Awww, nap time... Something every parent looks forward to, right?
In the beginning everyone tells you to nap when the baby naps. For me it was a bit different because we were in the NICU for 3 weeks. I held my premie during his feedings and naps which were on a 3-hour rotation. Only thing is, I was not supposed to fall asleep while holding him. His cry may not have been loud enough to wake me up if something was wrong. This was frustrating because I was SO TIRED, like all new moms. I loved holding him skin to skin each day, but I was exhausted.
We brought Baby S home when he was 3 weeks old. I continued to hold him a lot, but I also wanted to get my naps in. The most frustrating part was getting his tiny arms to stay in the swaddle! Those cute, tiny little arms just always seemed to find their way out, and I was convinced he would never fall asleep that way. I used a regular swaddle blanket and the type with velcro. Once he was successfully swaddled I would get a snack and watch a show on my laptop or take a nap. I usually put him in the Pack 'n Play by Graco.
When he was 6 weeks old we moved out of our rental, stayed in a hotel for 4 nights, and then moved into our new condo on the other side of town. At that point we started to use the Rock 'n Play by Fisher Price for his naps. (Visit my post "Top 5 Must-Haves for Baby's First 5 Months" to see more about these products.) During this time, Baby S spit up after every bottle, so it was better to keep is upper body elevated. Actually, he was already sleeping with a swaddle blanket rolled under his mattress where his head lay in the NICU. The sling design of the Rock 'n Play worked well to achieve a similar position.
I didn't know what changed at our condo, but it became so hard to put Baby S down for a nap. I'd walk him around our condo for what seemed like an hour. He would spit up often- and more than just a little spit up after a burp. He cried, pushed away from me, and arched his back. Did my baby hate me? I really felt like he did. Why couldn't I soothe him? I sang nursery rhymes to him. Then I had to calm myself so I started reciting and singing prayers from morning services. Funny thing is, Baby S calmed down a bit hearing these melodies. Eventually, he would fall asleep on me. I wouldn't dare set him down because I didn't want to risk waking him up. So, I would sit down on the couch for the next 2 hours and wait to start the process all over again. By then, I was exhausted and was able to fall asleep a bit.
At our next appointment, the doctor asked if we had any other concerns, so I mentioned Baby S's tantrums after having his bottle. She said these symptoms lined up with acid reflux. We received a prescription for an antacid, and eagerly awaited the 2 weeks for it to start taking affect. The acid was wearing down the lining on his esophagus and needed time to heal.
I was so happy when the antacid started to help my baby. He was still fussy at times like any baby, but he wasn't upset for long periods of time. I also changed my nap time technique around this time. After walking and singing for a while, I'd sit down on the couch with my snack/lunch next to me. While holding Baby S towards me, I let him cry it out for a few minutes and then he would fall asleep on me. At first it took about 10 minutes, which felt like an hour. I told myself that it's okay if he cries because I know he is safe in my arms. I'd also concentrate on the TV to distract myself because it was still hard to do. After a few days of this routine, he would fall asleep in less than 5 minutes.
The antacid and my new nap technique changed my life at 3 months old. I felt that I was finally friends with my baby again. I know that sounds silly, but it really hurt my feelings that he was always pushing away from me. My arms also hurt less. He only weighed about 9lbs, but he got heavy after walking and holding him in one position for an hour. I could finally eat something and rest once he fell asleep. I also felt better that he no longer had to cry and fuss and wear himself out. Now he knew the drill: cry for a minute, and then fall asleep.
I also tried to take him out for a walk each day. My husband was convinced he would get cabin fever and get cranky. I want them both to be happy, plus it was the best motivator for me to walk and exercise as well. I buckled him into my Infantino baby harness and I would walk up and down the large hill in our neighborhood. (Actually, everything is a hill in our neighborhood- Oy.) Without fail, Baby S fell asleep in the harness every time. I walked with a blanket wrapped around him and a beanie to keep him warm. I didn't let go of him the first several times in the harness. It feels so unnatural to let go of my baby!
By Halloween he started to nap in the Rock 'n Play. First I'd walk into our bedroom and turn on the Shusher. Then I would close the blinds and lay a swaddle blanket over the top of his head to cover his eyes. I think that was a signal for him that it was time to sleep. Then I would pace around bedroom and sing the same song to him each time. It used to take quite a while, but after a 1 or 2 weeks he fell asleep in a few minutes. Baby S liked to fall asleep with his pacifier, so I would offer it to him several times until he took it and was ready to fall asleep. Once he did, I would remove the swaddle blanket off of him and then lay him in the Rock 'n Play. There was always another swaddle blanket in the rocker ahead of time so I would wrap him up when I laid him down. Since it it was winter and he was a Houdini, I also tucked him in with another swaddle blanket. This method worked best for me.
So, these are the nap time changes that Baby S and I went through during his first 6 months. I was definitely improving my techniques, but was never sure when I would have to adapt again. All I know is that I went from holding my baby in the NICU struggling to stay awake to swaddling him in the rocker for nap time. I could finally eat and use the bathroom as I pleased, and that is definitely a new momma victory!