Maddox, at 9 weeks old, began a rough "schedule" of sleep, wake, feed, play, nap. There wasn't a set schedule or time frame to it, but there was a rough outline if you will. It was making things way easier to have a semi-routine, BUT we were lacking a nap routine majorly! His naps were all over the place so I really wanted to create some consistency for the both of us. After playtime I was starting to read his sleepy cues, but he wasn't going down for naps consistently. He would be super fussy, fighting sleep and make me crazy trying to get him down time after time. After numerous failed attempts to get him to sleep I decided to get serious about making a routine. And what a relief it has been!
Our nap time routine looks a little like this: upon reading his sleepy time cues we head into the nursery and turn on his desktop fan for white noise. I make sure he has a clean diaper and then we read a book while rocking and he fades quickly - I never make it through an entire book. I then give him his paci and rock him to sleep or until his eyes are rolling. Whether he's asleep or half asleep I lay him down. Usually he will stay asleep, but if his eyes happen to pop open I lay my hand on his chest and makes "shooshing" sounds for a minute until he drifts off into sleep. In the beginning he would keep waking up (because he wasn't sure what was going on) but I stayed consistent and would repeat laying my hand on his chest and shooshing him until he fell asleep and stayed asleep for a decent nap. It was time consuming and exhausting, but so worth it. Now I lay him down and he stays asleep for 20-60mins.
Step two. Make a game plan. It is crucial that you create a game plan and set your mind to it. Don't wait until you are walking your baby around, shooshing him/her to sleep for their first nap of the day to decide where your are going to lay him down at. After you've put your baby down for bed at night, take a moment before you go to sleep to get your mind straight for the next day.
Step three. Set the mood. Maddox can't sleep just anywhere anymore. That newborn stage is OVER :( So I have to set the mood for him. It's a combination of white noise + dim lighting + cool temp + blankie. Sounds high maintenance, but so am I when it comes to my sleep. Who doesn't want to be comfortable?
Step four. Consistency. Stick to your routine to make it a routine. Makes sense and seems easy right? Well, I made the rookie mistake of trying something new if it didn't work the first time. I would get frustrated and think I needed to try something different. For example, if I rocked Maddox to sleep in his nursery and then laid him in his crib and he woke right up then I would pick him up and walk him around in a different room in the house and then lay him in his crib once he fell asleep. This confused him. By creating and sticking to a nap time routine Maddox understood what time it was as soon as we sat down in the rocking chair in the nursery.
Step five. Leave the room. Once your baby is asleep, don't sit there and watch them or hesitate to see if they wake back up. They can sense you. Maddox was too alert and if he knew I was around he wouldn't fully sleep. So upon laying him down I would leave the nursery and watch him on the monitor. If I saw him start moving around or open his eyes I would go in and repeat the "hand on chest, shooshing" method until he was asleep. But keep leaving the room after every time.
Obviously this is all just my experience and what I was comfortable with. We can take advice all day long, but you can take bits and pieces and do what's best for you and your baby.
Good luck and happy sleeping! Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.