No Cry Nap Solution Questions

Our baby will only nap in my arms. If I try to put Emily down she wakes right up. This was fine for a few months, but she’s five months old now. I’d really like to have her nap in her cradle so I can make productive use of her naptime!

Over 65% of infants fall asleep this way, so Emily is clearly in the majority! It’s easy to see why: being outside the womb is the place that most clearly resembles being inside the womb: the cozy, secure place where your baby began life. In a perfect world we’d allow babies to always sleep in the comfort of our arms. But, as you said, arms get tired, and there are many tasks that need to be done with two of them.

Here are a few tips for switching from in-arms naps to in-bed naps:

  • Learn to identify your baby’s sleepy signals and put her for a nap the minute you identify her signs of fatigue; she’ll more likely welcome a nap
  • Let your baby fall asleep, and take her entire nap to the sounds of gentle lullabies, or white noise, such as a recording of ocean waves, rainfall, or the sound of a human heartbeat.
  • Keep your baby’s napping room dimly lit.
  • Try swaddling your baby for nap-time
  • Investigate the purchase of a baby hammock or swinging cradle
  • Invest in a quality crib mattress or padded crib mattress cover to create a softer, yet safe, bed surface.
  • Use soft crib sheets, such as fleece, flannel, or jersey knit. These fabrics are soft and warmer to the touch than traditional crib sheets and less jarring when you first lay your baby down.
  • To ease the transition from your warm arms to the crib, warm the bed surface before naptime. You can lay a warm towel (out of the dryer) or a heating pack on the baby’s spot while you get her ready for bed. Always remove the heat source before you lay your baby down. (Feel the surface of the bed each time to be sure it is not too hot.)
  • Let your baby have several quiet play sessions in her crib during waking hours. Stay with her and engage her interest so she becomes familiar with the setting. This way, when she is put in his crib for naptime it won’t be a foreign place, but a familiar place acceptable for naps.


My baby only naps about 45 minutes, but soon afterward gets crabby. Is this because the nap is too short?

Your suspicions are correct! A short nap takes the edge off, but doesn’t offer the same physical and mental nourishment that a longer nap provides.

It has been discovered that each stage of sleep brings a different benefit to the sleeper. The very first five to fifteen minutes reduce feelings of sleepiness and bring that whoosh of second-wind energy. But this dissipates quickly; resulting is fussiness, crying, crankiness, tantrums and whining.

It takes between 90 and 120 minutes for a child to move through one entire sleep cycle – which brings benefits such as: stabilizing mood, increasing alertness, improving motor skills, enhancing brain connections, sharpening visual and perceptual skills, repairing bones, tissue and muscles, boosting the immune system, regulating appetite and releasing bottled up tension and stress.

In order for your child to receive all of these wonderful gifts he must sleep long enough to pass at least once through each stage of sleep. Longer naps will encompass additional sleep cycles and provide a continuous presentation of these benefits.

A long nap really is a Perfect Nap.

Our daughter often skips her nap. When she does, it seems she has more tantrums and cries at the drop of a hat. This happens even after a great night’s sleep. Why is that?

From the moment your child wakes in the morning she is slowly using up the benefits of the previous night’s sleep. She wakes up totally refreshed, but as the hours pass, little by little, the benefits of her sleep time are used up, and an urge to return to sleep begins to build.

As children get older, the length of time that they can stay “happily awake” increases. A newborn can only be awake one or two hours before tiredness sets in, a one year old can last 3 to 4 hours, whereas a two year old can last 5 to 7 hours before craving some down time for a nap. When children are pushed beyond their biological “happily awake” span without a break that’s when they become fatigued, fussy and unhappy. Therefore, no matter how well your child sleeps at night naps are still very important.

As the day progresses, and sleep pressure builds, a child becomes fussier, whinier, and less flexible. She has more crying spells, more tantrums, and less patience. She loses concentration and the ability to learn new information. Ironically, she is likely to be too wired up to accept sleep at bedtime, creating a major bedtime battle!

The scientific term for this process is “homeostatic sleep pressure” . . .  I call it The Volcano Effect. We’ve all seen how this works on a baby or child – it is often as clear as watching a volcano erupt – nearly everyone has observed a fussy child and said, “Someone needs a nap!”

When we catch a child at in-between stages and provide naps, we build up her reservoir of sleep-related benefits, allowing her a “fresh start” after each sleep period. That’s the beauty and benefit of a daily nap.

