There have been many times in my parenting life where I realize that despite my best intentions and desires for my children, I have to change my course. Today was one of those days. It wasn't a split second decision by any means, but rather the end of a long period of contemplation that resulted in a decision made today, at 12:30.
Naps have been my nemesis for exactly half my children. Liam and Fiona napped just fine. I nursed them to sleep for a long while, and then eventually began to just read to them and tuck them in, and they slept for somewhere in the range of two hours. Liam did this until the ripe old age of four and Fiona is just phasing out her nap as we speak.
Aoife was different. I just had to nurse her to sleep. I tried a few weak attempts at putting her down awake for a nap when she was 18 or 20 months old but she didn't take so well to that plan, so I gave up and continued to nurse her to sleep. At just over two, she deemed herself too cool to fall asleep on the boob and quit napping altogether. As she had no routine of hanging out pleasantly in her bed, there was no rest time to speak of, and we just threw nap time away entirely and moved into a new phase of life. This had its advantages (no nap time! We can do whatever we want all afternoon!) but also its disadvantages (like 4:30 PM onward).
There was a long phase of Aoife's life where she was quite difficult, and I was very certain that being overtired had a great deal to do with that. I see now that Fiona, who does not nap on most days but does spend at least an hour quietly in her bed looking at books, truly benefits from her "rest time". While she still goes to bed earlier on days where she doesn't have an afternoon sleep, she doesn't get crabby in the late afternoon if she has that quiet, meditative time to herself. Looking back I see that Aoife never had that chance to just sit quietly with herself, and I wonder if it would have helped her to recenter herself.
So on to Maeve, who is 20 months old now. I have always nursed her to sleep, too, just like Aoife. Lately, however, I can see her fighting sleep as if it's something she actively doesn't want to let happen. While she's nursing, her eyes are rolling back in her head, yet she's struggling to hold them open. After she succumbs to her brain shutting down on her, the slightest interruption-- such as me setting her down in her bed-- causes her to realize she's asleep -- obviously very uncool-- and she struggles to wake herself up. If I hold her for a while she'll sleep in my arms but becomes uncomfortable and squirmy after twenty minutes or so (which is NOT a nap, just so you know). Normally I try a few times to get her into bed and eventually get her put down and can creep out of the room. Nap totals in bed for the past few days have been numbers such as 11 minutes, 6 minutes, and 21 minutes. This does not make a nap. At this rate she is literally ready for bed at about 4:15 in the afternoon. This baby really, really needs a nap. And I know that it is my job as her mother to figure out a way for her to have one.
Tomorrow she is going to start to spend at least one hour in her bed every afternoon. I know it is going to be brutal, and I am going to hate it. I know she is going to hate it. It is going to make me so sad, because I did have this little dream that since she's my baby I would just peacefully nurse her to sleep for her entire napping career. But my baby needs her sleep, and my method of choice isn't getting her the sleep she needs. So it is my job to help her make a change.
I am posting this, writing this, because I know I have to be intentional to make this work. I am going to be home every day at naptime until I go up to my parents on February 15th, which will give us 11 days to work on spending one hour in bed. Hopefully, this will result in Maeve falling asleep and spending more than one hour in bed.
Wish me luck.