20 Mar Napping Success
In the first four months that Sweet Baby Boy was in our home he increasingly became a solid nighttime sleeper. Within the first month his 2-3 hour sleep increments stretched out to 4-5 hours. When he learned to roll over and found his thumb while sleeping he would go as long as 8-10 hours, waking only once around 5am. By 7 months old he started sleeping 11-12 hours at night, rarely waking at all. I credited this increasingly solid nighttime sleep to swaddling (initially), a consistent bedtime routine, and a large dose of luck.
Daytime, however, was another matter. The trade-off for solid nighttime sleep was apparently poor napping during the day. Sweet Baby Boy was a habitual cat-napper, meaning his daytime naps would end abruptly at the 30 minute mark nearly without fail. Early on this made it difficult to nap myself in an effort to accumulate the 8 hours of sleep I so desperately needed. On a good day, I would be able to rock him back to sleep and he would maybe sleep another 15 to 20 minutes – long enough to blow dry my hair and finish my daily getting-ready routine.
With my own baby, I would have probably chalked this pattern up to nature. Indeed, some babies do tend to catnap and some need less sleep than others. My mom recounted her own stories of frustration with me as a baby, as I was a light and poor sleeper. (Karma knows no biological boundaries!). Our pediatrician too assured me there was nothing harmful about the catnapping for Sweet Baby Boy, but sympathetically acknowledged its difficulties.
I remained unconvinced that Sweet Baby Boy was naturally a poor napper. He usually woke up crying and was cranky afterwards, which signified he was not well rested. It was as if, after 30 minutes of deep sleep, he entered into a wakeful sleep cycle and just couldn’t let himself remain relaxed enough to keep sleeping. Once his eyes opened it was usually a done deal: he was awake.
I couldn’t help but think that Sweet Baby Boy’s catnapping was related to the fact that he was removed from his home at 3 months old (and possibly the circumstances of his home life prior to removal). Perhaps he was having trouble letting his guard down and getting totally comfortable in his new home. My Angels Clinical Case Manager expressed that, in her experience, the amount of time it generally takes a child to feel fully ‘at home’ in their new environment mirrored how long they were in their last environment.
Indeed, somewhere around 3-4 months into his placement with our family he began occasionally and gradually taking longer naps. It was also at this point he seemed more comfortable in our home, as if he was officially a part of our family. He was interacting with us more, laughing more readily to our antics, and getting excited about things/happenings in our home. My son became an expert at getting him riled up and we would hear the two of them laughing and yelling in excitement in the back of our car. (Like Big Foster Bro, Sweet Baby Boy is 100% B.O.Y.)
Granted, the change in Sweet Baby Boy was due in large part to his development (and it is impossible to know how exactly it would have differed in another environment). He was meeting his milestones and clearly thriving. Our home became his comfort zone and he felt free to express himself, branch out and explore. Outside of our home, he seemed to revert back to the wide-eyed observer he was when he first arrived. (I tend to think that he and I share an introverted personality type – something totally foreign to the rest of our household of extroverts.)
Around 5 months of fostering Sweet Baby Boy (when he was 8 months old) he was at long last consistently taking 1 to 2 two-hour naps each day in his crib. This development was more than a well-needed break for me during the day – it was a clear indication that he finally felt at home in our family.