Nap Boot Camp


Kate Bowman-Johnston had naps figured out. All she had to do to get her daughter Adelle down was nurse her, hold her tightly in her left (not right) arm, stop nursing and place the tip of her finger in Adelle’s mouth, then jiggle Adelle until she fell asleep. And sit there and sit there until the baby woke up. One day Kate decided she’d had enough of the football-hold-finger-sucking-jiggling method, so she instituted Nap Boot Camp. By the end of the week, she promised herself, Adelle would be able to nap in her crib. Find out if she got it to work—and what happens when a “no-cry” mom and a “cry-it-out” mom compare notes on sleep.

Sleepy Kate, out and about

Sleepy Kate, out and about

Adelle's first night in her big-girl bed

Adelle’s first night in her big-girl bed

Kate is a librarian and is very well-read in parenting books. Here are her suggestions for sleep-related reading if you opt for the no-cry route, with the caveat that she takes some of the advice with a grain of salt.

She also follows Ask Moxie, who she values for this philosophy. And Isabella Granic of Child of Mind, a developmental psychologist who writes about sleep among other parenting issues.

UPDATE: For those of you who are curious about my own approach, there was no science behind it. I didn’t read any books because I was too tired; the very little I read I gleaned from the internet. Really, I followed my gut. At about 6 months, I started letting Sasha cry for 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 15, then 20 for naps . . . until I could eventually put her down without any fussing. A month or so later I started trying the shut-the-door-and-don’t look-back technique at night. But that was the start of cold season. Sasha was sniffling with something or other for a solid two months and I didn’t force the crying when she was sick. But once she was healthy (and not teething), we tried again. We’d let her cry when we put her down and again when she woke up in the middle of the night. After a couple of long, tiring weeks, she started sleeping until 5 a.m. Then 6 a.m. Now she sometimes goes till 7:00. One thing I want to add: no matter how much crying Sasha had done during the night, she always woke up cheerful. If that had not been the case, I wouldn’t have persisted.

UPDATE #2: Listen to my follow-up interview with Kate, in which I confess to cringing when I hear myself in this episode!

Top photo: Andrew Hood

29 thoughts on “EPISODE #11: Nap Boot Camp

  1. Hi there, i am also binge listening to your podcast at night! Hillary, in the beginning of this episode, you talk about your 15 mth old sleeping in the hotel room. How did you resolve that issue? My babe can no longer sleep in the same room as us and it’s affecting our travel.

  2. Like Rachel, I’ve been binge-listening to your early episodes. This one made me literally laugh out loud while I was walking in the park: it was the line where the mom said she envisioned having to tell her daughter’s college roommate to pat her butt until she went to sleep!

    I laughed aloud for two reasons: first, because it drove home the point that all of these things we go through with our kids are, for the most part, phases – “this too shall pass”. My kids are 14-23 now, and they all gave up blankets, pacifiers, and being rocked to sleep long before they ever had to get on a school bus. And then it also helped me remember that even the struggles of today – including the ones with our 17 year old who dropped out of high school this year – while really hard to take right now, will eventually pass with time.

    But the second reason I laughed at the butt patting story was because of my own experience as a toddler nearly 50 years ago: When I was 3 and my sister was a baby, my mom would lie down on the bed and jiggle it to get me to nap when she put the baby down – I remember it was the only way I could fall sleep. I actually remember her getting me all worked up with laughter as she tried to break my habit:
    “I can just see me telling your kindergarten teacher – ‘You have to rock her at nap time!'” she said.
    “And when you go off to slumber parties, telling your girlfriends, ‘Rock her to sleep!’
    “And when you move away to college, telling your roommate – ‘Be sure to rock her!’
    “And of course I’ll have to tell your boyfriend he can’t marry you unless he promises to rock you!”
    Oh, how I’d laugh at those images

    What’s especially funny about that last image:
    I remember when I eventually did get married, I had to actually break my life-long habit of jiggling my bed with my foot to rock myself to sleep at night because my husband couldn’t stand it!
    Listening to the podcast, I had a good laugh at recalling one of my earliest childhood memories, so stuck in my head because my mom made me giggle as she tried to use humor to break me of the need for rocking — only to have me latch onto that habit for the next 20 years!

  3. Why wasn’t I listening to this 2 months ago when I was frantically preparing for going back to work and SO worried my baby wouldn’t nap for her nanny. I figured I was failing as a Mom if I didn’t get her on a nap schedule. Well, guess what? She does not nap for the nanny except in the stroller and IT’S OKAY. Why did I waste maternity leave stressing about it?

  4. Oh my gosh. I am just starting this pod cast and I SO resonate with this Mama! “I feel embarrassed, like we made the wrong decision on how to get our daughter to sleep”. My son is 11 months, we still co-sleep, he sleeps like a dream for daycare but just doesn’t do it with us… with me in particular. I would LOVE an update on this Mom if there is one. I’d love to hear a “it’s totally ok, we didn’t ruin our kid because I just couldn’t do the melt-downs”.

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