How to Get Baby to Take Longer Naps
There is something special about the feeling you get once you are able to get your baby to sleep for their nap. You can get a few things done, take some time for yourself or just sit and stare at the baby monitor waiting for them to wake up so you can snuggle again. We’ve all been there when we finally get the baby to sleep, get 20 minutes into a workout or doing some cleaning around the house and then you hear the cry. Your baby woke up after a short nap. It can be so frustrating and so hard on you and your baby when they take short naps!
Naps are so important for your baby’s growth and development. We really want babies to be taking a nap that’s at least an hour long, and even longer depending on the time of day and their age! Good naps, and overall sleep is when so much growing and changes happen in your baby’s body and mind, they need all the sleep they can get!
Nice, long nap times are also great for you as a parent or caregiver because you can have some downtime. Whether you want to get a few things done around the house or just sit and veg and watch TV for an hour, you deserve this time for yourself so when your baby wakes up you are feeling refreshed and ready to play with them.
One of the biggest issues we see stemming from short naps is an overtired kiddo.
If your child isn’t getting enough daytime sleep, chances are it will affect their sleep at night also. An overtired child has a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep. They can get stuck in a sleep pattern of overtiredness and it can be so hard to get them caught up. Another issue that can cause short naps is a sleep environment that is not conducive to a solid, good sleep. If your child’s room is too bright or too quiet(i.e. no sound machine drowning out household sounds), they won’t be able to stay asleep for as long. Either the light will wake them when they are in a lighter sleep cycle or they will hear you moving around the house and wake up.
Short naps can also be caused by developmental milestones or new skills your baby is learning. Oftentimes when a child is learning new skills it can greatly impact their sleep. If your child is learning how to sit on their own, pull themselves up to stand or walk or even learning how to talk you may notice an impact on their overnight sleep as well as the length of their naps not being as long as they had been before they started learning this new skill. Getting your baby to nap longer can be a huge challenge for any parent! Below are a few tips that can help you get your baby to take longer naps!
How to Get Baby to Take Longer Naps
1. Routine, Routine, Routine
If you haven’t already, establish an easy and simple bedtime routine. This routine can be done at bedtime and at nap time and cues your baby’s brain that it’s time to settle down for sleep. Whether your baby takes 1 or 4 naps a day, establishing this routine from the early days can have such a positive impact on their sleep. A nap routine is a shortened bedtime routine and should last 15-20 minutes, just enough time to wind your child down and signal to them that it’s time for sleep!
2. Create a Sleep Sanctuary
Set your child’s sleep space up so that it is conducive to good sleep, day or night. Ensure that your child’s room is completely dark. Black out curtains are the best for this! These from Amazon are some of my absolute favorites. They make the room totally dark, so they’re perfect to block out light on a bright, sunny day. A white noise machine is also a great addition to your child’s bedroom. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but having white noise going while your baby’s sleeping is a game changer. It blocks out enough of the background noise that walking around your house or switching laundry won’t wake your child up. It will also help your baby fall asleep and stay asleep.
One way that I often suggest people wake their baby’s up from a nap is to simply turn the white noise off. There is something about that sound that helps babies sleep, once it’s off they’ll wake right up! Ensuring your child’s room is set up for a good sleep environment will not only help your baby fall asleep easier, but help them sleep longer and more soundly.
3. Utilize Your Baby’s Awake Time
When your baby is awake keep them engaged and active. This time when they’re awake is so important for their learning and development as well as making sure they’re draining their tank enough so that they’re ready for sleep when it’s time. Some fun things to do with your baby when they’re awake is reading books, playing with simple toys with them, taking a walk outside, singing songs or simply talking with them. Babies are always learning and absorbing the world around them. Small tasks that you don’t think much of can have a big impact on them.
4. Watch for Those Sleepy Cues
This step is HUGE in preventing an overtired baby! There’s a sweet spot for your baby that is the perfect time to get them ready and down for a nap. Baby’s will start showing sleepy cues when they are getting ready for their nap or bedtime. Some of the most common sleepy cues are the blank stare/ staring into space, red eyebrows, turning head and averting eyes. These are common signs that it’s time to get ready for sleep. If your baby starts rubbing eyes, yawning, and becoming fussy, this means it’s time to nap, NOW. Once your child reaches the overtired stage, you’ll notice things like hysterically crying, rigid body, arching back and making fists. These signs will tell you that your baby is beyond ready for a nap and you may have to help them calm down to get to sleep.
6. Utilize Crib Hour
For babies older than 14 weeks, you will use “crib hour.” Crib hour helps encourage a baby to self soothe back to sleep if he should awaken in under one hour. If your baby wakes prior to one hour from falling asleep, leave them in their sleep space for one full hour from the time they fall asleep and use your chosen sleep method to address them. If they do not fall back to sleep, go to them after the hour is up (if you are not already in the room), open the shades, turn on lights, and greet them happily and go on with your day.
NOTE: There is no crib hour for the 3rd or 4th (if it applies). Give them `5-20 minutes to fall asleep, but if they’re fighting it, get them up and prepare for an early bedtime. Because the third and fourth naps are not restorative, we do not want your baby napping for more than 30-45 minutes for their third or fourth naps. Naps should never run any later than ~5 p.m. so as not to impact nighttime sleep.
7. Follow a Sleep Schedule
Following age appropriate sleep schedules and nap schedules can have a huge impact on the length of your baby’s nap. If their schedule is off by even 45 minutes to 1 hour it can really affect their quality of sleep and how long they sleep. Check out this Instagram post I did a few months ago on infant sleep schedules. It is a great resource that shows what time different naps and bedtime should be for babies!
If you’ve tried these tips and are still struggling with short naps, I am here to help! Whether you’re ready to start sleep training your baby or you just want help tackling the short nap issue I am happy to help you however I can so that we can get your baby on track to a good night (and day’s) sleep! There are different baby sleep guides that can help you or you can work directly with me as your sleep consultant to get to the bottom of whatever the issue may be.