of us have dealt with the insomnia and ultra-worry doesn’t mean that you should have to suffer through it. I think that taking Omega 3 supplements (2,000-3,000 mg a day of fish oil or flax seed oil**), getting 20-30 minutes a day of exercise, and getting 10-15 minutes a day of sunshine will probably fix you up in about a week or two. At least to the point that you can catch your breath and figure out what else you need that can ease your load and help you start to reach out to get some help.

You may find that you need counseling and/or anti-depressants, but I’d rather see you do the Omega 3s and exercise and sunshine first, because if your body’s a little off-kilter you should fix that first before going on meds so they’ll be even more effective (and just so your body doesn’t get depleted). I’d give them a few weeks to kick in, then call your doctor if things aren’t significantly better. (Mention "crippling insomnia" and "persistent worries" to get them to take you seriously.)

Here’s something really interesting I read in Erica Lyon’s The Big Book of Birth (I have a review copy, so I don’t know if my page number would be helpful, but it’s in the last paragraph of the "Massage" section in Chapter 4):

a recent study showed that if a partner massaged a new mother for fifteen minutes a day it is as effective (!) as medication for moderate postpartum depression.

I think it’s probably a combination of feeling taken care of by someone else and the way massage helps your body regulate itself (the same way getting regular massages helps you fight off colds better in the winter). But if you have a partner or friend who would be willing to massage you for 15 minutes every day, it might help regulate your system, too.

So. Yeah. It’s a problem, but you’re not a freak because it’s not that unusual (unfortunately), and it’s treatable.

Anyone want to share? Bizarre fears you had when your babies were little? The most sobbingly cruel episode of "I finally got this child to sleep and now I can’t fall asleep myself" you can remember? What you’re wearing today? (It’s supposed to be gorgeous and sunny here in NYC on Monday, so I’ll probably be wearing a red-and-white patterned wrap dress and red slingbacks to work.)


* By the North American phrase "pissed off," meaning angry, not "pissed" meaning drunk, which would undoubtedly be more pleasant.

** Hey, I still have no idea what the deal is with flax seed oil, whether it’s completely safe for all of us, or not so great for fetuses but fine for post-partum moms, or whatever. I’m still tempting fate by taking it, but know that I’m not a doctor or nutritionist and am not recommending it specifically so take it at your own risk.

Q&A: teaching a 22-month-old to nap in his bed

Karyn writes:

"How do you get a 22
month old to nap in his bed after he has been used to napping for two hours in
either a moving stroller outside or in a moving car?

I need a
step-by-step guide to doing this.

It is for the child
I ‘nanny’ for, not for my own child.

I would like to be
able to show the mum this step-by-step process."

Ha. Ha ha. Hahahahahahahahahaha. I think I’d just use the stroller time as exercise.

OK, that’s not really fair. I do believe that you can get a child to change a lot of things about the circumstances of their sleep if you have enough time and patience, and you define exactly what you want and accept flexible ways of getting there.

(What do I mean by that? Well, you might say "I want my toddler to sleep 12 hours at night in his own bed." That may be realistic for some kids, but for others it’s just not going to happen, any more than I am going to become an Olympic ski jumper*. While technically possible, the probability is extremely low. Instead, ferret out what you really want, and it may be "I want to be able to sleep from 11 to 6 and not have to wake up to deal with this toddler who I think is just waking up out of habit." That’s something you can deal with, even if it means experimenting with things you would never have considered, like giving your partner the 11-6 shift, waking the kid up at 10:30 for a big glass of milk, putting a bunch of toys in the crib so the child can play quietly if s/he wakes up in the middle of the night, etc. Redefining your expectations and being flexible will buy a lot less frustration than sticking with "shoulds.")

So. I’d start by asking "Is the bed mission-critical?" Because it seems like there are a bunch of components here. One is sleeping without motion. One is sleeping in a consistent place. One is the bed. The more of these you define as being absolutely necessary for success, the trickier this is going to be. If there’s anything you can eliminate from the plan, the easier it will be.

Think, also, about the child’s personality. If he’s flexible in general, you might as well try it cold turkey for a few days and see how it goes. Sometimes we parents get more addicted to something than our kids do, and we just assume they care when they don’t really. So you might be pleasantly surprised. If cold turkey isn’t going to work for your child, think ahead and start putting a favorite blanket (or a new blanket bought especially for these purposes) in underneath him wherever he takes a nap, starting now. It’s going to be his transition object.

Personally, I’d start by being consistent, and picking either the stroller or the car seat. Then I’d move on to cutting out the motion. Which means, maybe, that you’ll have to start the nap in motion to get him to sleep in the stroller or car, and then stop and hope he keeps sleeping. It may take a few days to figure out how long it takes until he’s out enough to keep sleeping. Once you figure that out, cut back the time by a few minutes each day until he’s falling asleep just by being in the stroller or car seat.

Once he can get to sleep without being in motion, it’s time to start the transition to his bed (if you’ve decided that his bed is where you want him to be for sure–I’ve known plenty of kids who napped better someplace else, like another bed in the house or a pack ‘n’ play, so if his bed isn’t working out, think about another consistent location). Start by putting the stroller or the car seat in the room you want him to be sleeping in. (Basically, you’re doing exactly what Jo-Ann did in this post.) After a few days of this, put his transitional blanket on his bed and put him down on it. (This is where the plan’s going to fall apart if it does. Just be prepared that everything might go really well until here and then stop in a screaming crying fit.) If it works it works. If it doesn’t, retreat back to the last thing that worked (sleeping in the stroller or car seat in his room, probably) for a few days, then try the bed again.

You know the old saying "Fast, cheap, and good. You can have any two of the three"? Well, I think the equivalent with children is "fast, simple, and painless." You can have any of the two, but rarely all three. So if you’re aiming for simple and painless, it’s going to take a few weeks to get the naps completely switched. And, depending on his personality, he may never nap easily in his own bed (I assume there’s a reason the mom started getting him to sleep in motion in the first place, and it may be something he’s grown out of, or it may just be something about him). And, being a fan of keeping up a plan that’s working, I’d probably just keep strolling him to sleep if there wasn’t really a reason to stop (and no, "the book says I shouldn’t do it this way" isn’t a real reason). But again, that’s me, and I’m notoriously lazy, and need the exercise.

Anyone else with stories of switching a napper? My older always napped on my bed (after nursing down–the horror!–and yet somehow he goes to bed all on his own now), and my younger always screamed at the top of his lungs for 3 minutes before dropping into a dead sleep in his crib.

* Please tell me I’m not the only person who holds a little glimmer of hope in her that she could start curling next winter and practice enough to get good enough to make her country’s Olympic team? If that 102-year-old golfing lady could make a hole in one last week, I could become a curler. Surely.