My son takes two naps every day. He is turning one year old. Is it time to drop a nap and have him take only one nap each day?

Most children switch from these two daily naps to one nap sometime between the ages of one and two. However, that year of difference is a very long span of time. Age alone is not the only factor to consider when changing your child’s nap routine.

Since there is a wide range of what’s normal, it’s important to study each child’s behavior to see when he is ready to transition to one nap a day. Use the following lists as a guide.

Signs That your Child Needs TWO NAPS Daily.

  • When you put your child down for a nap he plays, resists, or fusses for a while but always ends up sleeping for an hour or more
  • When you take your child for car rides during the day he usually falls asleep
  • If your child misses a nap he is fussy or acts tired until the next nap or bedtime
  • Your child is dealing with a change in his life (such as a new sibling, sickness, or starting daycare) that disrupts his nap schedule
  • Your child misses naps when you’re on the go, but when you are at home he takes two good naps
  • Your child is under 12 months old

Signs That Your Child Is Ready to Change to ONE DAILY NAP.

  • When you put your child down for a nap he plays or fusses before falling asleep, and then takes only a short nap, or never falls asleep at all
  • Your child can go for car rides early in the day and not fall asleep in the car
  • When your child misses a nap he is cheerful and energetic until the next nap or bedtime
  • Your child naps well for one of his naps, but totally resists the other nap
My baby falls asleep for naps while breastfeeding. When I put her to bed, she sleeps a little more than a half hour and then she wakes up. I know she’s still tired. Why does she do this and how can I help her sleep longer?

The fact that your baby falls asleep with your help and then sleeps between 30 to 50 minutes are two factors that combine to define the main cause of these mini-naps: an inability to fall asleep or stay asleep without aid. Your baby wakes fully at the end of the first sleep cycle, resulting in a too-short nap. I refer to this problem as One-Cycle Sleep Syndrome (OCSS) and most common among young babies.

There are a number of ways to fix OCSS. One way to help your baby sleep longer is to put her for a nap in a setting that will lull her back to sleep when she wakes between sleep cycles. Cycle-Blender naps occur in slings, cradle-swings, rocking cradles, strollers, or baby hammocks. Any of these can help cat-nappers extend their sleep time because when Baby begins to awaken the rhythmic motion can lull her back to sleep.

Once your baby gets used to taking a longer nap with movement, you can make a transition to bed naps. Start by reducing the movement — less intensity and for less time. After your baby is asleep, you can stop the motion. Resume movement if she begins to wake up mid-nap. Over time, you can start to let your baby fall asleep in the stationary cradle, swing or stroller, and soon, the nap habit will be in place.

When it is time to make the move to putting your baby for naps in the crib, there are steps you can take to help your baby accept this new location. Use a padded crib mattress pad and soft flannel sheets to make the surface more welcoming. Play soft music or white noise, such as recordings of ocean waves, and keep the room darkened during naps. All this will encourage sleep.

First, become familiar with your baby’s usual tired signs – such as looking away from toys, arching her back, or slumping in her seat. Note your baby’s behavior in the minutes before she either eats or falls asleep. Since every child is unique you will notice your particular baby’s ways of communicating that she is tired or hungry.

You can often tell if your baby is fussing because she’s hungry if she is rooting (moving her head back and forth and opening her mouth), thrusting her tongue, sucking on her fingers or hands, increasing her level of activity, or fussing that doesn’t stop when you pick her up. The clock can also help you make this distinction–if it has been two to four hours since your baby’s last feeding (depending on your baby’s typical pattern and whether she is breastfed or bottle fed) her fussing is likely a sign of hunger. (If your newborn is crying that is a late indicator of hunger, so watching for these early hunger signs can prevent crying.)

My two-year-old falls asleep in the car when we go to pick up his older brother from preschool. Even though he only sleeps about ten minutes he acts like he’s had enough sleep and won’t go back down. Is that short nap enough?

When your child falls asleep for only five to ten minutes he’ll likely wake up appearing refreshed and be unable to fall back to sleep. That’s because the very first stage of sleep reduces feelings of sleepiness. So, this brief micro-nap has eliminated his tiredness for the moment, but not allowed him to gather the important benefits from all the other sleep stages. As the day goes on, this may become evident when he becomes more fussy or whiny and is more prone to frustration, crying and temper tantrums.

To avoid this, keep the car hopping on the way home from preschool! Talk, sing or play word games, and then head for a nap as soon as you get home!

Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing from The No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution (McGraw-Hill, 2008).

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