I often feel a moment of dread (quickly followed by concern) when my little one wakes crying from nap time. After all, consistent nap times means that my baby will be well-rested and ready for the day. As a mama, nap times enable me to catch up on chores, build friendships, or complete a bit of work.
Consistent nap times are a win for both baby and mom.
So, when nap is interrupted by crying, it can be overwhelming to set aside your task and know how to best care for baby. Do you immediately respond to baby’s needs? Do you let baby cry it out?
On Becoming Babywise states that crying functions as a signal of baby’s needs or wants. While fringe groups might advise to addressing baby’s every whimper or letting baby cry it out for an extended period of time, the Babywise Method is different.
Babywise knows that sometimes babies cry. Parents learn to interpret their baby’s cries and will then be able to respond to their individual baby in just the way she needs.
Ideally, when baby wakes during a nap crying, you can pinpoint what type of cry she is making. With that information in mind, ask yourself the following questions to determine what you should do:
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What to Do If Baby Wakes from Nap Crying
1. Is baby’s crying loud and piercing or soft and whimpering?
Being able to identify the type of cry baby makes is a game changer. A loud, piercing cry during nap time needs to be addressed. Check on baby and see what he needs. Sometimes help re-positioning himself or a pat on the back is enough to help baby fall back asleep.
If baby’s cry is soft whimpering (or even one or two loud cries followed by silence), wait a few minutes. It’s normal for baby to fuss slightly when moving around during nap time.
2. Is crying during nap a normal or abnormal behavior for your baby?
Many babies may briefly cry out during nap times and then quickly return to sleeping. If a bit of crying is normal for your child and the crying isn’t loud or piercing, it’s wise to leave baby to continue her nap.
If your baby doesn’t typically cry out during nap time (and especially if the cry is loud and piercing), check on baby immediately.
3. Is the crying occurring 45 minutes (or so) after baby falls asleep?
It’s quite common for baby to awaken about 45 minutes into their naps, fuss slightly, and then resettle themselves back into a sound sleep. If this is occurring and you baby isn’t crying more than a moment or two, you should let him continue his nap.
If baby cries after 30-45 minutes and shows no sign of returning to sleep, you’ve encountered a waking-early nap challenge. You’ll want to isolate the source of baby’s problem (hunger, discomfort, fatigue) and work to address it. Get baby up and begin by seeing if he’s hungry.
4. Is baby around the age of four months (or so)?
Around four months of age, baby sleep patterns begin to mature and include periods of both deep and light sleep. Throughout this time period, babies often find themselves waking unexpectedly and having a difficult time falling asleep. If this describes your situation, take a look at these Babywise sleep regression solutions.
5. Is baby swaddled at nap time?
Swaddling at nap can be a cue to baby that it’s time for an extended stretch of sleep. Swaddling can also prevent baby from startling himself awake (the Moro reflex). If baby isn’t yet rolling over and is waking early from nap, consider pulling out the swaddle. Experiment to determine if swaddling baby will help him fall into a deeper sleep.
If baby has learned how to roll over, or is consistently getting out of the swaddle, it may be time to break baby from his swaddle.
6. Is baby sick or teething?
If baby wakes up early from nap unexpectedly with loud, piercing cries, it could be that baby is sick or teething. Consider checking baby’s temperature and looking for signs of illness (congestion, runny nose, changes with bowel movements). Teething can also cause these symptoms.
Provide extra comfort to your baby while doing your best to maintain your schedule.
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While each baby (and situation) can be unique, taking a few minutes to assess the situation can put into perspective if baby needs you right away or if she’ll be able to self soothe and return to restful sleep.
More Nap Articles
5 Nap Disruptions and How to Overcome Them - Jess Wartinger
When and How to Drop a Nap - Lena Vogelgesang
Nap Time Across the Ages - Jess Wartinger
The Waking-Early Nap Challenge - Babywise.life
Baby Sleep Transitions: When to Drop a Nap - Babywise.life
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