THE NAP TIME HOUR RULE
One of the most frustrating parts about sleep training can be naps. Often times, nights come together rather quickly, but then naps seem to be make no progress. After a few rough days of short or no naps, parents start to feel defeated and begin to believe that whatever they were doing is not working and that their child will never change.
If this is you, first of all, keep in mind that sleep training is not something that results in a happy and well-rested child after one day or day two or day three. It is a process that is challenging and takes time. Sometimes two to four weeks for things to really come together. However, without that challenge, you will not see change.
One of the biggest mistakes that I see parents make is giving up on their plan too early. But I will save that topic for another time!
This post is specifically about "The Nap Time Hour Rule."
My version of the Hour Rule is a bit different than some other sleep consultants choose to use. Most will explain the Hour Rule to mean one hour in the crib. If your child falls asleep prior to that hour ending, then you get your child up the moment they wake. If they don't sleep at all for the full hour, you get them up at the hour. This is about the extent to the Hour Rule for most.
However, my Hour Rule is little bit more grueling than that but sees results much more quickly. If you want to help your child to take really good naps, you are going to have to give your child A LOT of space and opportunity to do so. With my Hour Rule, I have a few different scenarios that might occur.
SCENARIO ONE: THE PERFECT SCENARIO
Your child falls asleep within the allotted amount of time and the duration of the nap is really great. Great depending on your child's age and whether or not that nap is the AM nap, PM nap, or a catnap. This is where the Hour Rule that I refer to with clients does align with the one most people use.
SCENARIO TWO: NO NAP
Your child does not fall asleep for the entire hour. This is also where my definition aligns with the one referred by most people. If your child is still awake at the end of an hour, then you would use your wake routine and treat this time as if your child is just waking from their nap. With this, it is expected that your child will be very tired and might need to go back down for another hour of opportunity within 15 minutes of getting up.
SCENARIO THREE: CRAP NAP
Here is where my definition is a little bit more complex. If your child falls asleep within the hour that you have given them but it ends up being a crap nap, you then start the hour over again! Crap nap would mean the nap is short or your child is crying the kind of cry that signals they are still tired.
This is why I refer to this version of the Hour Rule as grueling. The first few days of this is very taxing. But, allowing your child the opportunity to work on connecting sleep cycles during nap time is one of the key components for improving naps.
If you go to your child the moment they wakes, they expect to be taken out of the crib. If this happens when the naps are short, the partial awakenings between sleep cycles that are normal become full wakings. Children don't know that they haven't finished their nap yet. They just know that they awake and when they call out for you when they wake, you come in to get them. They don't know that they might need to more time to sleep.
APPLYING THE NAP TIME HOUR RULE WHEN SLEEP TRAINING
So if your little one is struggling with naps and you decide to help them out with this, I suggest you use this Nap Time Hour Rule. This works no matter which method you choose. The key to any method you choose is to remain consistent and be aware of how your presence is affecting your child's progress. If you are using a method that is more involved, such as the Chair Method or the Pick Up Put Down Method, replace "Hour" with "90 Minute" as your presence and/or interaction will usually require more time for your child to connect sleep cycles.
Good luck! You've got this!
And if you need support or want a solid sleep plan to use while sleep training, read how I can be that person for you in my document "What Does Working with a Child Sleep Consultant Entail?"