Having your baby’s nap taking place in the cot is not essential. Naps can take place in the cot, sling, pram, car or in your arms and they all count. But having an arms-free break each day can be so needed and can really free-up a chunk of time each day. So if your baby is only used to contact, pram, sling or car naps and you'd like to change that here are some tips...
When and how long your baby should nap is totally dependent on their age. From newborn up to 12 months your baby’s daytime sleep needs will gradually decrease from around 6 hours each day to around 2 hours, so they will be gradually able to be awake a little more at a time with each month that goes by. In order to get cot naps happening it's really helpful to have peace of mind that you are putting them down at roughly the right time first so that you can rule out over-tiredness and under-tiredness as causes of any tears.
If your baby is still having a morning nap I find this nap is the easiest one to start with when trying to get cot naps happening. Build in around 5-10 minutes before the nap to “wind your baby down”. This can be a mini version of your bedtime routine – making the room dark, pop a night light on, read a story, give them a cuddle and a kiss. Then try putting your baby down with you singing a lullaby as you zip them into their sleeping bag in the cot, then say good night. At this point you can either stay in the room or leave the room, depending on their age and what you feel comfortable with.
For younger babies, staying by the crib or cot and doing some stroking and shh-ing works well. For older babies and toddlers giving space and coming in and out of the room to give reassurance at short intervals (if needed) tends to work better.
Get used to your little one spending some time getting themselves to sleep rather than you "doing sleep" for them and getting them to sleep. About 15-20 minutes from when you put your little one down, to when they are actually asleep is fine and normal.
Practice, practice, practice! When you are first trying to get cot naps happening then just know that it may not happen on day 1 or 2 and that it will all be good practice for them. In order to keep your baby from getting overtired in the first couple of days have a cut-off time and a “plan B” for if they don’t settle in their cot for the nap, rather than missing a nap. I recommend trying to settle for around 25 minutes before going to a plan B, and this would be your fail safe option to get them sleeping - in your arms/sling/pram, etc.