Learning to Nap Independently (All in Good Time)

I never thought it would happen. The transition from only napping beside mama to napping independently. But it did. And much sooner than I ever anticipated.

I wrote about the nap battles between my toddler and I one year ago and how we overcame them. For months we relished in those peaceful afternoons, snuggled beside each other. Between her first and second year, I was pregnant with Jemma’s brother and more than ever, I needed those naps as much as she did. Looking back, I adore the memories of the three of us, one child in my arms and another in my belly, napping together in the dark quiet of the day with soft music humming in the background.

Before Jemma’s brother arrived we started practicing independent naps. I knew I couldn’t guarantee all three of us being on the same nap schedule, and I didn’t want her to think she had to be alone because I was with her brother. So, in the final weeks of my pregnancy, Jemma, with my prodding, grew into a new phase of independence.

We discussed her big girl naps before implementing them. I told her she would get to curl up in our family bed – spread out wherever she wanted. And, if she needed me, she was welcome to come to the door and call. We turned on her favorite sleep time CD, picked a well-loved stuffed animal or doll, and prepared a sippy. With a hug and kiss I said, “Mama loves you, close your eyes and rest.” I walked out of the room and said a prayer that we wouldn’t have a battle of wills, because, with an infant coming, I wasn’t sure how I would lull her to sleep without the baby causing a distraction. And then, nothing. Jemma fell asleep on her own!

It doesn’t happen exactly like that every day. Sometimes she comes to the door asking for more milk or to tell me that she hears an airplane outside. But, whatever it is, by establishing sleep as a safe and comfortable place, Jemma welcomes her rest rather than fighting it. It took almost two years to reach this milestone and sometimes I’m sad that we’ve crossed it already. Then again, I’m thankful that by committing to gentle parenting we made the transition in the best way possible . . . together.

Have faith, mamas. No matter the battle you are currently facing, it will most likely be a distant, and maybe even a fond, memory in a year’s time. What are you up against today? I’d love to hear and offer my support and encouragement, please share!

Photo Credit: Gretchen Bossio

About The Author: Gretchen

ThatMamaG My NPN Posts

I am a WAHM mama of two from the Pacific Northwest. I began my career in corporate sales and marketing and am now a freelance writer exploring the joys of attachment parenting while trying to find a reason to wear something other than yoga pants on a daily basis :)

12 Responses to Learning to Nap Independently (All in Good Time)

  1. Amanda

    Nice! We are currently night weaning (following Dr. Jay Gordon’s plan for cosleepers). Tonight is the big night 4 (with no night nursing)! Lilah (19 mo) is doing great so far. After we are all comfortable with night weaning, our next challenge will be independent napping. We still rock her to sleep for naps. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Gretchen  

      You’re welcome! I hope night 4 was a big success for you all 🙂 Night weaning is a HUGE step so I’m sure independent napping will come naturally as soon as you are all ready.

  2. Kristen H. W.

    My 2 year old son and I bed share, he nurses to sleep and will wake up a few times at night and during nap and will then nurse back to sleep. We have our new little baby coming in six months and I’m at a loss as to how to get him to nap alone. I’m also worried that when baby gets here they will wake each other up all night long and I will never sleep again. I feel like I should transition him to his own room but I also feel like he isn’t ready. He loves to snuggle all night. I need help. (my husband travels for work so he isn’t home very often so he can’t be an alternative snuggle buddy. He also sleeps in his own room when he is home due to his unusual work hours and snoring (-: )

    • Gretchen  

      Oh Kristen, my heart goes out to you! For now, since you have 6 months still, I would just begin talking about your son getting his own bed/space. It can even be in your room so he is close by. When we started things with my daughter, we started with nap time separation because it was a shorter time and their was less expectation. We slowly worked up to nights and even now, at 2 1/2 she still spends occasional nights in our bed – depending on her needs. It is a struggle with two in bed, trying to keep everyone quiet and asleep. I think you’ll be amazed at the growth and understanding your son will experience in the upcoming months as you prepare together for the new baby. There will be rough nights, but I often remind myself that it is just a season. Sometimes a long one (a few months/years), sometimes shorter – it’s different for every mama and baby and all we can do is do our best at the given moment. You’ll be in my thoughts!!!

  3. Ursula Ciller  

    During the day my first always napped in a cot while during the night she was with me. Since I knew I could not have her in my bed when the new baby arrived I gradually weaned her to the cot. This went smooth despite omnious predictions by others and “you’ll never get her out of your bed” comments. The cot was next to my bed and whenever she awoke I be there for her and she could drink if she needed. Then I put her in a different room but kept the doors all open and arranged my bed so I could hear her – which I always do no matter how tired I am. She has never had a problem with this transition :)Having said this my first weaned herself prior to the arrival of my second, but gets her milk bottle every night and up until recently also in the early mornings and before a lunch nap. The gentle bed to cot transistion and having a milk bottle alternative after 15 months breastfeeding was important I think.

    • Gretchen  

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience! It sounds like it was a gentle transition for each for each of you. And, I agree, having milk before nap/bed was a comfort my daughter has continued with as well.

  4. Janet Dubac

    Wonderful story. Usually, my little boy hates naps and he won’t take one unless you tell him. Just yesterday, I decided to lie down with him for a nap and surprisingly, taking a nap didn’t became a problem for the first time. Maybe he just needed me to lie down with him for a while for him to get a peaceful nap.

    • Gretchen  

      There was a time when that is exactly what my daughter needed too … a little pre-nap snuggle to calm her before drifting off to sleep. And, it never hurts to close your eyes for a little mama rest too! Those are the best 🙂

  5. Adrienne Anderson

    Wow! I *just* blogged about this topic today! We’re not to quite as smooth a point as you, but we’re headed there. It was great to read your story and be encouraged!

  6. Hannah D

    Isn’t it crazy how every child is different? Napping and sleeping on their own is a huge milestone! Our little one is a trooper if the door is open. It’s all about feeling safe and secure. It’s definitely a learning process for both the parents and the child.

  7. joanna garcia

    aww those are great ideas! i need to implement them with my toddler now that i have another one on the way!