Oh, sNAP!

In almost every household in which I have nannied—whether long-term, short-term, or just sporadically—naptime is inevitably an issue. Every child is different, and so the siesta spectrum is a broad one. Some children are getting to an age when they can refuse naptime as a matter of principle, some are seemingly psychotic in their sluggish behavior leading up to naptime then sudden burst of energy once in crib—the individual issues are infinite!

As to the aforementioned blatant nap-refusers, I have seen my fair share. In my experience, the just-saying-no-to-naps (JSNTN) demographic seems to be 2.5 to 4-year-olds. Doc, pint-sized revolutionary that he is, had been refusing to take a nap, period, when I first started nannying for him. At age two, Doc was WAY too young not to be napping, and I immediately made it a personal goal to get him on the path to Sleep-tightenment! Doc’s folks had tried everything—all the tips you read about—and nothing had worked. So I decided to have him sit and rest with me on the couch. I held him in my lap and turned the television to a music channel. Within minutes, Doc was fast asleep on my chest, where I let him snooze for a good hour. During my next visit I repeated this process, then transferred him to couch. Eventually his folks and I started calling it “Rest Time” as opposed to naps because, “Rebel takes naps.” Doc just wanted to feel like a big brother, and to choose his own dozing destiny. Nowadays, he picks out three books for Rest Time, can choose where to rest, whether he wants me to rest with him, and whether he’ll sit up or lay down for rest. No matter what variables he chooses, the outcome is sleep. His folks were overjoyed and saw much improvement in his afternoon/evening behavior.

Big Cat hopped on the JSNTN bandwagon around the same age, and it was up to me to pull it to a screeching halt. With Big Cat (as is the case with most of the JSNTN crowd) he really didn’t want to miss out on anything. JSNTN usually have siblings, and if their sibling isn’t napping, why the hell should they? Understandable, but at that age it’s really not their call. Kiddos need proper rest; lack of it results in behavioral problems. But the good news is that there is hope! For Big Cat, I set Mr. Man up with an educational, parent-approved program on the big screen, then I took Big Cat upstairs and laid down with him. Once he fell asleep (the deep breathing usually starts within five to ten minutes) I hug-and-roll out a la Ross from Friends. Then, freed, I can go hang with Mr. Man and listen for Big Cat’s waking roar on the monitor.

Speaking of baby monitors, I’d like to give a quick but very enthusiastic shout-out to video monitors, which for a nanny are like the Second Coming. How did caregivers ever get along without them? Audio monitors work within their capabilities, but video monitors are a godsend! Merely hearing a baby on a monitor does not tell the whole story—many times babies sound fussy, and first instinct is to go check on them, rock them more, etc. But when you can see that baby is fussing but rolling around lazily, on the verge of slumber, you don’t unwittingly disturb him. Until someone invents a Nanny Ninja Door allowing me to inaudibly enter baby’s room to check on him, video monitors are the next best thing. Not to mention it’s a fun program to watch with the older siblings. The Rebel Show is one of my favorites.

Babies are a different story from JSNTN, and the fix is not as easy. Even so, with infants I’ve found that there are some time-tested nannying tricks that work about as well as Brian Fantana’s Sex Panther cologne: 60% of the time, it works every time. My pal Katie May(also a Supernanny)  and I were discussing this, and we both agreed that babies are like tiny poker players; they have “tells.” Some are very obvious: yawning, rubbing eyes, etc. A Supernanny can spot the more nuanced sleep signals: leg kicking, the thousand-yard stare, the wiped-out whimper. More important even than recognizing the “tell” on the ASAP, is the moving of baby from wherever the “tell” happens to the crib. You have a small window of time to make this move, so don’t walk that baby to the crib—run him! Now that you’re in the nursery, step two is making sure that the mood is either set pre-crib run, or that the REM-ensuring routine can be performed in a few swift (and preferably silent) motions. For example, turn on white noise devices like air filters or noise machines (if you don’t already have white noise of some kind, I highly suggest it!). Upon leaving the room and closing the door ever so silently behind you, place a beach towel under the door. This simple action cancels out much unwanted noise from elsewhere in the house (more often than not there’s a noisy sibling waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs or right down the hall).

For every four insomniac infants, there is one champion in the mix. Snuggles was one such baby. His mother showed me how he liked to be swaddled in a blanket that looked like a straitjacket. I was skeptical at first as she pinned his arms behind his back then rolled him like a burrito, but my doubts faded as I watched his face go from alert to relaxed as she finished. Then it was my turn to try. I couldn’t help laughing at the apparatus—it looked absurd—but it worked! Plus it became one of our inside jokes, “Let’s get your straitjacket on, you precious little lunatic,” I’d coo as I finished wrapping him up. A good sleeper? Now that’s a gift that keeps on giving!

Some babies are just better nappers than others. Snuggles was the Sultan of Slumber, the King of the Kip, The Deity of Dozing, but even he had off days. So fear not! Just because a baby/toddler develops a naptime problem doesn’t mean it can’t be solved. Look at Rebel and I, who, after going through some very trying times, have a great rest rapport! I pop him in the crib—even when he’s wide awake—turn on his white noise, tuck him in with his blankets and stuffed animals, and sing him “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” For the past six months, he has started applauding me after the final note, prompting my now traditional, “Thank you, I’ll be here all week. Try the veal! Tip your waitress! I love you! Good nap!” before leaving baby completely content and getting ready for “Rest Time” with Doc.

One Comment on “Oh, sNAP!”

  1. […] me realize that in the words department, sometimes less is more. For him, that time was naptime. As y’all may recall, he was having trouble napping, and though he and I worked through it, it was not without major effort on my part, trying to […]

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