How can I get my 7-month-old to nap in the afternoon?

Q: I'm having a hard time getting my 7-month old to take an afternoon nap. I know she needs it, because she falls apart in the evening. What can I do?

A: Babies sleep when they're tired and are hard to put down when they're not. They also love to be involved in everything going on around them. This, needless to say, can make for some difficult napping—and a very cranky baby. The best you can do to encourage sleep is to set up a quiet time and area for naps, plus try to stay in contact with your baby as she dozes off. (My basic premise is that infants like gentle transitions and want as much contact with mom and dad as possible. I also think we should respect babies' own rhythms and cuddle them to sleep day and night.) When it isn't practical to stay with your baby until she falls asleep, compromise by rubbing her back before leaving. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer when it comes to sleep—if there were, you would have found it by now. Whatever you do, don't let anyone, including me, bully you into doing something that feels wrong to you. Nobody knows your baby better than you; and if you decide to "sleep train" her, as many experts recommend, she'll survive it. In fact, it might be exactly right for you and your family.